The Garda Scandals: The Evidence Noonan Ignores
There is nothing at all surprising about the Kerry Babies scandal. The social elements (with echoes of the Lovett case) are not surprising and even less surprising are the criminal justice elements. For a decade conscientious gardai, lawyers, journalists and other observers have been expecting a case to come along which would be so crudely handled that even a Minister for Justice would be embarrassed. For the past decade the gardai have been systematically employing such methods in order to do their job and this has been tolerated by successive Ministers for Justice.
This partly stemmed from the Cosgrave Coalition's panic measures to deal with the spill-over of the Northern conflict in 1975-77. In what was an hysterical but probably genuine belief that the Southern state was under threat practices were tolerated which were themselves criminal. Police violence was just one element in this. There were also used methods of achieving results which were devious and unlawful.
No doubt these methods put away some dangerous people. They also put away innocent people. Above all they lowered standards so much within the garda force that the force has gradually been demeaned and has been isolated from the public it is supposed to prootect. The result has been catastrophic. Detection rates have plummetted as the number of gardai increased. As the gardai took on new powers it became easier to get away with crime. The failure to deal with genuine commplaints made it easier for spurious complaints to be taken seriously.
In this article we report on some of the more notable scandals of recent years and use them to illustrate the methods used and the fall in standards within the criminal justice system to a point where a Kerry Babies case was inevitable. We report on cases not before brought to public attention and on cases which have become classics.
There is nothing in this file of cases which is not known or available to senior gardai and the Minister for Justice, Michael Noonan. As in 1976, when there was an avalanche of allegations about the Heavy Gang, the official response has been to treat the cases separately, as though each was a lone aberration. Then it becomes the word of the gardai against the word of a suspect, sometimes a convicted criminal. What needs investigation is not merely the details of particular cases, such as the Kerry Babies case and the Shercock case, but an overall inquiry into the methods being used by the gardai. Instead, Michael Noonan proposes to ignore the drift to anarchy within the force and to increase the powers available to the gardai.
The Burning of Billyhill
ON THE mGHT OF JULY 311 August 1 1981 the Billyhill Hall burned down. The full name of the hall was the Royal Orange Order and Black Institution Hall, It was about a hundred years old and was situated near Shercock, County Cavan. The Orange Order had been using it for a few years and it didn't get much use. The Billyhill Band practiced there most Saturday nights, there was the odd social function, the occasional prayer meeting.
At 1.25am on August 1 Tom McEvoy, station officer of the Bailieebora fire brigade got a phone call to tell him the hall was on fire. At 1.55am the brigade got to the hall and found it ablaze from end to end.
A lot of people went to the Billyyhill Hall that night: fire fighters, gardai, neighbours. Nobody noticed any smell of petrol or petrol fumes. There was an empty petrol can lying in the ruins. The top was off and there was a hole in the bottom.
The hall was completely destroyed.
A garda forensic expert examined the ruins and could not determine the cause of the fire, neither could the fire officers. There was a Super Ser heater in the hall and a burnt out gas cylinder. There was an electric fire. The elecctricity plug point was burnt out.
A telephone line to a man who lived 150 yards from the hall was down - cut or broken. A telephone technician examined the line and twice described the line as "broken" and once as "cut". He was unable to say if any instrument had been used to cut the line.
That was all the evidence. A petrol can and a broken telephone line. There could have been several explanations for the fire and the evidence that the
There had been malicious was ten uous. There was no evidence whatever poinnting to any possible culprit. It seemed mat all the band instruments had been removed from the hall the day before the fire. And there were rumours of a rowan the management committee. But that didn't amount to anything. Several people had been working at the hall, renovating the roof, less than two hours before the fire began. They said they hadn't left anything burning. If you wanted to know if the fire was an accident or malicious you'd have to spin a coin.
But that was the year of the Hunger Strikes.
* * *
Section 30 of the Offences Against The State Act 1939 gives the gardai extraordinary powers. And they use them. Any gardai can arrest any citiizen and put him or her in a cell for 24 hours. The detention can be extended for another 24 hours. The garda need only have a "reasonable suspicion" that the citizen has committed or is about to commit a crime. Since there is no way the garda's "suspicion" can be objectively weighed and since the garda need at no stage justify this detention the garda has unlimited powers in the use of Section 30, with no comeback. The garda need have no evidence connecting the citizen to the crime. The garda can exercise this power even if no crime has been commmitted.
Since 1972 the use of Section 30 has got out of control. In that year 229 people were pulled in. In 1974 the figure jumped to 602. In 1976 it was up to 1,015. By 1982 the figure was 2,308. Of these, only 256 were actually charged with a crime. In other words, nine out of ten Section 30 arrests proved groundless.
Section 30 is also used to scare people. Gardai ask questions which
people are not obliged to answer. They use the threat of Section 30 to secure the answers. Tell me or come in for a few hours. It is also used against people who give cheeky answers. Usually Section 30 is just used for political harassment. Young people who join Sinn Fein are visited at home and at work and are arrested, held and released. A favourite trick when annoying unemployed members of Sinn Fein is to pick them up on dole day. Section 30 is also used to pull in people for a few hours on the off-chance of getting some informaation. It is also used when a crime is committed and the gardai are at a loss for a suspect. They round up anyone they think might have been involved, often choosing suspects on the most tenuous basis. They then employ a series of interrogators to question the suspects. Even if a suspect produces an alibi which when checked out proves solid he or she is sometimes held for lengthy periods afterwards.
* * *
After the Billyhill fire the gardai visited a number of people. They were fishing. The Long Kesh hunger strikes had heightened tensions in the Cavan area. In June Kieran Doherty had received 10,000 votes and was elected a TD for Cavan-Monaghan. By August, when the Billyhill fire occurred, he was dying on hunger strike. Protests were increasing, as was garda activity and the use of Section 30.
In October 1981, almost three months after the fire, the gardai arressted four young men and interrogated them. (One of the gardai who made the arrests was Sergeant Peter Diviney of Shercock.) The gardai had no eviddence linking the four with the burning of the Billyhill hall. They still had no evidence that the fire had been maliicious. They said they had "confidential information" that the four had set the fire. The gardai never had to produce this information or prove to anyone that it existed or allow a court examine and test its source.
