Lust, lies and greed of a black-hearted woman
IT HAD been a good St Patrick's weekend. I was the garda superintendent with responsibility for Gorey Garda District, Co Wexford, and I was not on call that particular weekend. I was also looking forward to a holiday in Sicily with my girlfriend.
As I was getting into bed, I glanced at the alarm clock and telephone on the bedside locker. No need to set the alarm this time: a lie-in was very much on the cards. The telephone was a different kettle of fish: that would never be taken off the hook, day or night.
I was awakened from a deep sleep by the sound of the phone ringing, and glanced apprehensively at the alarm clock, which indicated it was 4.45am. Past experience would suggest that this was trouble. Garda Tony Ryan, of Arklow Garda Station, was on the phone. "Superintendent Flynn, you had better get up to Jack White's straight away. Tom Nevin has been shot, and Catherine was tied up."
Is he dead? I enquired. Yes, came the quick reply.
En route to Jack White's Inn, I tried to grasp the magnitude of Garda Ryan's message. I instinctively knew that this investigation would be a minefield. Catherine Nevin, the wife of the murdered man, had crossed swords with many of the local gardai, and had made serious unfounded allegations against a number of gardai.
Not surprisingly, relations between Catherine and some Arklow-based gardai were little short of poisonous. However, the situation with regard to some high-ranking officers in An Garda Siochana was entirely different. She regarded some of those, especially former Inspector Tom Kennedy, as very good friends of hers.
When Catherine and Tom Nevin first took possession of Jack White's Inn, relations between them and the local gardai could not have been better. It was known as a 'garda house' -- at least until Catherine threw a cat among the pigeons with her complaints.
This was the situation I knew awaited me on March 19, 1996. Adding to Catherine's distrust of the local gardai was her distrust of myself. She had unsuccessfully tried to get me onside with drink and meals, but all to no avail.
Gardai Martin McAndrew and Paul Cummiskey, who were the first gardai to arrive at the scene, met me on arrival. A quick look at the front exterior of the premises didn't reveal any noticeable signs of a forced entry. The sounds of a woman moaning were clearly audible. I entered and saw Catherine Nevin in a room just off the hall.
Her attitude was certainly not what I had expected from a woman who had undergone an ordeal. First, she just stared at me with a contemptuous look. Aware of Catherine's feelings towards me, there wasn't any point in trying to engage her in conversation. I sympathised with her, and asked if I could be of any assistance. She continued to stare at me, and did not reply.
There was something surreal about Catherine's behaviour, which had nothing to do with her obvious distrust of me. She was displaying no emotions or grief, and was certainly not in shock. Most strikingly, there was no visible indication that this was a woman who was shattered by the murder of her beloved husband.
Another example of Catherine's strange behaviour was her later request to be given a phone, as she wished to make an urgent phone call. She shouted: "Get me a phone, get me a f***ing phone, now, at once, do you understand?" She was given a phone and made her call.
Gardai McAndrews and Cummiskey described the scene when they arrived at 4.45am. Both gardai saw Catherine behind the hall door, sitting on the ground with her hands tied behind her back. She was wearing a purple-coloured silk nightshirt and white panties. In a low, barely audible voice, she said: "He came into the bedroom. He had a knife, and a hood over his head."
Without any effort, McAndrew released a blue dressing-gown belt tied around Catherine's wrists. Much more difficult to remove were coloured cloth headbands, also tied around her wrists. Cummiskey got a knife and cut the ties. He noticed red marks on her wrists when they were removed. There was also a nylon stocking hanging loosely around her neck, and this had been holding a pair of black panties that had been used as a gag.
Catherine's bedroom is a large room. The couple hadn't slept in the same bedroom for years. The main centre light was on. Beside the bed, I saw a copy of the Sunday Independent. Prescription drugs in large quantities were noticeable on the bedside locker, and beside it was a half-full glass, containing what looked like wine. The room was certainly untidy and unkempt, but if the room had been gone over thoroughly by the intruders, it would have looked like a rubbish heap. I felt that if ever there was a contrived scene, this was it.
Garda Joe Collins made notes of what Catherine said that morning. The significance and importance of the notes taken during this interview cannot be overstated. As the investigation progressed, many of Catherine's utterances would come to be seen as bare-faced lies. When recounting events later to other people, she would contradict her version of events as given that morning.
