Review may clear farmer hanged over killing in 1940
Published 14/10/2013 | 05:00
A FARMER hanged for the murder of an unmarried mother may have been innocent, according to a new scientific review carried out by a leading US pathologist.
Harry Gleeson was hanged 72 years ago after he was found guilty of the murder of his neighbour, Mary 'Moll' McCarthy.
Gleeson, who maintained his innocence as he was executed at Mountjoy Prison, found Ms McCarthy's mutilated body on November 21, 1940, in a remote spot on his uncle's farm near New Inn, Co Tipperary.
Now a fresh review of Ms McCarthy's post-mortem, carried out by the director of forensic neuropathology at the Boston office of the Chief Medical Examiner, has undermined the prosecution's case about the timing of the death of Ms McCarthy.
Her body temperature was recorded at the scene as 96 degrees fahrenheit, four hours after Gleeson reported his find to gardai.
The warmth of the body suggested that the mother of seven had been killed that morning, but the prosecution claimed that Gleeson had murdered Ms McCarthy the previous evening, some 17 hours earlier.
In a report seen by the Irish Independent, forensic pathologist Dr Peter M E Cummings said that while there was no way to scientifically determine the time an individual died, Ms McCarthy's time of death could be estimated by the temperature.
Dr Cummings, a Harvard educator who evaluates post-mortems for prosecution and defence cases, said that "the best scientific answer" was that Ms McCarthy had been dead three to eight hours when she was discovered.
Earlier this year, Justice Minister Alan Shatter sanctioned a cold-case review following a decades-long quest by Gleeson's surviving relatives and friends.
The Attorney General has appointed a Senior Counsel to review the convictions and "new" forensic evidence amassed by the Justice for Harry Gleeson Group (JfHG).
The JfHG turned to the Irish Innocence Project, part of the global wrongful conviction organisation, to help strengthen its exoneration case. Last night, the Innocence Project welcomed the report.
"This pathologist report certainly supports our position that the prosecutions case was flawed," said Tertius Van Eeden, the lead caseworker in the Innocence Project review of the Gleeson conviction.
"The report confirms that the murder took place in the morning or sometime during the night while Gleeson was at home and sleeping and accounted for."
New material amassed by the JfHG includes a firearms register not produced at the trial; a death-bed revelation by one of Ms McCarthy's daughters; and a DVD recording of a man that may provide Gleeson with an alibi.
Barrister David Langwallner, director of the Irish Innocence Project, said that Dr Cummings's report was relevant because the prosecution's theory that Ms McCarthy died the previous evening "could not possibly be true".
Mr Shatter may give his decision within months, following completion of the independent review.
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