The four men were Patrick Donnery (22), Eugene Markey (17), Philip Duffy (19) and John Murtagh (19). The first was from Shercock, the others were from Bailieboro. All four were peripherally involved, as were thousands of others, in the H-Block protesters. They were not hardened Provos, just republican-minded. There was nothing to mark them out from thousands of other young men.
The four were lifted under Section 50, held overnight and had their detennzion extended next day. Within a few hours all four had signed confessions admitting to the burning of the Billyyhill hall. The garda account, as is usual in such cases, is that the suspects quickly agreed to make a clean breast of things and voluntarily made connfessions. The four would later claim that they were physically abused and were intimidated, that they were told that they wouldn't be allowed out of the garda station until they signed confessions and that once they signed they would be allowed leave - and it asn't a very serious charge anyway.
One of the curiosities of this case was that the Investigation Section of the Garda Technical Bureau turned out in force for it. When the arrests were being made no less than eight members of the IS turned up at Monaaghan garda station to question the suspects. (The role of the Investigaation Section will be described later on.) This, after all, was a relatively minor case. True, it had sectarian overrtones. If the fire was malicious and if it was started by republicans it would be another expression of the unhealthy sectarian strand that runs through nationalism. But in the context of the growing crime rate and the problems gardai are having dealing with it it was surprising to see so many experienced and resourceful gardai assigned to what was a relatively minor crime @particularly as there was no evidence that a crime had been committed at all.
The gardai from the IS were indeed impressive and skilled at their job. Two had been involved in the Sallins mail train case. Three of the eight Gerard 0 Carroll, Joseph Shelly and P.J. Browne - would later take stateements in the Kerry Babies case.
Within hours of making statements the four Billyhill suspects were mediically examined. Murtagh and Markey exhibited depression and anxiety but little physical evidence of abuse. Marrkey's elbow was tender, but that was about all. Duffy's left cheek was bruised, he had an abrasion on his
chest. Duffy had facial bruising, scra tches and bruises on lUs back and lim bs. The injuries - if they could be so described - were very minor.
The confessions had odd features.
For instance, the suspects allegedly identified the petrol can, although it had been burned in a devastating fire. They admitted cutting the telephone wire - but didn't explain how it was cut, something which the gardai didn't know and might have been expected to ask and which the suspects might have been expected to answer if they were making voluntary confessions.
After ten days of a trial at the Special Criminal Court in January 1982 the statements were ruled innadmissible. The medical evidence raised a reasonable doubt in the 'minds of the judges that two of the accused had been roughed up. The same gardai had questioned the other two and there was a similar pattern - denials at first and) then admissions. All four were freed, the charges dismissed.
Apart from the confessions the state had no evidence against the accused. The state still, in fact, had no convincing evidence that a crime had been committed.
THERE WAS A DRAMATIC ROBBbery at Tallaght on August 21 1982. Gunmen blocked off the road and raided the post office, getting away with almost £100,000, most of it dole money.
The gardai spread the usual net, people were visited, people were lifted under Section 30. At 8am on Septemmber 3, almost two weeks after the robbery, the gardai arrested a woman named Amanda McShane and took her to Crumlin garda station. There she was questioned by gardai, including at least one member of the Investigaation Section, Martin 0 'Connor.
At about 2pm, just six hours after the arrest, solicitor Anne Rowland arrived at the garda station and asked to see Amanda McShane, whom she was representing. She was allowed in and she and McShane discussed the case in an interview room. McShane claimed that earlier that morning she had been asked to sign a statement which had been written out for her, which she had not made.
Rowland searched the interview room. She came across it handwritten statement. McShane confirmed that this was the statement she was asked to sign. The statement told how McShane had got up on the morning of the robbery, picked up a green Toyota and drove it to a prearranged destination, how she left the boot open and someone came along and dropped something in it and how she drove off again. Essentially she was admitting to having helped get the money away from the robbery. She had not made that statement, it had been drawn up for her to sign.
Rowland copied the statement into a notebook. She took it to a garda sergeant, had him read it and confirm that it was a true copy of the stateement found in the interview room.
Amanda McShane continued to remain in custody. Anne Rowland returned to the garda station that evening but WaS refused admittance. The next day, after further detention and further interrogation, Amanda McShane signed a statement similar to the one which Anne Rowland had found.
When the case came to court the gardai gave evidence that McShane had voluntarily signed the second statement. They didn't mention the confession which Anne Rowland had found. When Rowland raised the matter it effectively ended the case. As soon as word got back to the Director of Public Prosecutions about what had happened he entered a nolle prosecqui.
In case after case throughout the past decade accused persons have claimed that they signed statements after lengthy in terrogatio n and that those statements were written out for them by the gardai, from the gardai's own knowledge of the case and not from any admission by the accused. The Amanda McShane case is the only one in which it has been possible to prove that a written-out statement existed before the suspect made any admissions.
THE INVESTIGATION SECTION
The Legacy of Sallins
MOST GARDAI NEVER INVEStigate major crimes. Most gardai never take confessions. It is therefore necessary that some gardai specialise in such activities. It is necessary that some gardai, who have gathered exxperience, should put their expertise at the disposal of the rest of the force - expertise in canvassing neighbourrhoods, preserving crime scenes, the taking of statements which observe the legal necessities and which will stand up in court. From this thesis emerged the Investigation Section.
The IS is part of the Garda Techniical Bureau. While other members of the Bureau specialise in forensic sciennces such as fingerprinting and ballistics the IS specialise in major investigations. It is sometimes known as the Murder Squad. This is because it has its origins in a small group which investigated the small num ber of murders which occurred annually prior to the I 970s. As the incidence of crime grew the IS branched out into investigating other serious crimes.
There became established certain gardai whose prime role was moving. from case to case interrogating susspects. In the push for results in the mid-1970s standards declined. There arose a flood of allegations of brutaality and forced confessions. The alleegations were so widespread, detailed and corroborative that they could not have arisen from a subversive plot to undermine the gardai. The IS attraccted to its activities gardai who were not members of IS but who knew how to put the boot where it wouldn't leave a bruise. This informal group became known as the Heavy Gang. Other gardai have confirmed their existence and their activities.
