Lucia and Jim O’Farrell with a picture of their late son, Shane
Lucia O’Farrell’s 23-year-old son, Shane, was killed in a hit-and-run in Carrickmacross in Co. Monaghan by Zigimantus Gridziuska, from Lithuania, on August 2, 2011.
Gridziuska was acquitted of dangerous driving causing death. He pleaded guilty to failing to stop, report or remain at the scene of the crash and he received an eight-month suspended sentence in on February 28, 2013, on condition that he leave the country within 21 days.
Judge Pat McCartan, at the Circuit Criminal Court in Dublin, gave Gridziuska the choice of serving the with months or leaving the country and he chose the latter.
During the sentencing of Gridzisuka, Ms O’Farrell claims Judge McCartan asked if there was anything coming up in the pipeline for Gridziuska and that the State solicitor failed to notify the judge that – over the five months before Gridziuska’s trial – a file had been prepared in relation to insurance fraud charges against Gridziuska.
Ms O’Farrell repeatedly requested for this file to be compiled and completed so that it could be included in the proceedings of the case of dangerous driving causing death.
But it wasn’t.
On March 6, 2013 – just days after he was ordered to leave the State within 21 days – Gridziuska appeared in Carrickmacross District Court for insurance fraud and he was jailed for five months by Judge Sean MacBride in relation to three policies of insurance fraud, one of which covered the day on which Shane was killed. Judge MacBride also banned him from driving for ten years.
On February 6, 2013, Lucia O’Farrell sent a letter to Fiona Downes, prosecution solicitor of Circuit Court Section at DPP office, stating:
‘Thank you for your reply dealing with my conversation yesterday, Tue 5th February 2013. I asked if those charges of fraud relating to the insurance held by the accused could be included in the trial commencing on 11th of February 2013. Your letter states that you are waiting on the file from the Garda and therefore the decision to prosecute can not be made yet.
‘On Friday, 1st February, I was speaking to the investigating officer. He informed me that the investigation is complete except for the interview. I informed the gardaí on the 17th of September 2012 to formally request to have his insurance checked. It is now February 2013 (almost five months ago). In view that it is almost five months since I brought it to their attention, I fail to understand why there is a delay now – when we know the file is complete. This is very relevant to a charge of dangerous driving causing death. The judge should have this information. It’s not as if he is up for burglary.’
‘The gardai failed to formally request and check the accused’s insurance within the six months [of Shane’s death] and now I question who’s benefit the delay is for. I spoke with [redacted] yesterday, Tuesday, 5th [February] pm and he informed me the delay was ‘Dublin’. The DPP are informing me it’s the Garda. Which is it? And why?
‘I am confused as to why the insurance of the accused has to wait until after the trial. What is in the file that the judge will have in front of him? Will it state or imply that the accused had valid insurance? Will it state or imply that the accused’s insurance was checked and in order? Can he be charged with the fraud offence before sentencing? – so as not to mislead the court that he had valid insurance on the evening of August 2, 2011. This is the duty of the State to inform and not mislead the judge. I am formally asking you that he be charged with fraud before sentencing. Thank you again for all your assistance.”
On March 11, 2013, Ms O’Farrell wrote to Supt Gerard Russell, from Carrickmacross District Division of Cavan/Monaghan, stating:
On September 7, 2012, we brought formally to your attention requesting to have the accused’s insurance checked, for the date of August 2, 2011 when my son was murdered by a Lithuanian who was on bail at the time. We also requested the insurance details of this evil man, this was over a year after Shane was cruelly and inhumanely killed, and five months before the trial.
‘As you are aware the Gardai failed to formally request to have this insurance checked. When this was brought to your attention (by our family, one year later) it was statue barred, so therefore the accused could not be charged or convicted for not having valid insurance. The garda had failed in their duty, to Shane and to our family. We also formally asked the gardai and raised several issues on October 26, 2012 regarding the accused’s insurance. Travellers Insurance stated to me that ‘we are waiting for the gardai to formally request to have this insurance checked and this has not been done and we can’t tell the gardai how to do their job’.
‘On December 13, 2012, I wrote a four-page letter [sent by registered post] to you requesting each and every insurance policy held by the accused and each and every related insurance policy held by the accused (including current policy) to be checked since he came into the country. This letter was CCed to GSOC. We have been informed that the fraud relating to insurance policies was being checked. We were informed that this is an indictable offence, under the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001. We were told by you that this indictable offence would be dealt with in a circuit court in front of a judge and jury. We were also informed that the “penalty for this is five years and that the facts will speak for themselves”. Why then did you agree to have this heard in a district court? (Where you know that the maximum he would get would be six months).
