By Stephen Bourke
A barrister who was woken in the middle of the night to be given a “devastating” death threat by an anonymous caller has been cross-examined by the convicted rapist on trial accused of making it.
Michael Murray (50), formerly of Seafield Road, Killiney, Co Dublin, has pleaded not guilty to making death threats against the lawyers who prosecuted him for rape in 2013 – Dominic McGinn SC and Tony McGillicuddy BL.
He also denies charges of harassment against Mr McGinn, his own former defence solicitor, and the woman he was convicted of raping, including falsely advertising all three on the internet as prostitutes.
At the Circuit Criminal Court in Dublin on Friday, Judge Karen O’Connor told the jury that they may have noticed Mr Murray is no longer in the presence of his legal representatives and had chosen to represent himself, as he is entitled to do.
Giving evidence, Mr McGinn told Seán Gillane SC, prosecuting, that he was woken in the early hours of November 16, 2014, by a call from a blocked number.
“I answered it without really thinking about it. A male voice said ‘bang bang’. I just hung up.”
Minutes later, another anonymous call came through.
“My wife answered it and the person on the other end didn’t say anything at all. At that point I called gardaí.”
On Thursday, the jury watched a recording of a garda interview with Michael Murray, in which he said he said he was planning to have Mr McGinn shot that night.
There had also been a second anonymous call to the Garda control room in Harcourt Square in Dublin that night, saying Mr McGinn would be “shot dead”, the court heard.
“I took the decision with the guards not to answer unknown numbers,” Mr McGinn said.
After that he started to get text messages “with strange questions”, and calls from phone numbers that weren’t withheld.
“Hey baby do you want to meet l8r,” read one.
The calls and messages continued for around six weeks into January 2015, until on January 24, one of the callers mentioned an online advert.
“I then Googled my name against my phone number. One result was a series of ads on BackPage.com, some sort of sex website,” Mr McGinn said.
That’s when he called the gardaí, and when he went to make a statement mid-way through the following month, he said he was still being contacted.
He said it didn’t become clear to him the strange calls in the night-time might be connected to the Murray rape case until Mr McGillicuddy called him shortly after he too received a late-night call from a blocked number.
Earlier this week the jury heard that in 2013, Mr McGinn and Mr McGillicuddy prosecuted the accused man for rape, attempted rape, aggravated sexual assault, making threats to kill or cause serious harm, false imprisonment, and the abduction of a child.
The men concluded the strange calls were linked to the case, Mr McGinn said.
He said the threats and harassment were “devastating”.
“I had to change my routine,” he said. “Obviously I had to take this threat very seriously. I had no idea who was threatening me.”
“It was very difficult for my family. But I was annoyed: what I was doing was doing my job.”
Murray asked in cross examination why Mr McGinn didn’t take note of the names of the gardaí he spoke to on the night he got the first anonymous call.
“No, I’m sure I did,” he replied.
“We have no evidence of that,” Murray said.
“I simply have no idea because I have no involvement in this case as a prosecutor,” he said.
Murray asked if there was any connection between the phone seized from him in the Midlands Prison and the calls.
“I have no idea,” Mr McGinn said. “That’s not part of my role as a witness. My role as a witness was simply to relate what happened to the gardaí to the best of my knowledge.”
The trial is to continue on Monday before Judge Karen O’Connor.
On Monday, Murray pleaded guilty to possession of a mobile phone while in custody at the Midlands prison, which was seized from him in a search on February 11, 2015.
The defence accepts it was given to him by his former solicitor Joanne Kangley during a legal visit at Portlaoise General Hospital in October 2014.
Ms Kangley, who formerly practised in Bailieborough, Co Cavan, was convicted of providing a phone to a prisoner in 2019.
“I rang [McGinn] to try and force him from where he was – easier on open ground,” Murray said on Thursday, but he said he cancelled the plan. “I wanted to do it myself,” he told detectives.