The Court of Appeal has been told that a man serving life for the murder of Melanie McCarthy McNamara is suffering from a “psychiatric illness”.
Daniel McDonnell (22) of Brookview Lawns in Tallaght had pleaded not guilty to murdering the 16-year-old on February 8, 2012 at nearby Brookview Way in Tallaght.
McDonnell, then aged 19, was unanimously found guilty by a jury at the Central Criminal Court and given the mandatory life sentence by Mr Justice Paul Carney on January 24, 2014.
He was due to appeal his conviction today. However, the Court of Appeal was told that he was medically unfit to attend court and that he was suffering from a “psychiatric illness”.
Counsel for McDonnell, Bernard Condon SC, asked the court for time to get an up-to-date report on the “psychiatric circumstances”.
Mr Condon said his side had been ready to proceed today and that the information before the court had come from a registered doctor.
It was put back to December 18 next when a new date is expected to be fixed for hearing.
The Central Criminal Court trial heard that Melanie was shot in the head as she sat in a car with her boyfriend and his friend in Tallaght on the date in question.
The trial heard that a stolen black Hyundai Santa Fe had pulled up alongside the car in which Melanie was sitting in the back seat. A shot was discharged from the Hyundai and Melanie was hit in the head.
Her boyfriend, Christopher Moran, and his friend, Seán Byrne, rushed her to hospital. However, she died a short time later due to the shot gun wound to her left temple.
The Hyundai was found abandoned and out of fuel in Citywest shortly after the shooting. The stolen sawn-off shotgun and two discharged cartridges were recovered nearby. There were no fingerprints on the vehicle, weapon or cartridges.
McDonnell was one of two men arrested on suspicion of murder the following week. He was detained at Tallaght garda station and made no comment to questions in more than a dozen interviews.
Instead, he daubed incriminating graffiti on his cell wall. This included: “2 in the head. The bitch is dead ha ha… Moran scummy nacker… Moran scum. I’ll do 25 on the toilet while you’re crying Pikey. 2 in.”
The State said that ‘Moran’ and ‘Pikey’ were references to Melanie’s boyfriend, a settled Traveller.
A few weeks later, while detained in St Patrick’s Institution, McDonnell continued to brag about his involvement in the murder, this time in two letters.
He handed the letters to a prison officer for posting, knowing that they would be read in accordance with prison protocol. Staff passed the letters on to the gardaí.
The first one, addressed to Lee McDonnell, included the lines:
“Close-range head shots. That’s what I’m going for… Two in the head. The bitch is dead. Ha ha… Little did he know I had a loaded 12-guage. Left his bitch all over the Sunday World front page.”
In the second letter, to former girlfriend Stephanie Tuite, the accused wrote:
“That other thing wouldn’t have happened if I’d known she was in the car. It was meant for that other smell bag. He won’t get away with bullying my Ma.”
McDonnell’s barrister had described his client’s writings as “rants to his friend and girlfriend”. He named two Irish men, who had confessed to murders they had not committed.
However, the prosecution said there was no explanation for the letters other than as admissions of guilt.
After four hours and 17 minutes deliberating, the jury reached a unanimous verdict of guilty. Dressed in a grey suit, McDonnell gave no reaction.
Superintendent Brian Sutton then outlined his previous convictions, which included possession of firearms and ammunition in suspicious circumstances, threatening to kill or cause serious harm, and violent behaviour in a garda station.
He said McDonnell had a disruptive history and upbringing and had left school at 14.
Melanie’s godmother, Jennifer Roche, then gave an emotional victim impact statement on behalf of the teenager’s family. Melanie’s parents, Stephen McCarthy and Melissa McNamara, were not in court.
“Our Melanie was a girl who loved life and never got a chance to live it,” she said. “They should have taken us too.”
“She was her mother’s best friend… Melissa feels if she died tomorrow, it would not be too soon,” she continued. “She was every mother’s dream daughter. She was Melissa’s life, her world, her everything.”
Melanie’s last words to her mother were: ‘Bye Mummy, I’ll be in early in the morning’. However, Melissa was still waiting, she said.
The statement said there were 15 years between the couple’s two daughters, and as soon as the second was born, the first was taken from them.
“To hear their little girl was shot in the head shattered their world,” she read.
“If the man in front of us has a heart, he will tell us why he took her from us,” said Ms Roche.
“We can’t wait to see you again,” she sobbed, before leaving the witness box.
Mr Justice Paul Carney then imposed the mandatory penalty for murder on the accused, imprisonment for life. As he was being led away, a woman could be heard shouting abuse at gardai.
“That’s what you’ll go down for – stitching a f***ing child up, you animal,” she said.
Melanie’s family and friends left the Courts of Criminal Justice quietly, without making any further comment.