'Black Widow' Nevin claims key witnesses were paid informers
A "high-level" journalist told Catherine Nevin's solicitor that two witnesses who testified against her in her murder trial were paid State informers.
The identity of the journalist who made the allegation that witnesses Gerry Heapes and John Jones were informers was not disclosed in the Court of Criminal Appeal yesterday as Catherine Nevin took the first steps to have her conviction declared a miscarriage of justice.
An appeal against her conviction was dismissed in 2003 by the Court of Criminal Appeal (CCA), but Mrs Nevin has brought fresh proceedings under the Criminal Procedure Act 1993 to have her case declared a miscarriage of justice.
If successful, Nevin, who must prove new or newly-discovered facts for her case to succeed, could have her conviction quashed and she would be set free from prison.
But yesterday Sean Gillane, acting for the Director of Public Prosecutions, said that some of her applications were "unusual" and said the State would be asking the CCA whether there was a prima facie case to be made. Mr Gillane said that it was "highly likely" that the DPP would object to disclosure of certain files requested by Mrs Nevin.
Catherine Nevin, dubbed the "Black Widow," and who did not attend yesterday's brief hearing, has applied for free legal aid to fund her case.
She has argued that material not disclosed to her lawyers at the time of the trial contains information which casts doubt on the credibility and motivation of key prosecution witnesses.
Mrs Nevin's lawyers contend that documents, including garda files on witnesses Gerry Heapes, John Jones and William McClean, are relevant and would assist her in undermining the credibility of the three men as well as and another State witness, Patrick Russell.
The material, the defence says, includes security files indicating that Mr McClean was a suspect in the Dublin/Monaghan bombings of 1974.
Mrs Nevin claims Mr McClean had during the trial denied he had any paramilitary connections but that a Garda Special Branch file going back to 1974 would have an effect on his credibility in that regard.
Yesterday, Mr Justice Hardiman said it appeared the application was based application on the contents of the Barron report on the Dublin/Monaghan bombings and on information from what was described as "a high-level journalist".
Anne Fitzgibbon, solicitor for Mrs Nevin, said the Barron report information related to Mr McClean being a paid State informer while the "high-level journalist" information related to Mssrs Jones and Heapes, also being state informers.
Mr Justice Hardiman noted the disclosure of this information (to the Nevin side) had been considered by the trial judge but was deemed privileged or not relevant and therefore should not be disclosed.
Ms Fitzgibbon said the way this had been considered at the trial "does not make sense."
Mr Justice Hardiman adjourned the case to March 3 to allow the DPP to make his response to Mrs Nevin's application.
Mrs Nevin (55) was convicted after a 42-day trial in April 2000 of the murder of her husband Tom at their pub, Jack White's Inn, Brittas Bay, on March 19, 1996.
She was also convicted on three counts of soliciting three different men to kill her husband in 1989 and 1990, six years before his murder.
She is serving a life sentence on the murder charge and a total of seven years on the soliciting charges.
Apart from security files in relation to four witnesses that she is seeking for her miscarriage of justice application, she is also alleging a failure to disclose material relating to her husband and to Jack White's Inn.
She claims the material includes security files indicating that the pub was on a list of pubs with suspected IRA connections. It is understood Ms Nevin will argue that any such material would indicate an alternative motive for killing Mr Nevin.