Detective Collins and Detective Sergeant Fergus O'Brien, of Wicklow, returned to Jack White's Inn later that day to take a written statement from Catherine Nevin. Her attitude to this reasonable request was amazing: "I gave you a statement today." Collins informed her that what he had taken earlier that day were notes regarding her account of events. What he now wanted was to get this in the form of a written statement.
She replied: "I will make no statement or sign anything. It's dangerous to sign statements, I know. I want a guarantee from a superior officer -- and not from Superintendent Flynn, because I don't trust him -- that my statement won't turn up on the desk in Arklow, to have it doctored, the same as the other statement. I don't trust anybody in Arklow station -- present company excluded."
On the advice of her solicitor, she eventually relented, and made a statement on March 20, 1996.
As I left Jack White's the morning of the murder, secure in the knowledge that there had been no interference with the scene, I could not dismiss the possibility that Catherine Nevin was a suspect.
An interesting visitor to the pub that morning was former garda inspector Tom
Kennedy. I had known him and, out of curiosity as to what he would say, spoke to him briefly about the murder.
"Terrible affair, Pat," he said. "Just heard it on the news. That poor woman, what they have done to her, such a decent honourable woman." There was no mention of poor Tom, whose cold, dead body lay just a few yards away.
Catherine's false allegations ON July 13, 1992, Chief Superintendent Pat Crummy, Wexford, requested my presence at his office as a matter of urgency. He informed me that Catherine Nevin had made written complaints about a number of gardai.
The complaints were of a criminal nature; if proven, they could have dire consequences, including dismissal. One of the complaints made by Catherine was of indecent assault on her. She claimed that on the night of August 26, 1991, after midnight, a named garda "came up behind me in the bar when I was getting a whiskey for him and pinned me to the ice-maker. I was aware he had himself exposed. He pulled my skirt up and tried to force himself into me".
(The garda involved at all times denied this allegation, and when the relevant investigation file was sent to the DPP, the DPP directed that there should be no criminal proceeding against him.)
Where was Tom and the staff when this allegedly brazen and serious indecent assault was taking place? Tom was, in fact, just a few feet away in the kitchen doing the books, as was his routine at the close of the day's business. The staff would have been cleaning up or having a drink.
On September 5, 1992, a local couple met Catherine at The Tap, a local pub. Catherine was very drunk, and informed the man that she had been in Dublin giving statements about "the other bastard, (the garda against whom the complaint of sexual assault was made) for what he has done . . . he will never wear a uniform again. If only the locals knew the sums of money I had paid to him for not summonsing locals leaving Jack White's with beer on them. I knew about the Protestants he tried to get money from for different things. He will go down for life."
Catherine had also made allegations of corruption against this garda and another garda. The untrue allegations led to the two gardai being suspended but they were eventually reinstated and are still serving, one in the traffic corps and the other as a detective.
What the staff saw
The staff at Jack White's Inn were to supply information that would prove to be of great assistance to the investigation into the murder. They were mostly young girls, many of whom had only temporary employment.
Some of the girls, fearful of Catherine's legendary temper, were somewhat apprehensive about supplying written statements. However, in the end, none of them refused to supply a statement.
Catherine would be portrayed as a woman with a fearful temper, and a dangerous lust for the opposite sex. As the pub business got back to near-normality (after the murder), Catherine's mind was already in overdrive, and she was being unusually kind and helpful to the girls. She was going out of her way to get them on her side, aware that they would soon be interviewed by gardai about events leading up to, and after, the murder.
There is no doubt that she was fearful of what damaging disclosures the staff might make about her. They had suffered untold mental stress because of the treatment meted out to them by Catherine, who seemed to delight in humiliating them, especially if any of her so-called celebrity friends were within earshot. The younger girls in particular were singled out by her. Now they had stories to tell, the contents of which could, and would, seriously trouble Catherine.
They had seen her treatment and hatred of Tom Nevin, her boasts that they were no longer married, her extra-marital affairs, her utterances that the pub would be sold and her dangerous temper.
She asked the staff daily: "Were the Guards talking to you?" "What questions did they ask about me?" "Did you make a statement?" "What was in it?"