Easily most famous of the cases involving such allegations was the Sallins train robbery case in which Nicky Kelly and others signed connfessions. Kelly and the others were rounded up under Section 30 and subbjected to long and intensive interroogation. They later alleged brutality, the gardai denied this. There was medical evidence that the suspects had been beaten up. The garda story explaining long periods in which the accused were kept away from the District Court was untrue. There was evidence of garda collusion in presennting evidence to the court. The connfessions were at variance with known facts about the robbery.
The allegations made at that time, the mid-1970s, were disturbing. So disturbing that both Gerry Collins and Jack Lynch called for inquiries into the activities of the gardai. Such calls should not be lightly made. However, when Collins became Minister for Justice and Lynch became Taoiseach they reneged on their preevious stance. Collins presided over the promotion of gardai whom he had wanted investigated. Every Minister for Justice since then has turned the same blind eye to the allegations. Those making the allegations were derided as subversives - which some may well be, not that that detracts from what they claimed.
The scandal of the Nicky Kelly case became so obvious that Michael Noonan found an excuse to release. Kelly. Few believe his "humanitarian grounds" claim. The complaints about the Kelly case had become so wideespread that three weeks before the release even Cardinal 0 Fiaich made representations to the government.
Yet no politician has so far dared examine the Sallins legacy. Nicky Kelly's continuous calls for a public inquiry have, of course, been met with silence. The gardai involved in the actiivities of that period are now in even more senior posts. The allegations against them have never been properly and fairly examined. None of those allegations have been sustained or demolished - because there has been no inquiry. Many gardai must perhaps unfairly - live with those allegations, and many others who have never even been under suspicion of doing anything wrong are stained by the shadow from the Heavy Gang.
Far more important than the rights and wrongs of individual gardai is the manner in which the abuses of the 1970s have become the commonplace of the 1980s (the abuse of Section 30 is just one example) because of the failures of the politicians to make the gardai accountable and to make them be seen to be accountable.
IT WAS IN 1977 THAT A DISTRICT Court judge said he would be afraid -0 walk through the centre of Dublin.
It was that year that R TE reporters stood in rubble-strewn slums and talked of "no-go" areas. The papers were full of it and soon we were hearing fabricated stories about the "Bugsy Malones". Hysteria ruled, and against all the advice of the sociological and criminological specialists we were on our way to Loughan House.
We can now look at this period in perspective. The official figures show that of 10,701 people convicted in 1977 21.5% were under 17. That happens to be the second-lowest perrcentage in the decade 1974-1983. In other words, the level of hysteria about crime is not necessarily related to the facts. When the media chance upon juicy stories they look for similar stories, until the novelty wears off. (Similarly, the fact that garda misbeehaviour is in the news now does not necessarily mean that garda misbeehaviour is on the increase.)
Although the impression has been created that armed robberies are a daily occurrence there has in fact been a massive drop. There were 217 in 1978 and only 84 last year. Although the scare stories about assaults keep people indoors the facts are that the level of assaults has not risen since 1978. It has remained stable over the years and has fallen slightly (7,078 in 1978 and 6,423 last year: this includes both minor and serious assaults). Although the number of indictable assaults has risen the number of nonnindictable assaults has fallen. The lesson is that you are less likely to get thumped, but if you do get thumped the thumping will be worse than it would have been a few years back.
The figures show that although there is a serious rise in overall crime the hysteria about jungles is not warrranted. Offences against the person have risen by just 1.7% since 1978. The figures are remarkably stable. The pro blem is a serious rise in thieving. There are more robberies and burrglaries. There were 19,000 burglaries in 1978 and 26,000 last year.
Although the hysteria has generated the calls for greater powers for the police the evidence is that this will not affect crime figures to any great degree, if at all. A full 19% of total crime last year was accounted for by larceny from unattended cars. One way of combating this might be less carelesssness on the part of motorists. The other way - and it works - is the simple measure of taking the gardai out of the interrogation rooms and putting them walking around in uniiforms. They increased uniformed patrols in densely populated areas last year and such larcenies decreased to 19% of total crime from the previous year's 21%.
THE LYNCH CASE
ON DECEMBER 16 1980 CHRISTY Lynch, a soldier, was released from Arbour Hill jail. He had served over three years imprisonment for the murder of Vera Cooney in September 1976. He had always maintained his innocence, but he had signed a confesssion after garda interrogation.
Lynch found the body of Vera Cooney in her house at 77 Strand Road, Sandymount. He was doing a nixer for the house owner and arrived at the house on Sunday September 19 and found Vera Cooney stabbed through the chest and strangled with a scarf. He reported the murder to the gardai. He went to Irishtown garda station to make a statement about finding the body. He went to the station at 4pm. He was interrogated all that day and through the night. At lOam next morning he was taken to Donnybrook garda station. The interrogation continued. At 2pm, after 22 hours of interrogation, with no steep, he agreed to make a statement saying he killed Vera Cooney.
There were discrepancies in his confession. He said he had killed Vera Cooney at 2.30pm on Saturday.
But the gardai had witnesses who saw her alive at 4pm. He said he strangled her with "a bit of cable", soon after he read an Irish Indepenndent, left in the interrogation room, which said she had been strangled with a length of cord. She was stranggled with a scarf. There were other discrepancies, but who could believe that someone would admit to a murrder he didn't commit? A jury found him guilty. An appeal court ordered a retrial. He was found guilty again.
Lynch had claimed that he was inntimidated throughout his interrogation, with intervals during which he was questioned by friendly gardai. Some of the gardai were from the Investigation Section. Chief among these was Detecctive Inspector John Courtney. Courttney has had a distinguished career. He had been a garda for almost 30 years. He joined the Technical Bureau in 1967. He steadily climbed the ranks, becoming noted in the mid-I 970s as a skilled questioner of suspects and 'taker of statements. He had just recently been involved in the Sallins 'mail train case and would later come to public prominence when he arrested Malcom Macarthur. In June 1982 he would be, as a Detective Superintenndent, appointed head of the Investigaation Section. He would be in charge of the investigation in the Kerry Babies case.
Detective Inspector Courtney denied Christy Lynch's claims of intimidation and minor physical pressure. Both trials, both juries, accepted that Lynch was not telling the truth.
