George Bento murder trial: what the jury didn’t hear


After George Bento was arraigned, his defence counsel Padraig Dwyer SC made an application in the absence of the jury.

r Dwyer said that his client should never have been charged with murder as the “evidential basis” was not there.

Instead, he argued that Mr Bento should have been charged with manslaughter, as it was the central issue in the case, and he noted other individuals had been charged with diverse offences such as assault and criminal damage arising from the incident.

He told Mr Justice Paul Burns that his team had written to the Director of Public Prosecutions asking them to review the charge.

CCTV evidence, Mr Dwyer also said, showed other individuals attacking Mr Bento and his companion and showed that at all times Mr Bento was engaged in self-defence, the defence of another person and the defence of property. He said the use of force by his client had been reasonable.

It was unfair and oppressive to put his client on trial for murder, Mr Dwyer argued, and he asked the court to substitute the charge of murder for one of manslaughter.

Mr Dwyer also asked the judge to “keep an eye on” the evidence as the case proceeded. “Judge, if you perceive the accused is receiving an unfair trial, then you have a duty to stop it,” he said.

He said George’s position was that he did not believe he was guilty of either murder or manslaughter and that this was a full acquittal defence against a background where Deliveroo cyclists were under a lot of harassment in Dublin.

In reply, prosecution counsel Seán Guerin SC said the fact that other people were charged did not change the accused’s circumstances, as the basis on which the charges were proffered was the CCTV footage and eyewitness accounts.

In addition, Mr Guerin said, this was a case where an unarmed 16-year-old received two stab wounds to the chest, one of which was fatal.

There was no question but that murder was the appropriate charge, he stated.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Burns said it was the defence case that it was unfair to leave the count of murder to the jury.

He said it was their contention that there would be a manifest and real risk of a wrongful conviction if a murder charge was left open to the jurors.

The defence had impressed on the court that it was under an obligation to stop the trial where there was a real and manifest risk of injustice, he said.

The judge said the prosecution took issue with the defence submissions and had argued that the count of murder should be left to the jury in its entirety.

He noted it was the State’s case that the accused was quick to make use of the knife when he might have known it was not necessary and proportionate and that they argued the accused had knowledge of guilt after the incident.

During the trial, the State would argue that flights to Brazil were booked for Mr Bento on January 28, 2021, two days after the death of Josh Dunne.



George Gonzaga Bento pictured leaving the central criminal court after being acquitted of the murder of Josh Dunne (Pic Collins Courts)

The prosecution argued Mr Bento intended to leave the jurisdiction in the belief that gardaí might have identified him as a suspect and in the knowledge that someone had died and that he had a small window to get out of Ireland.

Prosecutors also put it to Mr Bento that he had deleted WhatsApp on his phone as he was aware of the death of Josh Dunne before he booked his flights to Brazil, that he knew messages showed he had persuaded fellow delivery driver Tiago da Silva not to go to gardaí and that he knew messages showed he had avoided going to detectives.

Mr Bento denied he was aware of the schoolboy’s death before booking flights home to Brazil and disagreed with all of the State’s propositions.

In legal argument, Mr Guerin said the garda investigation would have been deprived of three pieces of evidence but for the technology that allowed them to retrieve messages when Mr Bento deleted his WhatsApp.

Ruling on the defence’s application to remove the count of murder, Mr Justice Burns ruled that the court would not usurp the function of the jury and that it seemed to him there was sufficient evidence to allow that count to go to the jury.

Deliveroo Workers show their solidarity in court

A sense of camaraderie amongst food-delivery workers was evident throughout the trial but especially on the final day that Mr Bento gave evidence, when around 30 people in Deliveroo uniforms came to court to support their fellow worker.

Mr Justice Burns was prompted to ask the jury to rise when one worker sat in the prosecution’s bench for junior counsel.

When the jury left the courtroom, Mr Justice Burns asked a garda if the victim’s family was all right. The garda told the judge that some of them had felt uncomfortable so they left the courtroom.

Mr Dwyer, defending, told the judge that the delivery cyclists turn-out was a surprise to the defence and suggested that they reduce their number. “I’m sure Mr Bento wouldn’t want to make the victim’s family uncomfortable,” he added.

Mr Justice Burns said a group of identically dressed persons had entered the courtroom, occupying the available seating and that some had their mobile phones out.

He added: “I’m prepared to accept that these are co-workers attending to show their solidarity and support as a source of comfort to the accused. The court will not tolerate whatsoever any attempt to interfere with the integrity of the trial process.

“They’re welcome to attend court, whether they feel the manner in which they are appearing is doing any good for the trial process or the accused man, I think they should reflect on that. Proper provision has now been made for the families of the victims.”

