A 35-year-old man who admits trying to hire a hitman to kill two Canadian women his wife had made friends with online has been sentenced to four-and-a-half years in jail.
The Central Criminal Court heard that Bryan Kennedy with an address in Mount Tallant Avenue, Harold's Cross in Dublin, was "completely out of control and out of his depth" when he paid a total of €8,000 to a man who later blackmailed and threatened him.
He told gardaí he did it "out of love and heartbreak".
The sentence will not begin for three months to allow time for alternative arrangements to be made for the care of his family.
The court heard that Kennedy was the main carer for his children and his now ex-wife.
The court heard that Kennedy discovered his wife had met two Canadian women through an online video game and later communicated with them through Facebook.
The communication became more intimate and she was staying up all night talking to them and was staying in bed all day. The court heard Kennedy was the main care provider for the couple's children.
He pleaded guilty to two charges of soliciting someone to murder the two Canadian women between October 2019 and January 2020.
A separate investigation is under way into the man he solicited.
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Ms Justice Caroline Biggs said the plan was hatched at the school gates with a man Kennedy knew to be dangerous.
An aggravating factor was that Kennedy was warned it was a dangerous road to go down and that he took time to think about it and yet proceeded. She said it was not done under duress or coercion. She said the fact that his wife was having an online affair was no excuse for behaving in such a "grotesque" manner.
Judge Biggs had adjourned the case last November and said she required further information about the care requirements for Kennedy's family and what supports could be put in place in his absence. The judge said on that occasion that they had to be realistic that he was facing a custodial sentence.
Today, defence solicitor Dominic McGinn told the court that Kennedy had been accompanied to court by his ex-wife, his brother and his sister who were supporting him and had given written testimonials which were handed in to court.
He told the judge that both Kennedy and his wife agreed that no matter what supports were put in place for the family they could not replace the level of care given to the children by their father, which included dropping them to school and many other care-giving tasks.
Mr McGinn said Kennedy was also the only person able to take one of his children to ongoing and necessary medical appointments.
Judge Biggs said she would postpone the sentence until April to allow time for Tusla to put in place supports for his ex-wife and child. While there was no doubt it was preferable that he cared for his children, it was "on his head" that he chose to break the law and he must bear the responsibility for that, she said.
She said she wanted it conveyed to Tusla that it had a responsibility to ensure the children were appropriately cared for as Kennedy's ex-wife was unable to fully care for them due to her own medical condition.
At a sentence hearing last November Detective Sergeant Ronan O'Malley told the court that gardaí had taken a statement from a friend of Kennedy who said Kennedy had told him he and his wife were having marital difficulties.
Kennedy had seen his wife's Facebook messages and told his friend that his wife had told him she did not love him anymore and she had stopped wearing her wedding ring.
Kennedy told the same friend his wife told him she was going to move to Canada to live with the women and that he would get the kids.
The court was told he felt terrible and betrayed and told the friend he had confided in another man who said he could "get it sorted", which he took to mean get the Canadian women threatened or killed.
Kennedy later told his friend he had pulled out of the deal because the man, who can only be identified as Mr X was "getting pushy".
On 6 January 2020, he arrived at his friend's home with a backpack full of old clothes and appeared "white in the face and terrified".
He asked his friend to pass on some items to his sister and also gave him his phone before leaving.
His friend told gardaí the phone rang several times and at one point he answered it when Mr X demanded to know where Kennedy was and said he wanted money.
Kennedy's wife also made a statement to gardaí to say she had been with Kennedy for 15 years and they had later married but had split up in 2019. She said she had made two friends online and the more she became friends with them "the less he liked it".
She said her husband "disappeared" on 6 January and she got a call from his number, but it was his friend who had his phone. She was told to stay in with the children and not to speak to Mr X. She had noticed Mr X was at the school when she was leaving the children to school and had asked where her husband was.
She later got a call from gardaí to say her husband had been seen boarding a ferry to England.
Kennedy's wife said Mr X later spoke to her near their home and said her Facebook messages had been watched and that her husband had told him she was being brainwashed and groomed and that he had organised a hit on the two Canadians and was owed €2,000.
