Sunday 22 October 2017

Killer repeatedly given bail despite threatening witnesses and stabbing his brother - after admitting murder

  • Killer evaded prison despite admitting to OAP's murder

  • Violent criminal strangled widow then set her house on fire to hide his callous deeds but still managed to evade justice for 30 years

KILLER: ‘John Joe’ Malone Picture: Courtpix
KILLER: ‘John Joe’ Malone Picture: Courtpix
Jim Cusack

Jim Cusack

The Kilkenny man convicted of murdering a 69-year-old widow 30 years ago was repeatedly given bail despite threatening witnesses and even stabbing his own brother after admitting the murder.

John Joseph 'John Joe' Malone (52) only had his bail revoked shortly before his three-week trial in the Central Criminal Court began after a third instance of witness intimidation.

After being charged and released on bail in 2012, Malone had his bail revoked twice but was released on appeal by order of superior courts. It was only after the third threat to a witness shortly before the trial that the Central Court finally revoked his bail and he remained in custody for his three-week trial.

Malone was sentenced to life in prison last Thursday for murdering Ann 'Nancy' Smyth over what is believed to have been a trivial argument over a racing pigeon trophy in September 1987.

The trial heard that Malone had told several people in Kilkenny, mainly while he was drunk, that he murdered Mrs Smyth at her cottage home on Wolfe Tone Street in Kilkenny city before setting her home on fire. In almost every instance he threatened those he had confessed to.

Witness Jude Curran described how Malone visited his house in 2010. He claimed Malone picked up a large knife and stuck it into the kitchen table. Mr Curran said he had found this behaviour threatening.

Malone had witness statements from the prosecution case, which is normal procedure in criminal trials, and visited the people who had made statements against him.

The trial heard from Malone's brother, Barney, who said that in November 2006 Malone came to his house with three bottles of cider, sat drinking in his kitchen and confessed to murdering Mrs Smyth. Barney Malone said that he put his brother out of his house and told him to not come back. He said Malone left but returned around two hours later.

"When I answered my door, I never saw the knife that he drove into me, that brought me to my knees," he said. "He came back to kill me because he had slipped up badly."

Malone was convicted of the stabbing but received only a suspended sentence.

Evidence was given by a neighbour that on the night of the murder, September 11 1987, Malone had been shouting and threatening to kill Mrs Smyth. He was in and around the front of the widow's house for half an hour 'roaring and shouting' and shortly after he left, the fire was seen by neighbours. Mrs Smyth was found in her living room. A post-mortem showed she had been beaten and strangled.

The investigation into Mrs Smyth's murder did not progress until 2012 when, following an appeal for information that was recommended by the Serious Crime Review Team, several witnesses came forward. Each of them told gardai that Malone had confessed to Mrs Smyth's murder.

Giving evidence about the night of the murder, neighbour Geraldine Brennan said she was woken by shouting and she and her parents went out on to the street.

"He was banging on the window and banging on the door, saying: 'Let me into the f***ing house. I just want to f***ing talk to you'," she said.

Malone's former sister-in-law, Ann Walsh, gave evidence that Malone admitted the murder to her and she reported his confession to gardai 20 years ago. She said Malone confessed involvement in Mrs Smyth's death to her on three occasions over the years. She claimed he said he had murdered her in the first confession. "I don't know what came over him," she added. She said nothing happened after she reported this to the garda.

Malone also confessed to an evangelical preacher, Billy Patterson, and to two teenagers who were attending his mission in Kilkenny.

Malone's bail was only finally revoked a week before the trial began after, the court heard, he went to the home of yet another witness, Mrs Eileen Kelly (81), days before she was due to give evidence.

Sunday Independent

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