Communities in Dublin’s north inner city “no longer felt safe” in their own areas after a spate of violent incidents between 2019 and 2021, a senior garda officer has told a Central Criminal Court murder trial.
The trial also heard that in 2020 there was a “dramatic upward trend” in the hijacking of vehicles, including bicycles and e-bikes, using the threat of violence or a weapon.
George Gonzaga Bento (36), a Brazilian national with an address in East Wall in Dublin 3, is charged with murdering 16-year-old Josh Dunne 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.
Mr Bento told gardaí in his interviews that he had used a knife to defend himself from the man on the moped and the gang of youths. He said it was only his intention to intimidate them when he took out the knife and make them go away. He said he stabbed the first and second males who punched and attacked him as he was scared and wanted to protect himself.
Level of criminality
Giving evidence today, Superintendent Paul Costello of Store Street Garda Station told Sean Guerin SC, prosecuting, that his station controls the area between Capel Street and the Docklands including East Wall.
The witness agreed that he had been asked to make a statement regarding the level of criminality in the community at the time of the incident.
Supt Costello said the incident where Josh Dunne lost his life was one of three events which occurred in quite close proximity.
These, he said, were where a woman lost her life after being stabbed in the IFSC, where a man was lucky to survive after being stabbed at Seville Place in Dublin’s north inner city and where a Deliveroo cyclist lost his life in North Wall.
Referring to the hit-and-run incident which occurred in North Wall in August 2020, Supt Costello told the jury that Deliveroo cyclist Thiago Cortes was cycling onto North Wall Quay when he was hit by a vehicle travelling at high speed through a red light.
The car driven by a juvenile had not been specifically targeting Mr Cortes but he lost his life, said the witness. The teenage boy was remanded in juvenile detention for two years.
The witness said another Deliveroo driver [Francisco Teruliano de Oliviera Neto, known as ‘Neto’] had been attacked in the Finglas area in February 2019 when he stopped a vehicle to ask for directions and was subsequently assaulted by a group of males.
The cyclist suffered a broken nose and his phone and food were taken, he said. The court heard that there was no CCTV where the incident happened and the investigation has not produced a prosecution to date.
Food delivery drivers targeted
Supt Costello said there was concern in the community because of these incidents and that his attention was drawn to the targeting of food delivery drivers who felt unsafe in the course of their work. The witness said he had a meeting with Deliveroo, Just Eat and Uber Eats and rider representatives and those from the Brazilian community.
Under cross-examination, Supt Costello agreed with Padraig Dwyer SC, defending, that the woman who was fatally stabbed by a 14-year-old as she walked by the CHQ building had happened six day before Josh Dunne had died.
The witness also agreed that the stabbing of the male at Seville Place in Dublin’s north inner city happened two days after the incident with Josh Dunne in East Wall. He said the man was riding a scooter at the time but not in the course of his employment.
Supt Costello further agreed that there had been an “outpouring of concern” from the entire communities living in Dublin 1 and 3 as they did not feel safe in their own areas. Others expressing concern were those working in the area as delivery cyclists and members of the Brazilian community, he said.
In response to these concerns, the witness said a policing plan was formed to restore public confidence in the areas and he directed that high visibility policing be appointed to address the issues of antisocial behaviour, drug dealing and theft related offences.
There was also a concern about knives, screwdrivers and firearms being used in the locations.
Supt Costello told Mr Dwyer that the Deliveroo driver [Neto] who was attacked in Finglas received a head injury but said he was not aware that a significant amount of money had been raised to send him back to Brazil for treatment.
The witness said he was unaware that Deliveroo and Uber were directing their drivers not to go into certain areas as a result of these attacks.
Referring to the death of Mr Cortes, the witness said a protest march was organised for him which began at the GPO on O’Connell Street and concluded at the scene of the incident at North Wall Quay. “As it made its way there were a number of local people who took exception to them walking by and there was verbal abuse,” he added.
Separately, the court also heard that another Deliveroo driver had passed the scene of where Josh Dunne’s vigil was taking place and had been attacked.
Supt Costello said police presence increased in the Dublin 1 and 3 areas and continued for a month before it returned to intelligence-led policing.
Fergal McCawley, a civilian working in An Garda Síochána, told Mr Dwyer that attacks on Deliveroo drivers are not statistically recorded. He said there had been no upward trend in knife attacks to the year ending 2020 but that there had been quite a dramatic upward trend where vehicles had been hijacked using the threat of violence or a weapon in 2020. Bicycles and e-bikes were included in this category.
The jury was also shown WhatsApp messages between the accused and witness Tiago da Silva, who was the owner of the bike that was stolen on the night.
Garda Paul O’Leary told Mr Guerin that Mr Bento’s mobile phone had been seized and he accessed a deleted WhatsApp chat between the accused and Mr da Silva, which took place on the night of January 26th and into the morning of the 27th.
Mr da Silva sent a message to Mr Bento saying: “Wow bro. What a shitshow hey?” and then asked him was he okay.
Mr Bento replied: “F*cked up, we didn’t have a choice, it was two against 10”.
The accused said he was okay and had just cut his mouth.
Mr da Silva said: “Omg bro. Guilherme is badly hurt”.
Mr Bento said: “I was saying to Guilherme to let the investigation proceed to see will they come to us [sic]”.
The accused continued: “If we turn ourselves in I don’t know what law is like here”.
Guilherme Quieroz has told the trial that before Josh Dunne was stabbed, he and Mr Bento were attacked by a group when they tried to retrieve a stolen bicycle. He said that having viewed CCTV footage of the incident, he now knows that Mr Bento twice came to save him, once when the witness had his back up against a wall and was being punched and a second time when he was “dragged” to the road and punched.
Gda O’Leary also told Mr Guerin that an image or a screenshot of a tweet was found on Mr Bento’s phone which was sent to him on WhatsApp at 22.27 on January 26th. The witness said the tweet referred to three people involved in a serious incident in East Wall and that one of these three people was fatally wounded.
Evidence was also given that none of the youths involved on the night including Josh Dunne had come to adverse garda attention or had any previous convictions.
The prosecution has now completed its evidence and the trial continues on Monday afternoon in front of Mr Justice Paul Burns and the 12 jurors.