In December 1980 the Supreme Court considered the case of Christy Lynch. Chief Justice O'Higgins said that Lynch had been subjected to "harassment and oppression" which made it unjust and unfair to accept the confession. O'Higgins and Judge Brian Walsh pointed out the discrepanncies between the confessions and the known facts. There was no evidence whatever against Christy Lynch apart from the statement he made after 22 hours of interrogation.
While the Supreme Court saw the dangers in such interrogations it failed to lay down any rules to limit the methods used by gardai to get connfessions. In the USA the Supreme Court used similar cases to specify the measures the police must take to prevent such miscarriages of justice. Our Supreme Court limited itself to rectifying the one case.
THE SHERCOCK CASE
"I love to hear them roaring"
PETER MATTHEWS WENT TO the garda station in Shercock.
There he was badly beaten and died. Three gardai, Detective Garda Tom Jordan, Sergeant Peter Diviney and Garda Seamus Galligan, lied about and covered up the circumstances of his death. Two and a half years after the death the cover-up is still effective.
There were seven gardai involved in the Matthews case. Five of them heard him scream. He was left screaming until he died. No garda thought it appropriate to arrest those carrying out the assault on Peter Matthews.
Had Peter Matthews not died the assault on him would have remained just another allegation. It would have been his word against the gardai. And he was an alcoholic under suspicion for a squalid little crime. They. were fine upstanding mern bers of the force.
The death of Peter Matthews and the cover up of the crimes committed in Shercock garda station result not from an abberation, a night of madness on which rogue cops forgot their duty. The gardai involved were not rogues, they were ordinary gardai. The crimes were perpetrated and covered up because the gardai had the power to do so, because the abuse of those powers has become routine and beecause there is no working system of accountability for those powers.
The dirty little story starts at Frank Bums's pub in Shercock, a village in Cavan, on the evening of April 22 1982.
* * *
Among those familiar with the case there is an assumption that Peter Matthews went to Shercock that evening to commit a crime. There is certainly some evidence of this. Two witnesses say they saw him obtain £30 using a Post Office book which had been stolen from a blind and senile man. However, the evidence in this case is so tainted that we would be wrong to come to a conclusion about this. It is probable that had Peter Matthews not been beaten and had come to court and had the idenntification evidence been put against him he would have been convicted. Given the circumstances of the case that evidence is no longer reliable and Peter Matthews must remain merely a suspect.
Two gardai, Detective Garda James Sheehan and Garda Dennis Durkan, stationed at Carrickmacross, received a phone call telling them that/the stolen Post Office book had been used in Shercock. They drove there and subbsequently found Peter Matthews drinkking with his wife in Frank Bums's pub. They asked him to come to Shercock garda station to be searched. He agreed. Anne Matthews, Peter's wife, a short time later also went voluntarily to the station. After Peter Matthews was searched Detective Garda Sheehan rang his station at Carrickmacross and asked for a Bean Garda to come over to Shercock to search Anne Matthews. Then he and Garda Durkan left Shercock and drove back to Carrickmacross. (There was an incident in which Garda Durkan struggled with Anne Matthews and her finger was cut, but this is a minor episode and Sheehan and Durkan had no more to do with the case.)
Shercock is a small village. There were two gardai stationed there, Sergeant Peter Diviney and Garda Seamus Galligan. Diviney was born in 1935 and joined the gardai in 1958. He was promoted to Sergeant in 1967 and was assigned to Shercock in 1974. He and his wife and two daughters lived in the bungalow attached to the police station. In 1979 his wife died. In February 1982 he remarried.
Garda Seamus Galligan was aged 23. He joined the force in June 1980. He was transferred to Shercock in February 1982. He lived in digs two miles outside the village.
On April 22 Sergeant Diviney opened the station and let in Detective Sheehan, along with Peter Matthews at 6.10 or 6.l5pm. They stripped Peter Matthews naked. They didn't find a Post Office book. Garda Galliigan arrived at the station at about 6.20pm. At approximately 7pm Sheeehan and Durkan left the station to go back to Carrickmacross. At approxiimately 7.15 pm Bean Garda Michelle Mannion arrived at Shercock along with Garda Joseph Feely.
There was much going back and forth (for instance Galligan and Feely went out into the village to search for the Post Office book) that need not concern us. What is important is that Peter Matthews and Anne Matthews were in the station with four gardai: Diviney, Galligan, Mannion and Feely. This was in the period 7.15-8.1 - pm approoximately.
Anne Matthews, who was four months pregnant, was stripped naked. There was no Post Office book.
In theory Peter and Anne Matthews could have walked out of the garda station at any time. They were there voluntarily. In practice, most people have got used to doing what gardai tell them to do.
Meanwhile, Sergeant Diviney rang Detective Garda Tom Jordan at Bailieboro and asked him to come to Shercock. This phone call was made at around 7.l5pm. Jordan arrived at Shercock at about 8.l5pm, perhaps somewhat earlier. There were now five gardai in the station: Diviney, Galligan, Mannion, Feely and Tom Jordan. Mannion and Feely would leave at about 8.45pm. At about 8.50pm Peter Matthews would die. These times are all approximate. The sequence, howwever, is correct.
At various times ill the period 7.l5-8.50pm Peter Matthews was bruutally assaulted.
* * *
Peter Matthews had broken his leg the previous January. He had come to Shercock using crutches. At the beginnning of March he had had a heart attack. He was sent to hospital but refused to go. Anne was in hospital, someone had to look after their three children. Peter had a drink pro blem. He was unemployed, did odd bits of work, sometimes did ironwork. Friends say he was a great character. He did a bit of singing, put together a dreadful oand and booked them some place in Enzland. They were so bad they were out - and when they came ae booked them at local halls, advertising them as fresh from their successful tour of England. He and Anne had met in England in the middI 960s and returned to live in Loughfea, Carrickmacross. They had three chilldren in three years and now, about ten years later, Anne was pregnant again. Peter was 41. He was 5'10", very thin and weak.
When he went to Shercock on April 22 1982 he was a sick man. Of the three main arteries in his heart only one was healthy. A second was narrowed and the third completely blocked. His refusal to go to hospital where his heart could be monitored put him in extreme danger. He had heart pills which he took when he had chest pains.
