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Sunday 4 December 2016

President Higgins to pardon man hanged for 1941 murder

David Kearns

Published 01/04/2015 | 15:20

Harry Gleeson
Harry Gleeson

President Michael D Higgins is to pardon a Tipperary man hanged for a murder in 1941.

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Harry Gleeson was given the death sentence 75 years ago for killing mother-of-five Mary 'Moll' McCarthy.

President Higgins is to issue the pardon after an independent review found ‘serious deficiencies’ in the conviction of Mr Gleeson.

The Irish Innocence Project worked for two and half years to build the case that exonerated him of the 1941 murder.

The review of the case in January of this year found that gardai knowingly submitted false statements, one of which was given by a witness who was beaten by officers during questioning.

They also found that crucial evidence was withheld from the jury by the prosecution, including the fact that Mr Gleeson had a reasonable alibi for the date on which Mary McCarthy died.

David Langwallner, director and founder of the Irish Innocence Project said: "Nothing can adequately comfort those who have fought to exonerate Harry Gleeson but this posthumous pardon and the clearing of the good name of Mr Gleeson is a proud moment for everyone involved."

Having reviewed the trial transcripts and exhibits, which they got from the National Archives, the group sought the pardon under Section 9 of the Criminal Procedure Act.

In a statement, the Department of Justice said it had accepted the advice of the Attorney General that Mr Gleeson should be pardoned.

"The Government deeply regrets that a man was convicted and executed in circumstances now found to be unsafe.”.

"All that can be done now by way of remedy is to clear his name of the conviction, which this pardon will do, in the hope that this will be a proper tribute to his memory."

“Equally the Government regrets that this decision leaves unresolved the brutal murder of Ms. Mary McCarthy, whose children were deprived of their mother in terrible circumstances.”

"The Government wishes to express its sympathy with both families and with all those affected by this crime and the subsequent conviction."

The cold case review by barrister Shane Murphy found prosecutors failed in their duty to ensure a fair trial by not calling as witnesses Mr Gleeson's uncle and aunt, John and Brigid Ceasar, with whom he lived.

A Garda statement suggesting the force staged a confrontation between Mr Gleeson and Ms McCarthy's children was apparently withheld from the court and jury during the case, it was found.

There were also inconsistencies in medical evidence in the trial, while the prosecution didn't reveal to the jury ammunition evidence from a shotgun register which further cast doubt on Mr Gleeson's alleged guilt, the report states.

Mr Gleeson, who had strongly protested his innocence right up to his execution, was refused an appeal.

A mercy plea to save his life was turned down by the then government, under Taoiseach Eamon de Valera.

He was executed by British hangman Albert Pierrepoint on April 23, 1941.

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