TWO men have been jailed for helping a crime gang carry out the “heinous and appalling” murder of teenager Keane Mulready-Woods.
Paul Crosby was today handed down a 10-year sentence, while his co-accused Gerard Cruise was given seven years in prison by the Special Criminal Court.
They were each given a further six months suspended.
Passing sentence, Mr Justice Tony Hunt said after the horrific murder, the victim’s remains were treated in a “disgraceful and inhuman way that beggars belief”.
He said the assistance Crosby and Cruise provided in bringing the 17-year-old to the “murder house” had been valuable to the suspected killer, violent criminal Robbie Lawlor.
The pair had been reckless in deciding to assist someone of Lawlor’s “ilk”, the judge said.
He expressed the court’s condolences to the family, saying it was “painful and unnatural” for any parent to lose a child, particularly when it comes about by murder.
The sentences were backdated to account for time served.
Crosby (27) and Cruise (49), both from Rathmullan Park, Drogheda, Co Louth pleaded guilty to facilitating the murder at Rathmullan Park between January 11 and 13, 2020.
The pair brought the victim to the house where he was killed but there was no evidence they were present at the time or place of the murder.
Keane was reported missing and his dismembered remains were later discovered at three locations in Dublin and Drogheda.
Gardaí suspect he was killed by Lawlor, who was involved in a gang feud in Drogheda and was shot dead in April 2020.
Mr Justice Hunt said a gang feud was the “scourge of the locality concerned”, but also a matter of nationwide concern. He added that the Drogheda feud fell into that category.
“There’s no doubt but that both men must have had some degree of knowledge of the capacity of the person they were assisting,” Mr Justice Hunt said.
Crosby had been instrumental in “procuring the attendance” of the victim who was then taken by Cruise to the “murder house.”
There was no evidence either accused was present at the time or place Keane was murdered, he said.
Cruise had got false licence plates for the Volvo involved in transporting the body parts but had carried out the transaction in an “open way”, giving rise to the inference that he might not have known the purpose.
“It’s plain to see that the assistance that was offered by both these men to Mr Lawlor was significant and clearly related to the crime that was in the course of being committed, or about to be committed, or after being committed,” the judge continued.
“They lent their assistance knowing this man had significant criminal capacity.”
He said specific knowledge of a particular offence was not essential to the charge of facilitation and “this is a gamble that people take when they elect to assist serious criminals”.
“They were certainly reckless in deciding to assist somebody of the ilk of Mr Lawlor. His true nature was shown by the disgusting way the remains of the deceased youth were treated in the aftermath of what was already a heinous and appalling crime to begin with.”
In mitigation, the court took account of the accused’s guilty pleas and what had been said on their behalf by their lawyers.
Both cases fell in the top third of the sentencing scale, which had a 15-year maximum.
However, the judge said there were distinctions in the level of culpability of the two and Crosby “as an assistant was a notch or two higher” than Cruise.
“He appears to have received directions from Mr Lawlor and passed them on to others, including Mr Cruise,” he said.
Cruise had not been on the garda radar and was “quite open” in the activities he perpetrated. Their profiles were also different – Crosby had more serious prior convictions and Cruise’s criminal record was much earlier in time.
The judge sentenced Crosby to 10-and-a-half years and Cruise to seven-and-a-half years.
The final six months of each sentence was suspended for two years to “encourage and incentivise” rehabilitation.
The accused had previously been accused of murder but those charges were withdrawn by the prosecution.
The court registrar then asked Crosby and Cruise in turn to stand to acknowledge their binding to the peace as part of the suspended portions of their sentence.
“I do, yeah,” Crosby said when he was asked, then repeated: “I do.”
Cruise also replied “I do” when asked if he acknowledged the bond. They were both then led away to begin their sentences.
The victim’s family was in court for the sentence hearing.
Previously, the court heard that Keane Mulready-Woods was last seen alive on January 12, 2020. That evening, he met Crosby at a Centra shop in Drogheda, where they got into Cruise’s Volkswagen and the three drove to Rathmullan Park.
The teenager was dropped off at the home of Gerard ‘Ged’ McKenna, where the murder happened.
The last sighting of the victim was on CCTV footage which showed him at the back of the house at 6.48pm with three other men, including Robbie Lawlor.
Keane’s mother reported him missing the next day, January 13. A short time later, gardaí received confidential information that he had been murdered.
At 10pm that night, at Moatview Drive, Priorswood, Dublin a man found a sports bag containing the teenager’s arms and legs. It had been thrown from a passing Volvo car.
False number plates for the car had been purchased earlier that day by Cruise.
On January 14, gardai searched the home of McKenna, which was confirmed as the site of the murder by DNA and blood spatter evidence.
The next day, January 15, the Volvo was found burnt out at Trinity Terrace in Drumcondra, Dublin with the victim’s head and feet found inside.
The rest of the teenager’s remains were not recovered until April 1, 2021, when his torso was discovered in a sports bag hidden in an overgrown ravine on waste ground at Rathmullan Park.
After he was arrested, Cruise admitted to gardaí that he dropped Keane and Crosby at McKenna’s house.
Cruise told gardaí that everything seemed fine between the teenager and Crosby and he did not know what was to happen at the house.
Crosby told gardaí nothing of evidential value in interview.
McKenna was jailed last year for four years for assisting in the clean-up of the crime scene following the murder.
Crosby had more than 40 previous convictions for charges including drugs, motoring, theft and fraud offences, the court heard.
Following a trial in February 2019, he was acquitted of an unrelated attempted murder.
His barrister, Michael Bowman SC, said Crosby had difficulties with cocaine from a young age but was now abstaining from drugs.
Cruise, a grandfather and father-of-four had previous convictions for possession of drugs, burglary and public order offences.
His barrister, Bernard Condon SC, said Cruise apologised for his involvement and expressed his “horror” at what happened. He said that Cruise did not know what was going to happen when he dropped Crosby and Keane off.
In a victim-impact statement, Elizabeth Woods described her son’s murder as an “inhumane, violent and barbaric death”. She said it was “one of the most brutal, tragic and horrifying murders in the history of Ireland”, and she hoped no other family would go through what her family had.
She recalled the two burials for her son as his body parts were found at different times in different areas of the country.
On his birthday, she said the family brings cake to his grave. “Keane would never mind what presents he got as long as he had a nice cake,” she said. She hears him call to her and battles every day with knowing that she couldn’t help her son.
“The haunting nightmares will live with us forever,” she said. “The loss is something we will have to live with. You don’t get over it, you don’t move on.”