Top garda orders probe into priest's killing 25 years ago
Case re-opened after Irish Independent investigation
The Garda Commissioner has ordered a new investigation into the case of a priest killed 25 years ago, after being given dramatic new evidence by the Irish Independent.
A two-month probe by the newspaper into the killing of Fr Niall Molloy in Clara, Co Offaly, led to an instruction by the country's most senior garda that all aspects of the paper's probe be examined as a priority.
The head of the Serious Crime Review Team, Detective Inspector Christy Mangan, will lead the investigation.
Fr Molloy's battered body was found in a pool of blood in July 1985, after a lavish society wedding at a local manor house.
The post-mortem revealed that the 52-year-old priest died from head injuries.
The father of the bride, Richard Flynn, a long-time friend of Fr Molloy, stood trial for his manslaughter one year later.
But in an unusual twist, Mr Justice Frank Roe brought the case to an abrupt halt after less than four hours.
He directed the jury to acquit the defendant on the grounds that Fr Molloy may have died of a heart attack.
It later emerged that Justice Roe was an acquaintance of the Flynns and had written to the DPP Eamonn Barnes in advance of the trial, in an attempt to subvert the course of justice.
In the midlands, it is widely believed that another person was responsible for the death.
Disturbing new information emerged in the Irish Independent's investigation, including:
• Statements from a number of key individuals about sightings of the priest in his final hours. They have not been questioned by gardai before.
• A statement from the friend of a prominent surgeon. The doctor told his friend that he was in the house where Fr Molloy was killed, on the night of his death. The surgeon died six months after Fr Molloy.
• An interview with Sgt Kevin Ford, the first officer to inspect Fr Molloy's body on the night of his death. He states that the watch on the priest's wrist was cracked, its hands stopped at 10.40. Sgt Ford's station was not contacted about Fr Molloy's death until 3.15am. The watch was not held as evidence.
• A damning statement by former circuit court Judge Gerard Buchanan about the late Justice's Roe decision to hear the Flynn trial.
• An unsigned letter, uncovered after 24 years, which gives a vivid and gruesome account of alleged events on the night.
• Information about a fire in the coroner's office which destroyed the Molloy file.
Bill Maher, a nephew of Fr Molloy, last night spoke of his family's joy at the breakthrough.
"For 25 years, we have been failed by the Irish criminal justice system. . . we are delighted that gardai will at last examine all of the terrible mystery surrounding his death."
Gardai have appealed to anyone with information about Fr Molloy's death to come forward.