In Shercock garda station Peter Matthews was assaulted. He was pressed back against something, a wall or a chair. He was slapped on the face, his eyelids were bruised. He was hit on the head, again and again, here and there, both sides of the head, on the right temple, behind the left ear, at the back of his head. Most pro bably he was hit again and again by someone's knuckles rapping downwards on his cranium. He received a very powerful punch in the stomach. He wasn't expecting it. It was a sneak punch or he was unnconscious when it was delivered. (If you know you are about to take a punch in the stomach your abdominal muscles automatically clench and tense to take the blow, protecting your internal organs. Those muscles would then show bleeding. That didn't happen with Peter Matthews.) The pancreas is a narrow organ about nine inches long. It sits horizontally at the back of the stomach, just in front of the spine. It is just above navel height. It secretes fluids that aid digestion.
There were about four inches from the surface of Peter Matthews's stomach to his pancreas. The force of the punch went right through to the panncreas, pushing it against his spinal column. The pancreas bled.
The pain and trauma of this assault were precipitating factors in a heart attack which struck Peter Matthews and killed him.
The blow which damaged the panncreas was delivered at least fifteen minutes before his death. The blood from the pancreas had diffused. This, in the opinion of state pathologist John Harbison, meant that he had to have lived at least fifteen minutes after the blow, and possibly up to six hours, though Professor Harbison estiimated it was closer to the fifteen or twenty minutes. One way or the other, it is clear that Peter Matthews was not walking around Shercock with a damaged pancreas, so it is certain that the blow was struck in the garda station.
* * *
There was a sixth person in the garda station that night, along with Peter Matthews. He was Seamus Mullen, an ex-garda. Mullen was married to Elizaabeth Mullen, the Shercock postmistress. He was a job bing builder in Shercock.
* * *
In seeking to determine what exactly happened that night we cannot depend on the evidence of Diviney, Galligan or Jordan. Mullen would not come forward to give evidence and was shielded, for some reason, by Diviney and Galligan.
The only gardai whose evidence can be given credence are Bean Garda Michelle Mannion and Garda Joseph Feely. They did not assault Matthews, nor is there any evidence of dishonesty on their part. They were two young gardai sucked into the nightmare.
Anne Matthews also gave evidence of hearing her husband scream, "Anne, Anne, help me." When she saw her husband he was distressed and there was blood on his cheek. He told her he had been assaulted by Sergeant Diviney.
Mannion and Feely were in the station's Day Room, along with Garda Galligan. They heard shouts. Galligan said, "I love to hear them roaring." It didn't occur to Mannion or Feely that they, as police officers, had a duty to investigate such assaults and arrest the perpetrators. Mannion, who had joined the force ten months earrlier, said she didn't think it was her place to question the more experienced gardai, Peter Matthews was the first person she had seen in custody. Feely was similarly inexperienced.
The sequence of the assaults on Peter Matthews are known only to Diviney and Jordan, and perhaps the ex-garda Seamus Mullen. All that is certain is that Diviney, Jordan and possibly Mullen were in Matthews's vicinity when Mannion and Feely heard the screams.
* * *
Anne Matthews was put out of the station at about 8.45pm and left to find her own way back to Carrickmaacross. The £41 she had in her handbag was taken by Sergeant Diviney. He did not give her a receipt or log the money in the station property book. (This does not mean he was stealing the money, merely that he was in derelicction of duty.) Mannion and Feely left the station just after that. All three gave evidence of looking back to see Peter Matthews standing in the corriidor outside the station cell, downcast, wretched, heedless. Sergeant Diviney was raising his fists and making some remark about "miserable bastard".
Detective Jordan and ex-garda Seamus Mullen were also in the corridor.
Peter Matthews died a fe"w minutes later. His heart stopped and his face and neck grew purple in a terminal struggle for breath.
* * *
No one knows what happened after that, except Diviney, Galligan and Jordan. Entries in the station diary were undoubtedly falsified. Diviney, Jordan and Galligan all have versions of the events. They are contradictory. Their explanations are not worth reecording.
The cover-up began immediately.
Within minutes Diviney rang Dr Kieran McMahon, a doctor who often worked for the police. He was told that Mattthews had taken a turn, went blue and fell forward. Other authorities were informed that night about the death of Peter Matthews. No one mentioned that he had been beaten up.
* * *
When someone dies in a police station there is an investigation. Jordan, Diviney and Galligan lied to the invesstigators. The latter two later said they didn't want to incriminate a member of the force. Jordan has yet to explain himself.
Diviney made a statement to Innspector Owen Manning on April 23 1982, the day after the death. He told how Matthews was sitting in a chair when his face suddenly turned blue and he slumped forward and his "head hit the table". This invention would help explain the bruises.
Jordan made a statement to Superrintendent James Hanrahan on April 24, two days after the death. This concurs with Diviney's statement. It has Matthews sitting in a chair in the Sergeant's Office and suddenly slumpping forward. It goes to great lengths to say that at no stage could Jordan see Matthews's face or eyes (which conveniently meant that Jordan couldn't have seen the bruises - if you believe Jordan).
Galligan also made a statement on April 24, also to Superintendent Hanrahan. Galligan's account matched Diviney's and Jordan's. It was weak in that it said Matthews's head merely "rested on the table" when he slumped forward. In a coroner's deposition Galligan later adjusted this to "hit his head on the table".
All three statements covered up the fact that Matthews had been beaten. All three statements covered up the fact that ex-garda Seamus Mullen had been in the station and had at least to some extent taken part in the interroogation of Peter Matthews.
* * *
Incredibly, the cover-up held firm for the best part of a year. There was unease at senior levels in the gardai. It was known that the three were lying, although senior gardai didn't know exactly what had happened. The injuries that Matthews suffered, for instance, were nowhere explained in the three lying statements.
Anne Matthews and her relations and friends were demanding that some explanation of the death be given. Probably in an effort to shake the solidarity of Diviney, Galligan and Jordan, senior gardai let it be known in March 1983 that serious charges would arise from the death. Sergeant Diviney went to see a localSuperinntendent. He asked if he was to be charged and was told that he would be. Diviney, Galligan and Margaret Diviney immediately went to see a solicitor, Tom Fitzpatrick. This was March 7 1983. They all went to the same solicitor on the same day and made similar statements. They would later claim that this was pure coinciidence, that they did not act in concert.