Eileen Byrne worked in Jack White's in 1993 as a cleaner for about six months. She left because of the unkind way Catherine treated the staff. She said tension was always evident between Tom and Catherine.
The night after Tom Kennedy's retirement party, Byrne started work at 8am and saw four or five gardai drinking at the bar with Catherine. Tom was behind the bar and was agitated. He said to Eileen: "This will end in tears."
Elaine McDonagh outlined how Catherine had thrown a knife at her in the kitchen, but fortunately it had missed her. Catherine was angry about the fact that the plate-warmer hadn't been turned on and the food was being served on cold plates.
Brendan McGraynor recalled receiving a request over the phone from a lady about two or three weeks before St Patrick's weekend in 1996, seeking bed and breakfast for that holiday weekend. Catherine instructed him to refuse the booking as they were booked out. This was untrue: no bookings had been taken.
Caroline Strahan made a very interesting statement. She started work at the pub in September 1991, and stayed two years.
She said: "In the summer of 1992, two guards from Wicklow came looking for Tom Kennedy. (This was now retired local Garda Inspector Tom Kennedy). I knew he was up with Catherine and went up to tell her. When I knocked and opened the door, I saw Tom Kennedy in the bed with her; they were under the covers and Tom had nothing on top. Catherine started panicking, came down after me and went in behind the bar."
Caroline Strahan made another written statement in which she states: "Tom and Catherine Nevin never got on; they were sleeping in separate bedrooms. I saw them, Kennedy and Catherine, in her bed loads of times. Catherine used to ring down and I'd bring breakfast up to them. They didn't care that I'd seen them. Tom Nevin knew this was going on but he never said anything."
Tom Kennedy at all times, including in court under oath, denied ever having a sexual relationship with Catherine Nevin.
Adrienne Fisher made a statement on April 19, 1996. She worked at the pub for two and a half years. She felt that Tom Nevin was for some unknown reason afraid of Catherine, as when they had one of their many arguments, he was always the one to back down.
Catherine also boasted about a boyfriend she had in Northern Ireland.
Adrienne Fisher highlights Catherine's republican tendencies and loathing for English people, which she once displayed on seeing English customers in the bar, who were complaining about the food. Catherine said: "Are those f***ing English bastards coming over here complaining? Do they think they own the f***ing place?"
Catherine McGraynor worked as a waitress/chef part time at the pub for two years, in 1995 and 1996. In her statement, she recalls that at around midnight on March 18, a taxi arrived to take the staff to a disco in Arklow. Catherine informed them that no one was staying overnight at the pub. This was the first time that Catherine had ever issued such a command to them.
Bernie Fleming worked at the pub full-time from March 8, 1995. She stated: "Tom was well aware Catherine was having affairs with a number of men. She did this openly and they would sleep in her room." She added that she had seen Tom Kennedy in Catherine's bedroom and she also named another man she had seen there on another occasion.
Anne Marie Finnerty, a niece of Tom Nevin's, called to the pub in August 1995. During a conversation, Catherine informed her: "We're thinking of selling the pub, in fact it will probably be sold before Christmas." Tom and herself were, she stated, separating.
Una Doogue worked at the pub from March until September 1994, and again during the summer of the following
year. One day Catherine stated: "There are two ways Tom Nevin would kill himself: it would be either in the car with drink taken, or during the course of a break-in because he would have drink in him."
Quite a prophetic statement, and one no doubt Catherine thought the gardai would be gullible enough to swallow.
Jane Murphy worked as a cleaner for 10 years at the pub. Of all the staff, Jane, or 'Jeanie', as she was generally known, was the one who could best give an accurate account of Catherine and Tom and the happenings at the pub over the years. About four years before the murder, she recalled Catherine and Tom having a flaming row.
"They were going to Spain on holidays, and their passports couldn't be found. But in truth, they could have by Tom, who had hid them because he didn't want to go on holidays with Catherine." Jeanie knew where the passports were, got them, and handed them to the feuding couple. Tom wasn't amused.
According to Jeanie, Catherine gave Jessica Hunter, another staff member, 'a fierce time' for telling the gardai about her various partners. She didn't sack her because Jessica "will give them more f***ing information".
