Today the prosecution case came to a close. The jury now have all the evidence in front of them to decide whether the Director of Public Prosecutions has made a sufficient case against Ronnie Dunbar. Over the next few days we will hear the final arguments from the prosecution and defence. Then the judge, Mr Justice Barry White will summarise the evidence and charge the jury before they begin their deliberations.
It’s been a long trial. It’s not quite over yet but these are the beginnings of the final stages. In a matter of days Dunbar will find out whether he has been deemed innocent or guilty.
All that is still to come though. Today we heard the final pieces of the prosecution case. After days of scientists who were part of the complicated DNA testing procedure and various people who played football or went fishing with the accused we heard from two witnesses with fresh evidence…or at least evidence we’d only heard about in passing before.
This morning Detective Garda William O’Neill took the stand to explain the sheets of phone evidence that the jury will have to wade through. The colour coded sheets they have been given show the calls and text messages sent and received by phones belonging to Dunbar and Melissa Mahon.
Dunbar denies the murder of the Sligo teenager and also a second charge of threatening to kill his daughter Samantha, somewhere in Sligo in September 2006.
Det Sgt O’Neill explained the calls, highlighting certain times and dates that have particular relevance to the prosecution’s case. The jury heard earlier in the trial that Melissa was bought a pay as you go O2 mobile by her social worker on August 29th 2006. Today we heard that the first call she made was to Dunbar’s youngest daughter, who texted her back seconds later. Soon afterwards Melissa’s phone texted the one registered to Ronnie Dunbar and again got a reply.
There were plenty of calls between the two phones in the two and a half weeks that followed, until Melissa’s disappearance. During that time just over half of the texts made by Dunbar’s phone were to Melissa’s, some 65 in total. Her phone was equally active, sending 87 text messages over the same two and a half weeks. By contrast in the same period Dunbar’s phone had texted his girlfriend at the time, Angelique Dupois, 27 times. He had rung her 19 times, compared to 33 times for Melissa.
Dunbar told gardai in interviews that the last time he spoke to Melissa was when she called him from the house of Hugh Fergus, the Leitrim man whose doorstep she had turned up on after running away from her foster family the night before she disappeared. He later received a text from the phone belonging to Melissa’s social worker from Melissa telling him she was OK and not to worry.
According to today’s evidence there were several further calls between Dunbar’s phone and Melissa’s. The following morning there were several calls and texts, some lasting several minutes. The last call from Melissa’s phone that was answered and did not go to her message minder was at 10.52 on the morning of September 14th, the day she disappeared.
There was one further call from Dunbar’s phone to Melissa’s. Several days later on September 19th at 11.40 p.m. there was a call that went straight to message.
The jury also heard from journalist Niall Delaney, who works for local station Ocean FM. He told the court that he interviewed Dunbar on February 19th last year. Dunbar had been keen to speak to him after reports had appeared in the Sunday World naming him as the chief suspect in Melissa’s murder. Mr Delaney refused to reveal the “local source” who gave him Dunbar’s number but an interview was arranged for a neutral venue and the conversation lasted for around an hour and a half.
Mr Delaney told the court that Dunbar had made three specific requests. The first was that everything must be recorded, including the car ride, even stuff not meant for broadcast. He also asked that the journalist spoke to his youngest daughter by phone and also insisted that he interviewed her and broadcast the subsequent recording.
We had all been wondering how any journalist had agreed to talk to such a young teen who had been allegedly involved in such a serious crime but today Mr Delaney said that he had never had any intention of broadcasting the interview, and had only conducted it to appease her father.
He said that while he was with Dunbar, the girl had rung her father’s phone. Dunbar had told her to speak to the journalist and had handed the phone over. This was when the interview had been arranged.
These were the final pieces in the prosecution case. All that’s left now is the speeches. They start tomorrow.