'Confession for killing teen Una was beaten out of me by gardai'
Man testifies in bid to overturn 1972 conviction
Published 30/04/2010 | 05:00
"I WAS only making up stories and telling them what they wanted to hear. I was so frightened inside in that barracks."
Quietly spoken and with brows knitted, Martin Conmey sat in the witness box to explain admissions he made to gardai as a 20-year-old youth, back in 1971 that led him to being convicted in 1972 of the manslaughter of Una Lynskey (19), a neighbour in Porterstown Lane, Co Meath and serving a three-year jail sentence.
Yesterday, on his 59th birthday, he finally got the opportunity to try to clear his name.
Una Lynskey took the bus home from Dublin on the night of October 12, 1971, accompanied by her cousin Ann Gaughan but vanished at some point on the 15-minute walk between the bus stop and her home.
Two months later, on December 10, her body turned up, buried under furze in the foothills of the Dublin mountains in Glendough, near Rathfarnham. A post-mortem failed to reveal the cause of her death.
Mr Conmey told the Court of Criminal Appeal yesterday that when he arrived at Trim Garda Station on October 25, 1971, he had been called him a "murderer" and told the "game is up".
He had told stories to gardai after they had warned him that he was going to jail. That had frightened him and he thought that he would never see home or his parents again, he claimed.
After eventually making a "admission" on the morning of October 26, 1971, that he had seen Una Lynskey on the road that night, Mr Conmey said he then "came to his senses" and turned to gardai and insisted this was actually untrue.
At this point, he was punched in the face twice by Garda Brian Gildea of Balbriggan Garda Station and pulled up off the floor by the hair, he claimed.
This was denied by gardai at his original trial.
Brendan Grehan SC for the DPP put it to him that he had agreed with Inspector Hubert Reynolds that Una had gotten into the car that night with him and two other neighbours, Dick Donnelly and Martin Kerrigan.
"I was making up angles to satisfy them and get them off my back," Mr Conmey said.
When Mr Grehan put it to him that he had told gardai: "I want to tell the truth but I can't, I can't", Mr Conmey said he'd meant he was afraid because the gardai would not accept that what he was saying in his initial statement was the truth.
Earlier, Martin Conmey's sister, Mary Gaughan gave her recollections of that time.
Neatly written in an elaborate schoolgirl's script, the description of what had happened to her brother Martin Conmey while in the custody of the gardai was still as freshly emotive and anguished as the day she penned it.
He had been beaten up by two guards, who had "rolled up their sleeves" and punched him in the face, the letter read.
Ms Gaughan's voice broke as she read how their house had been "like a nightmare that Tuesday". None of them had slept and then her father had heard "awful shouts" as he left the garda station after picking up his son. "I couldn't believe it when I saw my brother -- one side of his face was all swollen and I could see where his hair was pulled out," she'd said.
'Conmey murderer', with a gallows, was painted in graffiti outside their home.
In an indication as to how close-knit this community is, Ms Gaughan informed the court that she was married to Una Lynskey's cousin.
As she stood down after giving her evidence, she and her younger sister were crying.
The hearing continues.