Monday, May 23, 2022

Alison O’Riordan

The trial of a food delivery driver, who is accused of stabbing schoolboy Josh Dunne to death, has heard that a utility knife was found inside a fireplace when gardaí carried out a search of the defendant’s house.

A witness also told the Central Criminal Court on Monday that he no longer works as a food delivery cyclist in Dublin because it is a dangerous job, where workers are under “constant attack” from people trying to steal their bicycles, throwing drinks and being aggressive.

George Gonzaga Bento (36), a Brazilian national with an address in East Wall in Dublin 3, is charged with murdering 16-year-old Josh at East Wall Road, East Wall on January 26th, 2021.

Mr Bento is also accused of producing a utility knife in a manner likely to intimidate another in the course of a dispute or fight. The defendant is further accused of assault causing harm to two other young men on the same occasion. The delivery cyclist has pleaded not guilty to each of the four counts.

The prosecution alleges that Mr Bento produced a knife during a “stand-off or confrontation” with a man on a moped who had stolen another delivery cyclist’s bike. Josh Dunne and other youths arrived at the scene and got involved in the confrontation.

A pathologist has given evidence that Mr Dunne sustained two stab wounds to the chest including one that penetrated the main artery in the body.

Continuing his examination-in-chief on Monday, Alex Lima told Sean Guerin SC, prosecuting, that Mr Bento told him on a phone call on January 27th that he had stabbed three people the previous night and that he had lost one of his two phones during the fight.

Last Friday, Mr Lima told the trial that his friend Mr Bento, who he knew from Brazil, used a utility knife to cut fruit and did not carry it for protection. He also said that Mr Bento had previously told him that he was attacked several times in Dublin and had his bicycle stolen once.

Under cross-examination, Mr Lima told Padraig Dwyer SC, defending, that he met Mr Bento playing football when they were 13 years old, as the accused lived on the next street over from him in Sao Paulo. The accused, he said, had assisted him on how to be a delivery cyclist when he came to study and work in Ireland.

Dangerous job

The witness agreed that he had told gardaí in his statement that his intention was to change his job and stop working as a delivery cyclist. Mr Lima said the main reason that he no longer works as a food delivery cyclist is because it is a dangerous job.

When asked why he believes it is a dangerous job, the witness replied: “Because of the constant attack on Deliveroo drivers, people trying to steal our bicycles, people throwing drinks on us and people trying to be aggressive and attack us”.

Mr Lima agreed with counsel that a delivery cyclist’s working conditions are not very good, namely that they don’t get sick pay if they become sick, that they don’t get compensated from their employer if their bike is stolen or if they suffer injuries whilst working and that there is no holiday pay.

The witness also agreed with counsel that he told gardai in his statement that Mr Bento informed him that he was attacked by 15 “dangerous people” and that he had stabbed the person closest to him. Mr Lima agreed that he also said in his statement that Mr Bento told these people to stay away, but they had surrounded him. He further agreed that Mr Bento told him that he stabbed three people in total and others had tried to beat him [the accused] up.

Mr Lima said he later saw on WhatsApp that the person who was stabbed the previous night was now dead. The witness said he told Mr Bento this information and that he was shocked.

The witness agreed that Mr Bento was scared that these “dangerous people” from the previous night might go to his house in East Wall and that he was in fear of retaliation. Immediately, Mr Lima said, they began discussing getting a solicitor for Mr Bento and a plan was made for the accused to meet a solicitor the following morning. He agreed that the solicitor would bring Mr Bento to the garda station.

Mr Lima said that Mr Bento was “very shocked and upset” all the time that he was with him.

Knife in fireplace

Detective Sergeant John Brady told Garret Baker BL, prosecuting, that he had searched the accused’s address at Church Road in East Wall on two occasions. Nothing of evidential value was found during the first search on January 27th.

The next day, Det Sgt Brady said he conducted a search of the fireplace in the accused’s living room and found a blue-handled utility knife behind the fire grate and the ash. The witness agreed with Mr Baker that the utility knife requires a button to press it open.

Mr Bento’s pedal cycle was also found in the shed and was taken to Store Street Garda Station.

Under cross-examination, Det Sgt Brady agreed with Mr Dwyer that the reason gardaí had returned to Mr Bento’s house on January 28th was because the accused had told them during his interviews, which were ongoing at the time, that they could find the utility knife in the fireplace.

The witness agreed that the accused had specifically directed gardaí to where they could find the utility knife.

Mr Dwyer told the jury that the knife had been described as a utility knife by everyone in the case so far including a Lidl employee, who gave evidence last week.

Sergeant Michael O’Donnell testified that he had assisted in the search of the accused’s house on January 27th, where he found used electrical tape wrapped in a ball on the ground when he entered the house.

The witness said he also found two suitcases containing male and female clothing in an upstairs bedroom, which was identified to him as being Mr Bento and his girlfriend’s bedroom.

The trial continues tomorrow in front of Mr Justice Paul Burns and a jury of five men and seven women.

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