A FARMER hanged for the murder of an unmarried mother of seven could be exonerated by the Government – 72 years after his death.
The Office of the Attorney General has appointed a leading senior counsel to independently review the conviction of Tipperary farmer Harry Gleeson, a move that may lead to the Government granting a rare posthumous pardon.
Gleeson was found guilty of the murder of his neighbour, Mary 'Moll' McCarthy, whose mutilated body he found on November 21, 1940, in a remote spot on his uncle's farm near New Inn, Co Tipperary.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter sanctioned the cold-case review following a decades-long quest by Gleeson's surviving relatives and friends, who have amassed "new" forensic evidence they believe will clear Gleeson's name.
Mr Shatter, who will publish new DNA database laws tomorrow, may give a decision on the pardon within months following the discovery of a firearms register which was not produced at Gleeson's trial.
A fresh pathologist's report has also been conducted which may undermine the prosecution's case about the timing of the death of Ms McCarthy, who was decried from the altar by a local priest because she was an unmarried mother.
The Justice for Harry Gleeson (JfHG) Group turned to the Irish Innocence Project, part of the global wrongful conviction organisation, to help strengthen its exoneration case.
The Innocence Project, based at Dublin's Griffith College, wrote to Mr Shatter last year seeking a pardon after reviewing Gleeson's case.
The Innocence Project says that it has "new" evidence which, had it been available to the defence at the time of the trial, would have changed the defence's strategy and undermined the prosecution's case.
Dean of Law at Griffith and director of the Irish Innocence Project Barrister David Langwallner said that he believed the new evidence was sufficient enough to establish that Gleeson suffered a miscarriage of justice.
Gleeson's family have described his conviction as "tragic and wrongful".
"We are very pleased with the news that the Attorney General is taking the opportunity to consult independent advice in reviewing the case," said Sean Delaney, co-founder of the group, who paid tribute to Mr Langwallner and Tertius Van Eeden, the lead caseworker on the Gleeson review.
The murder of Ms McCarthy and the subsequent trial of Gleeson have divided the close-knit rural community for decades.
Gleeson, a greyhound enthusiast, was hanged at Mountjoy Prison by British executioner Albert Pierrepoint on April 23, 1941, days after Taoiseach Eamon de Valera and his cabinet rejected a mercy plea to save his life.
In his final moments, Gleeson told his solicitor John Timoney and barrister Sean MacBride that he was an innocent man and hoped that whoever committed the "Murder at Marlhill" would be discovered.
JfHG, which includes Gleeson's nephew Tom Gleeson, grandnephew Kevin Gleeson and life-long campaigner Eddie Dalton, has been meeting weekly to build a case for a pardon.