Saturday 23 November 2019

Garda identified John Downey from artist's picture

John Downey, at the Old Bailey in Central London
John Downey, at the Old Bailey in Central London

Jim Cusack

RETIRED Garda Detective Gerry O'Carroll identified the Hyde Park bombing suspect John Downey while on a courtesy tour of the anti-terrorist offices in New Scotland Yard in 1982.

Mr O'Carroll, who now writes a column for the Evening Herald, was returning from Lebanon via London with three other senior detectives where they had arrested rogue Irish soldier Michael McAleavey, who had shot dead three soldiers at a checkpoint in the Irish UN Battalion area in October 1982.

The detective, along with the head of the Garda Murder Squad, Chief Superintendent Dan Murphy, and detectives Tom Connolly and Pat Culhane, were given a tour of Scotland Yard as a courtesy by senior officers.

Mr O'Carroll told the Sunday Independent this weekend: "We were invited into New Scotland Yard as a courtesy for hospitality and refreshments as we were staying overnight in London and we had notified the Met of our stay.

"They gave us a tour of their anti-terrorist offices and there were various photographs and artists' impressions on a wall. I pointed to one of the impressions and said: 'That is John Downey.' I had no idea to that point that he was a suspect in the Hyde Park bombing.

"I knew him. We spent half our lives at the Border around that time with the IRA campaign in full swing. I identified him to a DCI [detective chief inspector] Fletcher at the time.

"The following year I received a phone call from Garda HQ asking had I made an identification of John Downey in New Scotland Yard. The Commissioner directed that I make a statement, which I did."

O'Carroll said that last year he was contacted by Garda Special Branch and asked would he meet officers the UK. "We met in the Castle Park Hotel in Limerick. I was told Downey had been arrested in Heathrow and I made a full statement, seven or eight pages long. I was to have been called as a witness in the Old Bailey, but the case collapsed at the pre-trial stage."

Eleven British soldiers, four guardsmen and seven bandsmen, were killed when two IRA bombs exploded at Hyde Park and Regent's Park on July 20, 1982.

The artist's impression was taken from a man who had seen men leaving the car bomb at Hyde Park.

A fingerprint was later discovered at a hotel used by the bombers.

The Garda team that flew to Lebanon successfully prosecuted Michael McAleavey for murdering Corporal Gregory Morrow, Private Thomas Murphy and Private Peter Burke. McAleavey initially said the men had been shot by Lebanese militia, but later admitted responsibility. He was released in 2010.

Sunday Independent

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