She said Mr X told her the people he had hired were "dangerous people" and someone would come to the house and kneecap her if the money was not handed over that day.
She said he later came to her house a number of times and banged on her door saying "pay up today or hand over Bryan or there will be trouble".
There was a further incident the following month, after Kennedy returned when Mr X approached the family in a shopping centre and had to be removed by security.
After his arrest Kennedy told gardaí the reason he became a missing person was because of his friendship with Mr X.
He said Mr X had told him he knew people who could kill or harm people. He said he met him after telling him about his wife’s Facebook messages and they discussed a fee of €10,000 to "have them two killed".
"I said it was too much and I started to backtrack," he told gardaí. He said he had paid over €8,000 in total to Mr X.
Gardaí asked him about a number of messages they found on his phone and asked him to explain them. A message saying "I have their personal address and phone number" referred to Clara and Stephanie, the two Canadian women, he said.
Asked about a message referring to having "two people painted" he said that meant having two people killed.
He told gardaí he was fairly sure that at one point he told Mr X to keep the money and the job did not need to be done.
Asked if he had conspired to have them killed he said "essentially yeah".
Asked if he was trying to make it look like an accident he said he did not think they ever discussed how it would be done.
Asked if he had paid Mr X to engage a third party, he replied "yes".
Gardaí asked if he was doing it out of love for his wife and he replied: "Out of love and heartbreak, especially at a time when everything seemed perfect." He also told gardaí that it had "happened before but the guy left her" and he was there to "pick up the pieces".
The court heard that gardaí contacted the two women in Quebec and they had been made aware of the incident by Kennedy’s wife, but they did not express any concern for their safety. The information was also passed on to Canadian police.
Kennedy pleaded guilty to two charges of soliciting someone to murder the two Canadian women on dates unknown between October 2019 and January 2020. A separate investigation is under way into Mr X, the court heard.
Defence Counsel Dominic McGinn told the court that Kennedy has been a carer for various people throughout his life and continued to be the carer for his now ex-wife, who had mobility problems and is in a wheelchair.
The court heard that during his marriage he was the main carer for his children and looked after all their needs. He continues to travel to the family home each day to take them to school.
Mr McGinn said while the offence had to be taken extremely seriously in real terms, the two women in Canada were never actually in any real danger. He said the offence itself carries a high degree of moral culpability and criminal intent, but in this case it had unusual features which takes it outside the realm of most cases of this nature.
Mr McGinn said his client’s actions "speak of someone completely out of his depth and in a set of circumstances completely out of his control … he did not know how to deal with it, he did not know how to cope".
He said his client felt threatened by the very existence of his wife’s friendship and his way of dealing with it was inappropriate and criminally wrong. It led to blackmail which extended to his wife and he tried to disappear, indicating that he could not cope, Mr McGinn said.
He said it was clear that Kennedy was taken advantage of at the time and if he had sought out anyone less predatory than Mr X they would have told him how crazy it was.
Mr McGinn said it was obvious from probation reports that it was completely out of character for his client who was usually law abiding.
The court heard he is awaiting sentence in the District Court for possession of child pornography which was found on a computer disk during a garda search.
Mr McGinn asked the judge to consider a suspended sentence because Kennedy remains in a caring role for his ex-wife and children. He attends the family home every day to give personal care to his wife and to take the children to school.
Prosecuting counsel James Dwyer said the maximum sentence for the offence was ten years in prison.
Judge Biggs also said Kennedy's mindset may have been affected by his depression and she accepted he had been a good father in difficult circumstances where there was a history of infidelity.
She imposed a five-year sentence and suspended the final six months on condition he engage with the probation service and undergo counselling.
She said both Kennedy and his wife were of the opinion that he was the best person to care for the family and while she did not doubt that "he chose to solicit a man in contravention of the criminal law and that is on his head".
She noted the character references submitted from his brother and sister which outlined the care and support he provided for his family, and one from his now ex-wife which described how the family rely on him for care and that his ex-wife still believes him to be "an honourable man".