Questioned despite lack of forensic evidence

Gardaí went to the District Court to have the detention of two men arrested in connection with Donna Cleary's killing extended for 24 hours. John Byrne reports

Five shots were fired at the house from a 9 mm handgun. One of the shots entered a window and hit Donna Cleary, a mother of one, killing her. Gardaí said that the men had been refused access to the party about half an hour earlier, and that that was their only motivation for the attack. After firing the shots, they fled the scene.

It was at 10.55 pm on Sunday 6 March, just over 20 hours after Donna Cleary was shot dead in Coolock, that gardaí gained entry to the house in the Curragh, Co Kildare. Inside, in the lounge they found two men they had been seeking in connection with the killing: Wayne Harte, of Little Pace Drive, Clonee, Dublin 15, and Jeffrey Finnegan, of Rathvilly Drive, Finglas. Both were arrested. Neither said anything when cautioned, but Wayne Harte put up a struggle, and was restrained on the floor and handcuffed, gardaí said.

Almost two days later, on the evening of 7 March, the two men appeared at the special sitting of Dublin District court, where gardaí were applying to extend their detention for an extra 24 hours, until 11pm on 8 March. The men had been arrested under Section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act. Both looked exhausted. Wayne Harte, stockily built, in his mid twenties, with dark hair, wore a tracksuit and runners. He had not been prescribed a heroin substitute (Physeptone) for the last 24 hours of his detention, and was suffering as a result, his solicitor said. He had been a heroin user for years. He seemed to limp slightly, and the muscles in his face were tense. He smiled briefly at his arresting officer as details of his apprehension were read out to the court.

Jeffrey Finnegan, also in his mid twenties, but taller and thinner, wore tracksuit bottoms and a grey hoodie. He seemed a little disorientated. He had chronic back pain for which he needed painkillers, his solicitor, Yvonne Bambury said.

After Wayne Harte was apprehended by gardaí, he was taken to Coolock Garda station and later transferred to Malahide. He was interviewed on ten separate occasions for a total period of over ten hours. According to Gardaí, he refused to answer any questions and refused to cooperate with their inquiry. He was visited by two different doctors during his time in custody. The first doctor prescribed him Physeptone, on Monday 6 March. The next day, a different doctor visited him, but did not give him Physeptone. Instead, he was prescribed Valium, which he had never taken before. His solicitor, Michael Kelleher, was concerned that he had been without heroin, or a suitable substitute, for 24 hours and that this would make it very difficult to deal with intense Garda interrogation.

During his period in Garda custody, Wayne Harte was allowed consult with a solicitor, and was allowed one phone call to his family. He was not given a toothbrush, or access to showering or exercise facilities. His clothes were removed for forensic examination, and although he was given new clothes by his family early on in his arrest, he had not been given a fresh change since.

When Jeffrey Finnegan was arrested, he was taken to Santry Garda station. According to gardaí, he too refused to answer any questions or cooperate with their inquiries. His clothes were also taken for forensic examination.

Gardaí said they were awaiting forensic results from items taken from the scene of the shooting, and from a car which they believe was used by the people who shot Donna Cleary. They were examining the items for DNA, finger prints, and firearms residue. The weapon used to shoot Donna Cleary had not been recovered.

Solicitors for both men argued that it was unnecessary to hold them for a further 24 hours because the Garda forensic evidence was not yet ready. They said the men could be rearrested if new evidence came to light.

Judge James Paul McDonnell granted the order detaining the men for a further 24 hours, provided that access to a doctor was provided to both, and that both be given access to shower and exercise facilities, and a change of clothes.