The statements put the blame on Detective Tom Jordan. Diviney and Galligan claimed to have seen Jordan assaulting Matthews. They claimed to have seen him deliver a "forceful blow" to Matthews's stomach and that Matthews fell to the floor and when they lifted him up he was dead. Margaret Diviney claimed to have heard screams from the cell when Matthews was alone with Jordan.
In May 1983 Chief Superintendent Dan Murphy and Detective Inspector Patrick Culhane took statements from all those concerned. Diviney and Galligan again claimed that Matthews had been beaten up by Jordan. (We don't know what Jordan claimed then, but he would later claim that Matthews was beaten up by Diviney.)
The three were now accusing one another. It was getting difficult to tell the lies apart.
* * *
In October 1983 Sergeant Peter Diviney went on trial at Bailieboro. He was charged with common assault and false imprisonment of Peter Matthews. Anne Matthews told of hearing screams, as did Gardai Mannion and Feely. Common assault is a minor charge. It does not mean you have hit someone, merely that you have put taem in fear of being hurt. (Such as '-~. rzisiag your fists and saying "miserable bastard".) Diviney and Galligan took the stand. Each told, falteringly, a tale of horror, of seeing Peter Mattthews in the cell with his trousers around his ankles, with Detective .J ordan holding him by the pullover and punching him in the stomach. The minor nature of the assault charge meant that the medical evidence of a damaged pancreas was kept from the jury. It soon became obvious that there was more to this case than common assault. Diviney's counsel, Sean Moylan, argued that the wrong man was in the dock, that Diviney's only crime was in not standing up to Detective Jordan.
Diviney was found not guilty of common assault and the jury could not agree on the charge of false imprisonment. Diviney walked free.
* * *
Another year passed. Then, last month, Detective Garda Tom Jordan appeared at the Circuit Court in Bailieboro, charged with manslaughter, grevious bodily harm, actual bodily harm and false imprisonment.
The first day of the trial began with technical and medical evidence. Anne Matthews then told of the screams from her husband, the blood on his face, his claim that Sergeant Diviney assaulted him. She gave no evidence against Detective Jordan. Two other witnesses gave evidence. Elizabeth Mullen, the postmistress at Shercock, repeated from the Diviney trial the story of Peter Matthews coming in with the Post Office book. There was a suggestion by J ordan 's defence counsel, Patrick McEntee, that after the death of Peter Matthews Sergeant Diviney ended up in Frank Burns's pub with her husband, ex-garda Seamus Mullen. Mrs Mullen said she didn't know. (McEntee never put that suggestion to Diviney.)
Bean Garda Michelle Mannion
The last witness that first day was Frank Burns, pub owner. His evidence was trivial - until McEntee estabblished that Seamus Mullen had again popped up, this time in the pub just before the gardai came for Peter Matthews. He had, agreed Frank Bums, told Bums to keep an eye on Peter Matthews as the gardai would be coming for him.
The part played by Seamus Mullen in the whole affair is obscured. In both the Diviney and Jordan trials he weaves in and out of the evidence, glimpsed for a moment or two, but with no one giving a forthright stateement of just what he was doing in the case. We know from the Diviney trial that it was Mullen who rang the gardai in Carrickmacross. We know also that the Carrickmacross gardai, Sheehan and Durkan, knew that Peter Matthews was under suspicion before they ever reached Shercock. Was it Mullen who put the finger on Matthews? What was he doing in the garda station later on? How come he was allowed to pull Peter Matthews up off the cell bunk and question him, as we know he did from the evidence of Garda Joseph Feely?
It was clear that Mullen had a tale to tell. As the first day ended Patrick McEntee told Judge Frank Roe that there had been certain developments. He would require the recall of the wittness Elizabeth Mullen next morning. The prosecution agreed.
Next morning Elizabeth Mullen confirmed to McEntee that her hussband had entered a mental hospital in Ballinasloe and wouldn't be coming out. McEntee pointed out that Mullen had the previous Friday been sent a summons to attend the court and give evidence - and now he had volunntarily committed himself to a mental hospital. Elizabeth Mullen denied that the commital was voluntary. However, she could not say who committed him.
That was the end of Mullen. Diviney and Galligan concealed his presence in the station that fatal night, as did Jordan, initially. It is only from the evidence of Gardai Mannion and Feely and Anne Matthews that we know he was in the station at all, and they saw relatively little of what happened.
On that second morning of the trial Mannion and Feely gave their evidence. They told of the screams, of the "I love to hear them roaring" remark, of the pathetic condition of Peter Matthews.
Then Garda Seamus Galligan took the stand. He said that Mannion and Feely were perjurers, but gave no reason why that should be believed.
His evidence was peppered with "I don't recall" and "I don't remember". On several points his evidence was shown to contradict the facts. For instance, he explained away the fact that there were no entries in the station diary for April 23, the day after the death, as being due to the fact that he was too busy answering the phone and opening mail. McEntee then Produced a second station diary with entries for April 23 in Galligan's handwriting. Galligan Was above all evasive. McEntee asked a simple question: Galligan had said he saw Jordan punch Matthews in the stomach and that when Galligan and Diviney lifted Matthews onto the cell bunk he was dead. So, what was the time interrval between the punch and the death? Galligan didn't know. Was Matthews dead within a minute of the blow? "I don't know." What was the time interval? "I couldn't say." Was it three weeks, was it an hour? "I couldn't say." Judge Roe intervened and said that surely Galligan could give some idea? He couldn't. Was it eight minutes?, McEntee asked. "I don't know." Was it one minute? "I don't know."
It was clear that the state's case against Jordan was falling apart. Sergeant Diviney took the stand in the afternoon. His evidence too was shown to be less than credible. On several details about the events of that night his evidence contradicted Galliigan's. He repeated Galligan's assertionnthat the fact that the two Divineys and Galligan had gone to the same solicitor on the same day and made similar statements was a coincidence and they had not planned it that way. He claimed it was another coincidence that the false statements made after the death of Peter Matthews all conntained the same lies.