Mr Dwyer told the judge that to the best of his knowledge, his client had not organised the delivery riders’ attendance and he would ask Mr Bento if he wanted his supporters present.

After consulting with the accused, Mr Dwyer said his client had “no hand, act or part” in arranging the turnout but that the accused did not mind the delivery riders staying in court.

However, he said the defendant did not want any “presence that would unduly affect the victim’s family”.

Mr Justice Burns said he had heard Mr Bento’s views and that those attending needed to ask themselves if they were helping the process.

“The gentlemen are well behaved, it was more their presence in those numbers,” he concluded.

City of God

While being interviewed by detectives at Store Street garda station in Dublin’s inner city, Mr Bento asked them if they had seen City of God, Fernando Meirelles’ 2002 film about life in the notorious slums of Rio.

The 36-year-old told them that life growing up in Brazil had been difficult. Although he said he never got involved “in anything unlawful”, he had lost a lot of friends to the scourge of crime and drugs. However, he had a strong family around him who kept him safe and made sure he got a good education.

“It’s a hard situation but it’s happy. I worked a lot and I always try to improve my life,” he said.

Mr Bento came to Ireland in February 2019 to better himself. “I watch movies and read. I realised that first world countries had good education and opportunities… so I needed to try,” he said.

Life in Ireland was good at the beginning. “I can work, study and improve myself,” he said, and he found employment as a food-delivery cyclist.

It was in Dublin, however, that he also encountered violence and intimidation. He said gangs of youths would deliberately attack him with stones and eggs. Mr Bento told his trial that his reaction was “always avoid and always try to go away”.

“For them it was fun, for us we were working and trying to improve life,” he said.

In broken English, Mr Bento told the jury that he never came to Ireland “to make problems” but rather to work. “My intention is to do something good and never something bad,” he said.

But ‘something bad’ happened on January 26, 2021, on East Wall Road in the north inner city.

At 9pm, Josh Dunne (16) and his friends made their way east towards the port in the direction of a pizza shop.

It was closed, however, which meant the group around and came face to face with a stand-off between a bike thief and two food-delivery cyclists.

Moments later Josh, an unarmed teenager who had never before come to garda attention, took his last breath after being stabbed twice by George Bento. “He took a big breath and I remember his eyes rolling back,” Josh’s 17-year-old friend told the court, breaking down in tears.

The Instigator 

In his interviews with gardaí, George was resolute and unwavering. He had only tried to defend himself from an attack and never intended to hurt anyone. He told detectives he believed “justice will show this, the divine justice will show the right way”.

When Mr Bento took the stand at the Central Criminal Court, he told the jury that Josh Dunne and another youth had “come for” and attacked him and a colleague. He said: “Both of them attack me and I react to that attack. I just try to keep me safe and defend myself.”

Mr Bento was working out of McDonald’s at East Wall on the evening of January 26 when he saw a man on a moped making off with a delivery cyclist’s electric bike. The thief rode his vehicle down East Wall Road, carrying the stolen bicycle on his shoulder.

George explained to the jury his thought process in confronting the thief. “It doesn’t matter [that] it’s not my bike; he is doing something wrong and I had the opportunity to stop him. I just tried to do as I consider myself a good person,” he said.

The defendant said he and his work colleague, fellow Brazilian Guilherme Quieroz, followed the man to the junction of East Wall Road to ask whether the bicycle belonged to him.

When they approached the man on the moped, Mr Bento said the thief tried to intimidate them and started insulting them. “He was riding the bike in circles and tried to kick us, he managed to kick my bicycle and it fell on the floor,” he said.

The thief got off his vehicle at one point and made some movement as if to pretend that “he had a knife” at his back.

The accused said he responded by taking his own knife from his pocket, which he generally used to cut fruit, and showed it to him, hoping he would leave the bike and go away.

“I don’t want problem, I just want my friend’s bike back [sic],” Mr Bento explained to the jury.

It was the defence case that Mr Bento produced the knife in response to a threat from the moped thief, who had “reached his right hand into his back pocket”. Mr Bento said the man on the moped was acting like he was looking for a confrontation.

In his closing address to the jury, prosecution counsel Mr Guerin conceded that the “instigator” of the row was the man on the moped, who stole the bike that had belonged to delivery cyclist Tiago da Silva.

Counsel said the man on the moped was a “thief and a thug” who launched a violent attack on Mr Bento and Mr Quieroz when they tried to retrieve the bike.

The state prosecutors also accepted that Mr Bento was lawfully entitled to recover the stolen bike that night.

However, Mr Guerin also argued that Mr Bento had exaggerated the danger he was in and repeatedly downplayed his own actions.

He said Mr Bento gave a false account to gardaí and in the witness box when he said that during the confrontation with the man on the moped he, Mr Bento, pulled a knife from his pocket but kept his distance.

