A DETECTIVE sergeant has denied using the mother of a suspect’s sick child as bait to induce him to confess to murdering rugby player Shane Geoghegan.

Det Sgt Mark Philips of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation was giving evidence yesterday at the Central Criminal Court. He was being cross-examined by Martin O’Rourke, who is defending Barry Doyle (25) in the murder trial.

The father of three with addresses at Dublin and Limerick, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Geoghegan (28) on November 9th, 2008. He was shot dead in a suspected case of mistaken identity near his home in Clonmore, Kilteragh, Dooradoyle, Limerick.

Det Sgt Philips agreed Mr Doyle’s solicitor, Michael O’Donnell, approached him and a colleague on February 24th, 2009 in Bruff Garda station, where his client was being detained. He said Mr O’Donnell had come to them with a “deal” after consulting with Mr Doyle in his cell, and had asked them not to take notes.

“He said that Barry Doyle would admit to killing Shane Geoghegan if Victoria Gunnery would be released,” read Det Sgt Philips from a memo of the meeting which he and his colleague had prepared afterwards.

The court has already heard from Ms Gunnery, whose baby by Mr Doyle had a heart complaint. The jury heard she was arrested on suspicion of possessing information around the same time Mr Doyle was arrested.

“We told him that there was no way this would happen,” the detective sergeant continued, at the request of Mr O’Rourke. Copies of the memo were given to the jury.

He recalled Mr O’Donnell saying Mr Doyle would answer only one question, that he had committed the murder. He said he and his colleague had refused this proposal, because they had to know he was telling the truth and not just making an admission to get Ms Gunnery released.

Det Sgt Philips said Mr O’Donnell said his client would not admit to anything prior to his girlfriend being released, and suggested they could arrest her again afterwards. Det Sgt Philips said they had told Mr O’Donnell this would amount to inducement, and any admissions made this way would not stand up in court.

He said Mr O’Donnell returned to his client before coming back to gardaí and telling them Mr Doyle would not admit to the murder.

“Well, he’ll say nothing. I’ve told him to say nothing, to get ye to do the work,” said the solicitor, according to the memo.

The detective sergeant said when the deal was brought to the table, “it was rejected immediately and very clearly”.

Det Sgt Philips said he had explained to the solicitor Ms Gunnery would be released at some stage. He said any admissions by Mr Doyle would “have a knock-on effect” on her detention on suspicion of possessing information.

He agreed he had told Mr Doyle in interviews before this meeting not to keep Ms Gunnery from their daughter any longer than was necessary. Mr O’Rourke suggested this, along with similar comments, was the reason Mr Doyle told his solicitor he would make an admission after she was released.

The proposal of such an admission “was rejected very clearly”, the detective sergeant said. Mr O’Rourke asked him to point out in the memo where it was rejected.

“Mr O’Donnell was very clear that the proposal had been rejected,” he said.

Mr O’Rourke suggested Det Sgt Philips was not being truthful and suggested he had induced his client. “I reject that,” witness said.

“Let me tell you why you’re lying,” said Mr O’Rourke, suggesting the only problem the investigators had with the deal was the sequence; they wanted the admissions before Ms Gunnery’s release, not afterwards, he said. “That’s totally inaccurate,” replied Det Sgt Philips. “It was blatant what Mr O’Donnell brought to the table . . . It was blatant that it was illegal.”

Mr O’Rourke said: “This was inducement . . . using his girlfriend and the mother of his sick child as bait”. Witness replied: “This whole deal was an inducement and was completely rejected and Mr O’Donnell understood”.

He agreed Mr Doyle admitted to the shooting in the next interview, but said there was no connection. The trial continues before Mr Justice Paul Carney and a jury of seven men and five women.