independent

Monday 21 April 2014

In the line of fire: How gardai 'scapegoated whistleblower McCabe' over killer release

VICTIM: Mary Lynch. Photo: David Conachy. Inset right, three photographs taken in the aftermath of her attack
VICTIM: Mary Lynch. Photo: David Conachy. Inset right, three photographs taken in the aftermath of her attack

GARDA whistleblower Maurice McCabe was scapegoated by colleagues who allegedly put the blame on him for releasing Sylvia Roche-Kelly's murderer from custody before the mother of two was killed.

The claims are contained in secretly recorded conversations, which are part of a new Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) investigation into the release of killer Jerry McGrath on bail after he viciously assaulted taxi driver Mary Lynch.

Mrs Lynch has made a fresh complaint to the Garda Ombudsman that her attacker was released within hours of the brutal assault and before she had an opportunity to make a statement to gardai.

Sources close to Sgt McCabe have told the Sunday Independent that he was not working on the day McGrath was released.

And the false claims made by colleagues now form part of a civil action Sgt McCabe is taking against the State.

A previous Garda Ombudsman inquiry was launched into Mrs Roche-Kelly's murder following a complaint from her husband, Lorcan. The 33-year-old woman was savagely killed by McGrath after he was twice released on bail for serious crimes in the months leading up to her death.

The case is included in the dossier given to the Taoiseach last week by Micheal Martin. Two months before he murdered Mrs Roche-Kelly in December 2007, he was arrested for abducting a five-year-old girl from her family's home in Co Tipperary.

The previous April, he was arrested for the attack on Mrs Lynch, which left her hospitalised with serious injuries.

He was released from custody before a statement was taken from the taxi driver, who feared for her life during the ordeal.

Sgt McCabe was not working the morning McGrath was released from custody. According to sources, he only learnt about the case a month later when he read Mrs Lynch's statement.

Despite this, he was questioned by GSOC during the initial investigation into Mrs Roche-Kelly's murder, according to sources. GSOC declined to comment when contacted by the Sunday Independent last night.

However, sources close to Sgt McCabe claim he believes a colleague told the Ombudsman he was responsible for charging and releasing McGrath. GSOC officials called the officer and put this allegation to him as part of their inquiry, according to sources.

Sgt McCabe denied the allegation but he was told by GSOC officials to consider his response over the weekend.

Fearing he was being blamed for releasing the killer, Sgt McCabe then called another colleague who was also being investigated by the Ombudsman.

In a recording of the conversation heard by the Sunday Independent, Sgt McCabe tells a man, understood to be colleague of his, that he finds it "very disturbing" that he was being blamed for releasing McGrath.

The other man can be heard telling Sgt McCabe he did not tell GSOC the name of the officer who gave the direction to charge McGrath because he was "trying to not get people involved".

He tells Sgt McCabe: "There was no point turning round saying I spoke to this fellow and he said this. At the end of the day he was interviewed and charged with a Section Two (holding charge for minor offences). I look at it, I could have done that."

Sgt McCabe met with GSOC officials the following week and told them of the conversation he had with his colleague.

He made a statement naming the garda who his colleague told him was responsible for releasing the killer.

The Sunday Independent understands GSOC recommended minor disciplinary action for the garda who spoke with Sgt McCabe, but not the other officer who a statement was made about.

Sgt McCabe was not implicated in the Ombudsman's report, according to sources.

"He had no contact with the case, the only contact he had was when GSOC accused him of letting the prisoner out," a source told the Sunday Independent.

Soon after the GSOC investigation, Mrs Lynch called Sgt McCabe, as she had been led to believe he was responsible for releasing her attacker and telling her not to attend his court appearance.

But on hearing his voice she realised he was not the garda who told her not to attend the court sitting where McGrath was sentenced for her attack.

Sgt McCabe is also believed to have played Mrs Lynch the recording of the conversation he had with his colleague and told her about the Ombudsman investigation.

When Mrs Lynch first asked the Ombudsman to launch another investigation into the handling of her assault case, it was deemed the complaint could not be examined as it was made outside the six-month time limit allowed under legislation.

However, she has since come forward with new evidence, including recorded conversations with members of the force, which has allowed the Ombudsman to open an investigation.

"She sent a lot of correspondence to gardai requesting information into what is happening with her case and they keep getting back to her and saying they will provide her with information but they haven't provided her with anything at all," a source said.

It is understood Sgt McCabe has been questioned as part of the Ombudsman's new investigation and has also handed over recordings.

Sunday Independent

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