Jessica had been interviewed and made the first of four statements on March 19, 1996. Approximately one year before the murder of Tom, Jeanie saw another member of the staff pick up Catherine's knickers and bra from the crib area of the pub. This was in the early morning, as they were cleaning up. A pair of gent's underpants was found beside them.
Catherine asked that morning if her knickers and bra had been found, and Jeanie told her that she had found the underpants too. Catherine didn't seem unduly concerned, but instructed that Tom was not to be told.
Tom Nevin and Catherine fought regularly, even up to the time of his murder. She heard Catherine offering to buy out Tom's share of the pub, but he was having none of it. One of Catherine's favoured verbal attacks during their many rows was: "Go back to John of God's, you old bastard." (Tom had been a patient in John of God's in Dublin in relation to his drinking.)
The staff members, young and old, liked Tom Nevin, who had always been kind, considerate and understanding. They were angry at the savage manner in which Tom had been removed from the face of the earth, and anything they could do or say which might assist in righting this terrible wrong would be done by them, even if this meant putting Catherine in the frame.
Jessica Hunter was employed at the pub up to and including the date of the murder, and stayed in a room a floor above Catherine's. She knew -- as did all the other staff members -- that Tom and Catherine slept in separate bedrooms.
Working with and for Tom was easy and pleasant, but not so with Catherine, whom she described as moody. Catherine, she felt, was very uneasy and edgy the day of the murder, as though she knew that something was going to happen.
Catherine began applying pressure on Jessica after she had made statements to the gardai. This came to a head in May 1996, when Jessica walked out. Catherine had intimated to some of the staff that a garda had taken Jessica out to dinner and paid her £35 to make a statement. Catherine would repeatedly say to Jessica: "He (named garda) is looking for you again to go out for a meal." This was another figment of Catherine's imagination.
Elaine Butler got a job at Jack White's Inn in June 1995. She got to know Catherine very well -- in fact, so well that the boss was describing to Elaine intimate details of her marriage with Tom Nevin. Tom, she declared, was an alcoholic, and she was happy that their marriage was over, and that she was no longer married to him.
Elaine recalled one morning seeing a large wound on Tom Nevin's forehead, heavily bandaged. Catherine began hassling Elaine after she had made a statement to the guards, and she left at the end of July 1995.
Perhaps the statement taken from Agnes Phelan, mother of Genesse, who worked at Jack White's up to the date of the murder, most clearly illustrates Catherine's criminal intent towards her husband. At 6pm on March 18, 1996, Mrs Phelan phoned the pub and informed Catherine that her daughter was ill and unable to work that day. Mrs Phelan told gardai that in the course of the conversation, Catherine said she was going to "f***ing sort Tom Nevin out". Some hours later, Tom Nevin, to use Catherine's eloquent English, was "f***ing sorted out".
Tom Nevin did on occasions drink to excess, and Catherine would have everyone believe that he was a raging alcoholic. Using all her talents of persuasion, as well as her relentless taunting of Tom about him being an alcoholic, Tom ended up as a patient in St John of God's Hospital in Stillorgan, Dublin.
A patient there during Tom's stay recalls Tom and his wife clearly. His account of Catherine makes interesting reading. He described Tom as a very quiet man, and not very expressive. They became good friends and had many open and frank conversations. On Catherine's visits, he said she treated Tom "like dirt or a piece of shit".
When she called -- and that was seldom -- it would be in relation to the business: for Tom to do the books, the VAT returns, and so on. She showed no interest in Tom or his well-being and did not get involved in the family days or the open meetings, though normal procedure dictates that the spouse of a patient should participate.
During one of their conversations, Tom told him that he was happy with the direction the business was taking, but was also convinced that Catherine was trying to get his share of the pub. He was also deeply upset with her sexual activities and was convinced that she was having an affair, stating: "Anybody could have her but me."
'Catherine and Friends -- Inside the Investigation into Ireland's Most Notorious Murder' by Pat Flynn, retired Garda Superintendent who was in charge of the investigation of the murder of Tom Nevin, is published by Liberties Press, rrp €12.99, available from tomorrow from bookshops nationwide, or free Irish delivery if you order online from www.LibertiesPress.com