‘As you are aware we asked for the insurance fraud to be included in the proceedings of the case of dangerous driving causing death of our son Shane…This was not included, as to do so would have highlighted the fact that the Gardai failed to have the insurance checked in time, within the six months (after he killed Shane).’
‘Coincidentally, Shane’s case finished on the last day of February 2013, and the file (which was over five months being prepared) was submitted the very next day. How convenient. This file on serious fraud “where all the facts will speak for themselves”, and which was five months being prepared, was submitted on March 1, 2013, to the DPP office so as to separate it from the tragic killing of Shane. It would not look good to link this serious insurance fraud with the death of Shane.’
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has ordered a panel of barristers to review Shane’s case and 220 others where alleged garda inadaquecy, competence or corruption are involved. One of the Senior Counsel overseeing the process is Conor Devally, who defended Gridziuska.
On Drivetime last night, Ms O’Farrell told Philip Boucher Hayes:
“Two weeks ago, I attended the Macgill Summer School and I listened to the debate on openness, transparency and accountability. And they’re quick to use these words, they flow off their lips – a new era and openness and transparency. And I raised a question, I raised Shane’s question about his death and his unlawful killing, and I wanted a public inquiry. I shouldn’t have to drive to Donegal, to the Glenties to get, to raise a question. I have been trying for days to ring the department but there’s nobody willing to speak. They’re not at their desk or they’re at a meeting.
“I think families have been failed hugely. I think Nigel Rodley said, very rightly, in Geneva a few weeks ago that Ireland’s answer to every scandal and when will they stop, replying to every scandal with, first, delay, then deny, then lie, then cover-up and then eventually they’re forced to throw money at it and hope it goes away. They talk about openness and transparency and accountability, they don’t mean a word of it, there’s no evidence of that.”
Meanwhile, the following is a short timeline of some of the Gridziuska’s criminal history which shows how – had his bail been revoked at numerous points – he may not have been driving the car on the day Shane died.
May 9, 2011: Gridziuska gets a four-month suspended sentence at Ardee District Court in Co. Louth for five counts of theft. The charges are in relation to him stealing five times, over five consecutive days, from Lidl. His sentence is suspended for two years. At this point, Gridziuska is already supposed to be adhering to a condition of good behaviour in relation to a case that was adjourned for a year, in Monaghan Circuit Court in January 2011.
July 6, 2011: The Garda Drugs Squad pull over Gridziuska and find on the dashboard what they believe to be the charred remains of tinfoil and heroin that somebody had been smoking. After taking the remains, Gridziuska is waved on. The car has no NCT at the time.
July 14, 2011: Gridziuska is arrested in Newry, Co Down, for three counts of theft. He pleads guilty to each count and receives a five-month sentence for each count, suspended for two years. The PSNI contact the gardaí to confirm Gridziuska’s address. At this point Gridziuska is already on bail for theft charges in Co. Cavan and isn’t supposed to leave the jurisdiction. He is also supposed to be signing on at a garda station daily.
July 27, 2011: The charred remains are sent to a forensic lab. It’s later confirmed that the remains contained heroin.
August 2, 2011: The Garda Drugs Squad pull over the car that Gridziuska is travelling in, along with Paulius Paplauskas/Petrosas and Edgars Zelenousy, on suspicion that they had drugs in their possession. Zelenousy is driving the car when it’s pulled over. The O’Farrell family understand the gardaí asked the men to get out of the car, searched them and then got Zelenousy to switch with Gridziuska, thus resulting in Gridziuska being behind the wheel. Zelenousy has no insurance. The car is then waved on.
Later that evening, Shane O’Farrell is killed in a hit-and-run, in Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan, by Gridziuska.
August 3, 2011: Gridziuska is arrested and the car he was driving is found concealed in bushes.
August 4, 2011: Gridzuiska is brought to Dundalk Court for a special sitting. Gridziuska’s suspended sentences are not activated and the gardai do not object to him getting bail.
August 12, 2011: Gridziuska is found in possession of heroin.
September 15, 2011: After being arrested at Craigavon, Co. Armagh, Gridziuska is sentenced to two weeks in jail at Belfast Magistrates Court, after the pleads guilty to two counts of theft. At this point Gridziuska is supposed to be signing on at Carrickmacross Garda Station in Co. Monaghan three times a week but he isn’t missed by gardai.
GSOC are currently carrying out a public interest inquiry into the case of Shane O’Farrell.