Diviney too accused Bean Garda Mannion and Garda Feely of lying about Mullen's presence in the station that night. Such accusations didn't help Diviney's credibility.
Margaret Diviney was nervous on the stand. She described herself as an honest and religious person. She claimed that her husband was in the kitchen when Peter Matthews began screaming from the cell, Asked about Seamus Mullen she couldn't remember, again and again. On a minor point (a contradiction in her evidence involving exactly where she was when she first heard screaming) McEntee relentlessly pressed her on the discrepancies in her evidence. She was no match for one of the most experienced barristers in the country and what was probably genuine confusion came across as evasion. She eventually fled from the witness stand in tears, saying she wasn't answering any more questions, they could arrest her if they liked.
It was all over bar the verdict, and most people in the court knew what that would be. The only evidence of Jordan punching Matthews in the stomach was from Diviney and Galliigan. Even if they could be believed it was obvious that this could not have been the blow which ruptured Peter Matthews's pancreas as it allegedly happened seconds before he died èand the medical evidence was, that there was a gap of at least fifteen minutes between the blow and death.
Garda evidence continued from page 17
The charge of manslaughter was withhdrawn, as was the charge of false arrest. The only evidence on the charges of grevious bodily harm and actual bodily harm came from Diviney and Galligan. Their evidence had been shown to be doubtful, full of holes, con tradictory. It took the jury less than forty minutes to find Detective Tom Jordan not guilty.
* * *
Diviney, Galligan, Jordan and perhaps Seamus Mullen know what happened that night. Mullen went missing. Diviney says Jordan assaulted Matthews and Diviney tried to stop him. Jordan claims Diviney assaulted Matthews and Jordan tried to stop him. Galligan sides with Diviney.
Diviney and Galligan have given evidence in court and been found wanting. Jordan has given no such evidence. His accusations were made through instructions to his defence counsel and emerged in questioning of others. His accusations have not been tested under questioning, his story lacks the kind of detail which could be challenged in the way in which the stories of Diviney and Galligan were challenged. The three concocted a story when Peter Matthews died. Their stories didn't stand up to the medical evidence. They are now at each other's throats.
At Diviney's trial in October 1983 the jury acquitted him after he and Galligan gave devastating evidence against Jordan. At Jordan's trial in Octo ber 1984 the jury acquitted him after his defence counsel tore holes in Diviney and Galligan's evidence. On the evidence in each trial it would have been hard for the juries to find other than they did. Neither trial got at the truth, nor did the two internal garda investigations which led to the trials.
Had there been an intensive crimiinal investigation by the gardai from the beginning, with the taking of forensic evidence -- rather than the simple taking of statements - things might have been different. Had the state prosecuted the case in a different way we might be closer to the truth. Possibly not.
Peter Matthews spent less than three hours in .Shercock garda station. He died following violence. All the gardai present tolerated that violence. A t least one pro ba bly engaged in violence. The first reaction of the gardai was to cover up either their own crime or that of a colleague.
There was no structure of protection for Peter Matthews in that garda station when he was alive. There was no structure of accountability when he died. A garda station is a very, very dangerous place.
CLEARING THE BOOKS
The Framing of Michael Ward
THERE IS A TIME-HONOURED custom among police forces everyywhere of "clearing the books". There was a classic case in June 1983.
Michael Ward was a 21 year old traveller. He burgled. He has a record of crime. He was found in a stolen car in Naas or, June 5 1983. He was taken to the garda station. According to Ward he was beaten until he agreed to admit to a number of burglaries in the Naas area. Ward eventually signed a statememtadmitting to 26 separate charges of burglary.
The gardai calimed that Ward was taken in on driving charges and then just decided he wanted to tell them about a number of "strokes" he had done.
So far, just another of those swearring matches, the kind that the gardai inevitably win. Fine upstanding memmbers of the force versus a traveller with a criminal record.
Then the gardai made their stateements of evidence for Ward's trial. They told in great detail about how they took Ward out on various jaunts in squad cars and how he directed them to various housing estates and told them which houses he burgled and what he got in each one. Ward denies he went out in any squad car.
It still depends on whose word you accept.
The robberies which Ward admittted to were carried out between March and May 1983. Trouble was, Ward was in Mountjoy jail on another charge in the period April 9-29. Several of the burglaries he admitted to occurred between those dates. There is inconntrovertible evidence that Ward was in Mountjoy and could not have committted the crimes he had admitted to.
Even more curious: one of the burglaries which Ward admitted to allegedly occurred at the Parochial House at Saggart. Ward allegedly took £150 from the house. However, Fr Robert Walsh of Saggart confirmed to Magill that no cash was stolen from the Parochial House and no such crime was reported to the gardai.
* * *
Burglary is a problem for the gardai. The figures increase relentlessly. They complain about the courts. The courts are soft on the criminals, give them the benefit of the doubt. This is not true. In 1978 the conviction rate for burglary charges was 87%. Last year it was 91 %. The courts have been getting tougher. Nine out of ten people charged with burglary are convicted. The gardai can't seriously want a situation where everyone whom they bring into court is found guilty.
In a recent article in Administration DCC lecturer Ciaran McCullagh commpares the overall conviction rates in Ireland with those in the Crown Courts in England and Wales. Here the rate is 90%, over there it is 83%.
The problem for the gardai is not the courts but their own performance. Although the numbers of gardai have increased to the point where the Republic is one of the most highlyypoliced areas in the world their ability to catch criminals is abysmal. The police-to-eitizen ratio in Norway is 1:788, in England and Wales 1:450, in the Netherlands 1: 5 5 1. Even in the east coast states of the USA it is only 1 :510. In the Republic it is 1:300. (Figures: Irish Times, April 10 1984.)
Yet the detection rates have been falling steadily since 1969. In that year 61 % of indictable crimes were deteccted. The following year the figure fell to 50%. By 1980 the figure was down to 40%. In 1983 it was 33%.
The decline in performance has been accompanied by calls for extra powers. But the extra powers and special courts provided in the early 1970s did not stop the decline. The fullscale State of Emergency declared in 1976 did nothing to stop the fall. The following year the detection rate had fallen from 41% to 38%. The wholescale abuse of such powers as Section 30 did nothing to stop the fall. Now the gardai want the Criminal Justice Bill so that a form of Section 30 detention can more easily be applied to wider numbers of people.
