Friday 21 October 2016

Jim Cusack: Innocent victims of crime failed by our justice system

Several go missing and are presumed murdered every single year and nobody lifts a finger, writes Jim Cusack

Published 21/02/2016 | 02:30

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Anastasija Varslavane, a beautiful young Latvian woman, is missing in Ireland and was most likely murdered and secretly buried by members of an Irish Traveller gang.

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Officially she is a 20-year-old 'missing person'. So too is her boyfriend, Traveller Willie Maughan (34), who disappeared at the same time around April 14 last year.

Their names aren't big in the public consciousness but the fact they were most likely murdered and secretly buried together should be a major issue in this State, maybe even a topic of debate about law and order and the Garda in the General Election, but it isn't. Anna, as she was known, was completely innocent having met Willie and fallen in love.

Barry Corcoran, meanwhile, from Wicklow, is not the subject of any particular media or Garda interest. He was a drug addict but also a father. He too was likely murdered last July and also secretly buried, most likely in the Wicklow Mountains.

Along with the shootings and stabbings of the usual criminal suspects that we perhaps reasonably don't care about, there was also the innocent 64-year-old Edward Nugent, who was shot dead outside his home in west Dublin last February. And, two days later, another entirely innocent man in his 50s, Rupert Walker, was shot dead at his home in Greystones, Co Wicklow - believed the victim of mistaken identity.

The 2014 list of victims of gang violence was similar to last year, and similar to the year before and the year before that. The thing that really stands out and really sets the Republic apart from other 'modern' Western states is that we, apparently, don't do prosecutions for murder where organised crime or 'political', ie IRA, terrorism is involved.

Even petty robber gangs like the one that murdered Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe in January 2013 get away with it. And if you are getting away with it, why stop? No one living in a working class area of Dublin or along the Border, where the IRA is 'the only law' - as they say themselves - would dare give evidence against any gang who might well come round to your home and shoot you dead too, or your spouse or son or daughter. You then become a statistic and an unsolved murder as well.

It's not that we don't have gardai with the skills and dedication to catch and prosecute these gangs.

We do. We have some of the best detectives and regular gardai in the business - officers who, in other circumstances, would have the murderers of Anna Varslavane, her Irish boyfriend and the rest of the gangster 'hitmen' rounded up and jailed if they were properly resourced and led.

Twenty years ago, after Veronica Guerin was murdered, then Garda Commissioner, Pat Byrne, set up a squad under the leadership of his best officer, Chief Superintendent Tony Hickey, and set them - over 100 tough gardai and brilliant detec tives - on John Gilligan's revolting gang of thugs.

They tore the gang apart within weeks and had most of them on charges within a few months.

Since then, even the notion of protecting witnesses seems to have gone completely from the reckoning in crime prosecution. In one serious case, which cannot be detailed for legal reasons, a garda witness even declined to appear in court. Nothing was made of it. The victims in the case were left bewildered as the accused walked away free. The victims have had no contact from gardai since and are living in terror, totally unprotected.

One of the sides in the current Dublin feud is said to be considering a mass killing of its opponents. Quite a lot of people seem to share this view. They won't tell gardai, however, because they don't want to be murdered too.

Sunday Independent

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