THE family of a priest whose death led to one of the most controversial trials in the history of the State has demanded that the case be reopened after they were given details of an Irish Independent investigation.
Relatives of Fr Niall Molloy, who have fought for 25 years for the truth about their uncle's death, have been joined in their call by Labour justice spokesman Pat Rabbitte, who said the new findings were "profoundly disquieting".
Fr Molloy was brutally killed on July 8, 1985, in the wake of a society wedding at Richard Flynn's mansion in Clara, Co Offaly.
Fine Gael justice spokesperson Alan Shatter said it was "clear that disturbing new information has now emerged, which indicates that the original investigation into the death of Fr Molloy needs to be reopened".
One of the country's most experienced pathologists, Professor Dermot Hourihane, former head of pathology at Trinity College Dublin, believes the case raises "many major questions about the workings of the Irish justice system".
Details of the investigation were also shown to a former Circuit Court judge, John Gerard Buchanan.
In an interview with this newspaper this week, he criticises the role played by his late colleague, Mr Justice Frank Roe, who heard the case in 1986, even though he knew the accused, businessman Richard Flynn. Mr Flynn stood trial for the manslaughter and assault of Fr Molloy. There was public outrage when the trial collapsed after just three-and-a-half hours and he directed the jury to acquit Mr Flynn.
"The full facts of this case did not come into the public domain as a result of the direction given by Judge Roe," Judge Buchanan said this week.
A post-mortem by state pathologist Professor John Harbison found that the priest had been brutally beaten and that he died as a result of head injuries.
His family said last night that the Irish Independent had uncovered significant new evidence about the affair, including fresh witness statements and glaring inconsistencies.
They and many local people in Clara have always believed that other people were present in the Flynn house the night Fr Molloy was killed.
Now, 25 years after his death, new witnesses have come forward with crucial information which sheds fresh light on the case. The findings of the Irish Independent investigation include:
- A new witness account from the local sergeant in Clara, Kevin Forde, who was the first garda at the crime scene that night. He has stated that a gold watch Fr Molloy was wearing was cracked, its hands stuck at 10.40. Gardai were not notified about the death until 3.15.
Sgt Forde believes that up to five hours could have passed before the crime was reported.
- This newspaper has also interviewed a close friend of an influential doctor. The doctor confessed to him that he was present in the Flynns' mansion the night of Fr Molloy's death. Richard Flynn said that only he, his wife and an elderly aunt were in the house at the time. The doctor died shortly after the priest's death at a young age.
- Details of a break-in and fire in the Offaly coroner's office, which destroyed his file on the case, have also come to light for the first time.
- An unsigned letter has been uncovered after 24 years. It gives a gruesome and vivid version of events on the night of the priest's death and names another man as the killer.
Last night, Bill Maher, a nephew of Fr Molloy, said: "We have never given up trying to find out the truth about what happened to our beloved uncle and why our family were deprived of justice. Now, we are closer to that truth. The time has come for a complete review of the case and answers to all of the baffling questions we have sought for 25 years."