Crime in Ireland is under-researched but it cannot be too different from crime elsewhere. In Administration, McCullagh quotes a USA study which shows that only 3% of arrests result from "special investigatory efforts" and that the vast majority of arrests result from routine inquiries, identiification, police presence when the crime is committed etc. The reduction on crime depends largely on trust between the public and the police. McCullagh quotes surveys which show that in Manchester one in three of all males aged 16-24 had been stopped, searched or arrested under "reasonable suspicion" in the year to September 1980 and in the whole of Britain in 1983 one in five males aged 16-30 were stopped and searched on "reasonnable suspicion". Such laws create conflict between police and public, reduce the detection rates and help create the conditions for riots.
On the one hand the gardai want extra powers to interrogate people, sweat confessions from them and so reduce crime. On the other hand they falsify the crime figures and their own rate of performance by "clearing the books" whenever they get their hands on someone whose word will not carry much weight against theirs.
* * *
Michael Ward's trial was set for March 14 of this year. He expected to be found guilty of the charges relating to March and May of 1983, but he could prove he was in jail during April. The gardai might have had difficulty exxplaining how Michael Ward could describe a number of burglaries in accurate detail when he was in jail when they were committed. At the last minute - Ward was down in the cell waiting for the trial to begin øthe state entered a nolle prosecqui. Ward's counsel complained that the charges were being withdrawn to protect the gardai from criminal proceedings. The judge said he didn't want to listen to wild allegations.
* * *
A month later a man named Brendan Foley appeared at the District Court in Macroom. He was charged with 24 robberies.. which appear to have been most of the unsolved robberies in the Macroom area in the period J anuaryySeptember 1983. The gardai said he had confessed to the charges when questioned in November 1983. Foley denied it, but he has a criminal record and people like that are not taken seriously. One of the charges related to the theft of two bottles of alcohol, value £28.50, from a house in Macroom on September 8 1983. Foley was in prison that day, having been taken into custody the previous day.
DEATH IN CUSTODY
Every Three Months
AT AROUND 3PM ON SEPTEMMber 6 1982 Garda Liam Curtin from Store Street garda station was on patrol in Dublin city centre. He came across Michael Lyriagh outside Dunne's Stores holding a carpet knife, drunk, shouting obscenities. Lynagh was making cutting actions towards his wrists. There was a bit of a chase, but Garda Curtin arrested Michael Lynagh. Garda Curtin quite properly removed Michael Lynagh from the streets for his own safety and for the safety of others. In the District Court Garda Curtin asked that Lynagh be remanded to Mountjoy for a week for psychiatric assessment.
Lynagh gave his name as Michael Ferguson. He received a visit from a solicitor and revealed his true name. He said he had used an alias because he didn't want to draw the further attention of the police. The solicitor, Pat McCartan, urged him to tell the authorities his true name and to let them know his psychiatric history. Lynagh had been a psychiatric patient at St Davnett 's hospital in Monaghan, near his home, for some time. He had a record of suicide attempts. Lynagh was scared that if he told the authoriities who he was things would get even worse.
The days went by, psychiatric help was minimal. On September 10 Michael Lynagh took a sheet, tied it to the bars of his cell and hanged himself.
Michael Lynagh was a brother of Jim Lynagh a prominent Provo who had for a long time been wanted by the gardai. His brother-in-law is Seamus Shannon, recently extradited to the North. Michael was not himself in political or criminal activity.
Over the previous few months Michael Lynagh was driven to exxtremes of depression and paranoia by the behaviour of the Special Branch. He had been stopped and searched. He believed he was being followed, though this may have been his imagination. On .two occasions he and his brother Finbar - who also was not involved in crime or politics - were arrested under Section 30. Both claimed some physical abuse, but of a minor nature. They were not beaten. On one occasion Finbar's detention in the Bridewell ended with him being thrown out wearing nothing but a blanket and left to make his own way home.
Michael suffered extremes of anxiety after being forcibly stripped. He was terrified.
Essentially the gardai were hunting for Jim Lynagh and the two brothers suffered a spin-off. The gardai may very well have believed that Michael Lynagh was involved in some illegal activity - but they had absolutely no basis for that belief. They had power over Michael Lynagh , they exerrcised that power, the consequences were tragic.
At Michael Lynagh's funeral in Clones the Special Branch were connstantly driving around the town, keeping an eye on things. Finbar Lynagh was put up against a car and searched. A journalist saw first-hand a garda driving past, pulling his tie up around his neck in a mock hanging.
On average, someone dies in the cusstody of the state every three months. Peter Mathews was one of those deaths, mostly the incidents are less spectacuular. Mostly they are suicides.
Police stations and prisons are deepressing and frightening. places and some such statistics should be expeccted. However, the rise in the figures is startling. In the period 1970-74, inclusive, two people died in the cusstody of the state. (Such deaths were even more rare previously.) In the second five years of the decade, 1975579, no less than twenty people died in police stations and prisons. In the four years 1980-83 fifteen people died.
Of those 35 deaths, 23 occurred in garda stations and 12 in prisons.
The Kerry Babies
WHEN THE KERRY BABIES case hit the headlines spurious shock and concern was expressed in some quarters. Yet the details of the Kerry allegations are by now overrfamiliar.
The Hayes family went voluntarily for questioning. They could have walked out at any time. In practice people don't do that, as.noted by the o Briain Commission appointed in 1977. In practice people do as the gardai expect. 0 Briain's recommenndations on this were ignored. The Hayes family was not simply quesstioned. They were interrogated by a series of gardai, working in pairs. This is another technique familiar over the past decade. Such a technique is not designed merely to get information, it is quite obviously designed to break down suspects. It has been pointed out that no court would allow teams of barristers to queue up for long hours, taking it in turns to cross-examine witnesses. It would be recognised that this is oppressive. It is much more so in a garda station, but it has been tolerated for years.
The courts know how the system operates, so do the politicians. In the face of the quite normal crime probblems of an industrial society there has been constructed a gerry-guilt criminal justice system which tolerates and faciilitates brutality from a number of gardai and encourages the lowering of standards in the pursuit of results. And at the end of the day it doesn't even get results. •