A Dublin man who drove a childhood friend to an isolated field near Collon, Co Louth, where his friend was then murdered over six years ago, was jailed for six months at Trim Circuit Court.
Sean Barrett, 33, from The Donaghies, Donaghmede, Dublin 13 pleaded guilty to failing to disclose information between 28 July 2014 and 31 July 2015, which he knew or might believe to be of material assistance in securing the apprehension, prosecution or conviction of another person in relation to the murder of Paul Gallagher at Ballymacan, Collon, Co Meath between 28 and 30 July 2014.
Det Sgt Raymond Smith told prosecuting counsel Michael Delaney SC that Barrett had driven Mr Gallagher from Dublin to Collon on the afternoon of 28 July 2014.
The two travelled up a narrow lane near a farm and discussed a plan to steal cash from chip vans parked behind a barn.
Barrett told gardaí he believed his role was to do the driving.
The pair drove back to Dublin and Paul Gallagher later rang the defendant and asked him to pick him up at 10.30pm.
They again drove back to the farm near Collon stopping in Tullyallen near Drogheda to pick up two men who got into the rear of the car.
When they parked at the same location as earlier, all four got out and walked through a number of fields.
Barrett said he was told by one of the men they had picked up to walk on ahead and keep look out.
He told gardaí that as he did so he heard a single shot followed by a scream and three more shots.
He then ran to a farmhouse saying he had heard shots and asked for help, but the woman there was sceptical, asked him to leave and then rang the gardaí, the court heard.
The defendant then returned to his car and drove back to Dublin.
The following day, 29 July, he spoke to Mr Gallagher's mother Geraldine inquiring if her son had returned home.
When he was told he had not, he drove back to the farm near Collon and then contacted the Lourdes hospital in Drogheda inquiring after his friend.
The next day, he told the Gallagher family what had happened and with the dead man's brother and sister drove to Collon and pointed out where the shooting had occurred.
Mr Gallagher's body was found lying face down with gunshot wounds to his back and neck.
In a subsequent witness statement to gardaí, Barrett claimed he neither knew nor recognised the two men who had got into his car in Tullyallen. He said one had a crowbar, but he had not seen any gun that night.
He said he had not gone to the gardaí as he "didn't want to make a big deal of it in case it was just a farmer letting off shots".
However, in an interview following his arrest 11 months later, he gave gardaí more information indicating that he knew the first names of the two men he picked up in Tullyallen and that Mr Gallagher had met one of them on a number of occasions.
The court heard that while eight other people had been detained and questioned, to date no one had yet been charged with the murder and the investigation was continuing.
In reply to a question from Judge Patrick Quinn, Sgt Smith said the information withheld by Barrett in July 2014 would have helped progress the investigation.
In a victim impact statement, Geraldine Gallagher told the court that she and her family had been left devastated by her son's murder.
She said her son "loved life itself" and was a kind caring and loving person who had been a sincere and true friend who would never be forgotten.
"Paul held an organ donor card but the manner of his brutal murder and the fact that his body was left in a field for a number of days meant we were unable to carry out his wishes," she said.
She said she agonised over the inhumane way her son had been treated, being shot and left to die and wondered: "If help had been sought could his life have been saved."
Mrs Gallagher said the family still had no idea why her son had been murdered, nor by whom and she appealed for anyone with information to come forward.
"Thirteen plus court appearances and only last week did the defendant plead guilty to withholding information. The cruel and callous persons who committed this cowardly murder have not been brought to justice.
"There are others who have information and I ask them to provide it so those responsible may be brought to justice," she concluded.
Defence Counsel Bernard Condon SC said his client had failed to divulge all he knew out of fear.
In a letter of apology to the court, the defendant said he was "deeply sorry for not acting sooner".
Judge Quinn said he accepted that Barrett was fearful of those who had carried out the brutal murder, but said he had known the identity of people who could be of assistance to the garda investigation.
The judge sentenced Barrett to two years with the final 18 months suspended.