Saturday 10 December 2016

Man cleared of Lynskey killing after 39-year fight

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

Published 23/11/2010 | 05:00

Martin Conmey with his wife Ann leaving the Court of Criminal Appeal
Martin Conmey with his wife Ann leaving the Court of Criminal Appeal

A FATHER convicted of the killing of a teenager 39 years ago has said he is "too shocked" to decide whether he will sue the State for damages after his conviction was quashed.

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Martin Conmey (59), who served three years for the manslaughter of civil servant Una Lynskey following a trial in 1972, broke down in court yesterday as Supreme Court Judge Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman said that his case may have been a miscarriage of justice.

Mr Conmey, who always maintained his innocence, said that his faith in the criminal justice system has been restored.

He admitted he had been on the verge of abandoning his efforts to clear his name on numerous occasions during the last 39 years, but his family, friends and legal team had prevented him from losing hope during "very difficult and testing times".

"Today I have been vindicated," Mr Conmey told the Irish Independent.

"This verdict highlights the serious flaws that were inherent in the original trial."

Yesterday the three-judge Court of Criminal Appeal (CCA) found that "newly discovered facts" -- raised for the first time in Mr Conmey's appeal -- showed this was a case where there may have been a miscarriage of justice.

Mr Conmey, of Porterstown Lane, Ratoath, Co Meath, had always maintained that he was not responsible for the death of Ms Lynskey (19), whose body was found in a ditch in December 1971, some two months after she had disappeared.

The civil servant vanished while returning home from work on the evening of October 12, 1971. Her journey from the bus stop to her family home at Porterstown Lane in Meath, should have taken 15 minutes by foot but she never got home.

Two months later, her body was discovered in a remote part of the Dublin mountains. A post-mortem examination failed to reveal exactly how she died. She had no broken bones and there were no signs of strangulation.

Mr Conmey's lawyers will now seek a declaration that there was a miscarriage of justice, paving the way for a potential damages claim.

Mr Conmey and another man, Dick Donnelly, were convicted 38 years ago of Ms Lynskey's manslaughter. Mr Donnelly's conviction was overturned in 1973, but Mr Conmey served three years in prison for the offence.

Abducted

A third man, Martin Kerrigan, was also suspected of having been involved in Ms Lynskey's death, but he was abducted and killed a short time after her body was discovered.

In quashing the conviction, the CCA found statements made by witnesses at Mr Conmey's trial were not disclosed to the defence and should have been.

The court found that gardai took witness statements from three men and then returned a number of days later to take further statements, which were different from the originals.

The judge, delivering the judgment on behalf of the CCA, said the reasons why they did this and why the statements changed were unexplained.

The CCA also rejected the DPP's claim that Mr Conmey had delayed in bringing his application.

Lawyers acting on Mr Conmey's behalf argued that newly discovered facts -- including the non-disclosure of witness statements favouring the defence to his lawyers in 1972 -- proved his innocence.

He further claimed that witness statements and evidence given at his trial were inconsistent with earlier statements, which had not been previously disclosed, to the gardai.

In those earlier statements the witnesses were unable to place Mr Conmey or a car owned by Mr Donnelly -- in which the DPP had alleged Mr Conmey was travelling -- on Porterstown Lane on the evening Ms Lynskey was last seen.

The statements were all inconsistent with the State's case that Mr Conmey was in the back seat of the car at the relevant time.

Irish Independent

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