Thursday 23 March 2017

Baby inquest verdict wrong, claims sister

Court asked to quash ruling on mother

Tim Healy

THE High Court was yesterday urged to quash an inquest jury's verdict over the death of a newborn baby girl whose body was found in a laneway beside a car park 37 years ago.

The case relates to claims by Cynthia Owen that she was the mother of the baby allegedly stabbed to death in the family home in Dalkey in April 1973 before it was found some days later in the Dun Laoghaire laneway, wrapped in newspapers and in a plastic bag.

Ms Owen's sister, Catherine Stevenson, has brought proceedings seeking to overturn a unanimous jury finding of an inquest held by Dublin County Coroner Dr Kieran Geraghty in 2007 that Ms Owen was the mother of the child.

Ms Stevenson is also challenging the coroner's decision not to give the inquest jury allegedly conflicting statements by Ms Owen.

The jury was told Ms Owen alleged she was raped repeatedly from the age of seven or eight into her teenage years by four different people.

However, her family said the claims by Ms Owen alleging the murder and disposal by a family member of the baby were completely untrue. They had urged the coroner not to re-open the inquest, claiming it would be used by Ms Owen to make allegations, ultimately leading to "a murder trial under the guise of an inquest".

The inquest went ahead and Ms Stevenson, two other sisters, and their late father Peter Murphy, then got High Court permission to bring proceedings seeking to quash the finding by the inquest jury that Ms Owen was the child's mother.

The proceedings opened yesterday before Mr Justice John Hedigan who was told they are now being brought by Ms Stevenson with the support of her sister, Esther Roberts, who is living in England.

In her action, Ms Stevenson says the coroner should not have kept several conflicting statements by Ms Owen from the inquest jury.

Ms Owen initially claimed she had been sexually abused as a child, became pregnant and had a termination. But in later statements she said she had given birth to a baby as a result of sexual abuse and that child had been murdered by a family member and disposed of by leaving it in a plastic bag in a laneway, Ms Stevenson said in an affidavit.

Ms Owen had also alleged she gave birth to a stillborn baby about 1976 when she was about 14, which was buried in the back garden of the family home, Ms Stevenson said. However, gardai had excavated that garden and no baby was found.

From about 2002, Ms Owen also began to make allegations about a paedophile ring and that she was subjected to satanic abuse, Ms Stevenson said. It was Ms Stevenson's case that a son, born to one of their brothers in April 1973, was the "first and only grandson and nephew born at this time".

Wild

Ms Owen had not given birth to a child in the family home in 1973 as alleged and did not have a stillborn child at 14 but had made "increasingly wild" allegations against family members of alleged sexual abuse by people living in the locality, Ms Stevenson said. Ms Owen was "constantly reviewing her list of alleged abusers and adding to it", she said.

Dr Geraghty, it is claimed, should not have proceeded with the inquest in the absence of a body after he was refused permission by the Minister for Justice to have the body of the baby girl exhumed from the plot in Glasnevin Cemetery.

Opening the case yesterday, Sunniva McDonagh, counsel for Ms Stevenson, said it was her client's position -- and that of other family members -- that there was no baby. "It is a situation where there could not be a starker conflict of fact", counsel said.

The hearing continues.

Irish Independent

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