CCTV evidence, counsel said, showed him moving towards the man on the moped. He asked the jury to consider whether there was at that moment any threat to Mr Bento that necessitated his taking the knife from his pocket.

In his testimony, Mr Bento went on to tell the jurors: “I then tried to get the electric bike from the floor and saw the bicycle wheels were locked. I told Guilherme that we couldn’t carry the bike anywhere and to let’s go home.

“I looked across the road and there were more than 10 teenagers.”

Just trying to make a living 

George Bento’s colleague Guilherme Quieroz also said he had come to Ireland from Brazil to “advance his position in life”, as his brother was living here and he had told him that it was a “great country”.

Like Mr Bento, Mr Quieroz said he had never been involved in a fight in his life. However, since working as a delivery rider there had been “a few episodes” where “street gangs” would throw stones at him when he was making food deliveries.

He would try his best to avoid the harassment from these gangs and cycle in a different direction but at times it proved difficult.

One of the many challenges facing the Deliveroo community, Mr Quieroz said, was how common it was for them to have their bikes stolen when they were just trying to make a living.

Mr Quieroz described to the jury that the Dublin 3 area was “very dangerous” for delivery riders.

He told the trial about a WhatsApp group between food-delivery workers which allowed them to communicate about “trouble spots or danger areas” in Dublin or to highlight the areas where people showed aggression towards riders.

“We used to exchange information if someone saw a group, just to avoid the area, they used clothes like North Face,” he said, adding that this type of clothing would help Deliveroo drivers identify trouble.

‘No longer felt safe’

During the trial, Garda Superintendent Paul Costello was called to give evidence on the level of criminality in the area at the time of Josh Dunne’s death.

He said the incident was one of a number of violent events that occurred in close proximity. These included the death of a woman who was stabbed at the IFSC just six days before Josh Dunne died, the stabbing of a man – who was lucky to survive – at nearby Seville Place, and the death of Deliveroo cyclist Thiago Cortes in a hit-and-run on North Wall Quay in August 2020.

The witness said another Deliveroo driver (Francisco Tertuliano de Oliviera Neto, known as ‘Neto’) had been attacked in the Finglas area of Dublin in February 2019 when he stopped a vehicle to ask for directions and was subsequently assaulted by a group of males. The cyclist suffered a broken nose, and his phone and food were taken, he said.

Supt Costello said there was concern in the community because of these incidents and that his attention was drawn to the targeting of food-delivery drivers who felt unsafe in the course of their work.

The witness said he had a meeting with Deliveroo, Just Eat and Uber Eats and rider representatives along with those from the Brazilian community.

Supt Costello further agreed that there had been an “outpouring of concern” from entire communities living in Dublin 1 and 3 as they didn’t feel safe in their own areas.

He told defence counsel Mr Dwyer he was unaware that Deliveroo and Uber were directing their drivers not to go into certain areas as a result of these attacks.

Referring to the death of Mr Cortes in August 2020, the witness said a protest march was organised for him which began at the GPO on O’Connell Street and concluded at the scene of the incident at North Wall Quay.

“As it made its way, there were a number of local people who took exception to them walking by and there was verbal abuse,” he added.

Separately, the court also heard that another Deliveroo driver had passed the scene of where a vigil for Josh Dunne was taking place and had been attacked.

Supt Costello said the garda presence increased in the Dublin 1 and 3 areas and continued for a month before it returned to intelligence-led policing.

Fergal McCawley, a civilian working in An Garda Síochána, told the trial that in 2020 there had been quite a dramatic upward trend where vehicles – including bicycles and e-bikes – had been hijacked using the threat of violence or a weapon.

Tiago da Silva, whose bike had been stolen by the moped thief, told the court that delivery riders got paid per delivery and not by the hour.

He agreed with Mr Dwyer that working conditions are bad as riders receive no sick pay, holiday pay or compensation if their bikes – on which their livelihoods depend – get stolen.

Five seconds

In his interviews with gardaí, Mr Bento said he got “completely scared” when he saw this group of youths, who were mostly on bikes and scooters, because he said he knew they were going to attack him and Mr Quieroz.

Three of the youths, including Josh, crossed the road. Josh initially took hold of the moped as two of his friends launched what Mr Bento’s defence told the jury was a “violent, ugly and unlawful” attack on the two delivery riders.

“I ask myself why no one helps us as we try to avoid a crime. We are on the good side, we try to do something good,” Mr Bento said.

The accused said he and Mr Quieroz found themselves surrounded. “We didn’t know where the punches or the kicks were coming from,” he said.

Mr Bento said that as he tried to take the knife from his pocket one of the teenagers punched him in the face and began hitting him.

“I was trying to stop one of his punches but I ended up stabbing him. I had my hand raised showing them to stop. Another man came and kicked me in the side and I ended up stabbing him as well,” he said.

Josh’s teenage friend was the first to be stabbed by the accused and he sustained three stab injuries to his chest, back and abdomen.

Upon seeing his young friend being stabbed, Josh Dunne let go of the moped, moved toward Mr Bento and punched him. The prosecution case was that Josh did not do any harm to anyone until he saw his friend being stabbed.

They argued he was reacting to what he saw and was entitled to punch Mr Bento to push him away.

Within five seconds of letting go of the moped, Josh was stabbed twice in the chest and had incised injuries to his left hand. He walked away from the group and collapsed in the street at 9.22pm before his friends rushed to his side to help.

He was declared dead at 10.29pm that night at the Mater Hospital.

The prosecution case was that by the time Mr Bento produced the knife a second time, the teens were backing away and neither Mr Bento nor Mr Quieroz were being assaulted.

Mr Guerin pointed out that Josh had never come to garda attention before and showed no desire to get involved in a fight that evening. “He didn’t do any harm to anyone until he saw his friend being stabbed. He was reacting to what he saw: Mr Bento swinging that knife.”

Mr Guerin added: “Josh Dunne was to be commended for trying to protect his friends from a lethal, unlawful assault. Mr Bento’s reaction was to use lethal, unlawful force to repel what was reasonable force used by Josh Dunne in self-defence.”

When asked by the prosecution why he had taken the knife out of his pocket for a second time, Mr Bento said it was to intimidate the man on the moped and the youths so they would not come near him and Mr Quieroz.

“Guilherme was being attacked by three at the time and there were another three coming,” he added.

The accused broke down on the stand as he told the jury that his intention was never to hurt someone but that he just tried to keep safe and defend himself. “I feel very upset about how this finished. I tried to help not to try and hurt someone.”


Diane Dunne mother of victim Josh Dunne pictured leaving court with family and friends after George Gonzaga Bento was acquitted of murder (Pic Collins Courts)

When asked about the level of force used by him that night, Mr Bento said he believed the force he used was necessary to keep him and Mr Quieroz alive.

“I believe I saved two lives, mine and Guilherme’s lives,” he said.

When detectives put it to Mr Bento in his interviews that in six seconds he had stabbed one youth three times and that Josh was dead, the accused said: “All of that is a mistake.

“I shouldn’t have stopped the bike being stolen as I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for that. This is something I’ll regret for the rest of my life.”

Mr Quieroz testified that he was attacked by up to three people, had his teeth and nose broken and suffered an injury to his knee when he and Mr Bento tried to retrieve the bike.

He said Mr Bento had saved him from more injuries or death when the accused used a knife to defend him from the gang of youths.

Mr Quieroz said that when the youths started to approach, he heard Mr Bento, who had a knife, say “stay away” about three times.

He said the accused had produced the knife at the same time as “they were coming to assault us”. He didn’t see the defendant use the knife as three people were hitting him and blood was pouring down his face. “At the moment I was being hit I was afraid of dying,” he told the jury.

He said that, having viewed CCTV footage of the incident, he now knew that Mr Bento twice came to save him, once when the witness had his back up against a wall and was being punched and a second time when he was “dragged” to the road and punched.

Mr Quieroz told the jury that he was scared to leave his house after the “traumatic” incident and had to stay at home for at least 20 days.

He eventually left Ireland.

In his closing speech to the jury, Mr Bento’s counsel Mr Dwyer SC told them that his client was an innocent, hard-working man who used reasonable force to defend himself and his friend from a “punishment beating” inflicted on them because they tried to retrieve a stolen bicycle.

Counsel said Mr Bento had tried to prevent a crime from being committed and added: “It is a mistake that Irish people would not make because we know the consequences of trying to stop a crime in this city, that you become a victim of crime yourself.”

He said Mr Bento was set upon in a “violent, ugly and unlawful” attack where several people attacked him and his friend. He said Mr Bento had produced the only thing he could use to defend himself, a knife that he carried for cutting fruit.

Mr Guerin, however, said Mr Bento had decided to take the law into his own hands and exaggerated the threat posed by his attackers.

He said that when Mr Bento produced the knife a second time and used it to stab one of the alleged victims, the teenagers were backing away and neither he nor his friend were under attack.

Counsel described the actions of Josh Dunne as “commendable” but that Mr Bento had reacted to Josh’s reasonable response with lethal force that he knew was not necessary to protect himself or his friend.

Having considered their verdict for a little over eight hours, the Central Criminal Court jury of seven women and five men who deliberated over George Bento’s case cleared him on all counts. They were unanimous in their verdicts, rejecting the State’s contention that Mr Bento had taken the law into his own hands.

After more than 500 days in custody and a six-week trial, Mr Burns told George Bento that he was free to go.

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