Catherine Nevin: The contradictory claims that saw the spotlight fall on killer early in the investigation
Months before Tom Nevin was savagely murdered, the publican was concerned his wife was trying to have him killed.
He confided to his step-aunt Patricia Flood around Christmas 1994 that Catherine Nevin had demanded he sell her his share of their pub or else she would, in her words, have him “blown away”.
His step-aunt told him to leave Nevin and call gardaí. “Tom indicated it was not that simple. He said he felt he had no way out,” Ms Flood said in her statement to gardaí.
“She seemed to have a hold over him. He seemed to be a man who didn’t care.”
Just over two years later in the early hours of March 19, 1996, Mr Nevin’s life came to a violent end. He was 55.
The date of the murder was hugely significant – being just after a busy St Patrick’s Day weekend, there would have been lots of cash in Jack White’s pub. It seemed like the perfect night to stage a botched robbery.
Gardaí received a call – via a panic alarm downstairs in the pub – at 4.35am to go to Jack White’s, and arrived 10 minutes later.
Detectives Martin MacAndrew and Paul Comiskey discovered the pub door open and Catherine Nevin lying “slumped on the floor” behind the door with her wrists tied tightly behind her back.
She was dressed in just a purple silky shirt and white underwear. She was gagged with a stocking and her own underwear. Her first words to the officers were: “He came into the bedroom. He had a knife. He had a knife and a hood over his head.”
Gardaí then discovered the lifeless body of Mr Nevin on the kitchen floor. He had been killed with a single shot through the heart from a shotgun fired at close range some time around 3am.
All the windows and doors were secure apart from the front entrance. They discovered Nevin’s jewellery box on the hall floor along with items of jewellery scattered around it.
When gardaí attempted to lift a shocked and pale-looking Nevin, she winced, as though with pain.
As she lay on the couch she whispered: “Where’s Tom?” She later told officers: “I was awakened by someone pressing my face into the pillow. There was a light coming from the hall as the bedroom light was off.
“It was a man shouting ‘f**king jewellery, f**king kill ya’. He had a knife in his left hand. Everything in the room was coming down around.”
Nevin said she was tied up by her attacker. She managed to get to a panic button. In their first review of the case, officers wondered why she had used a panic button to contact them rather than her mobile phone, which was in her bedroom. They also considered why she had not gone into the kitchen to check on the welfare of her husband before they arrived. Some IR£13,000 was taken from the pub that night and the Nevins’s car was later found abandoned in Dublin.
- Read more: Catherine Nevin takes the secret of who pulled the trigger on her husband to her grave - and may be buried alongside victim
Gardaí first thought it was a botched robbery and a huge murder investigation began. But her behaviour at this early stage was already ringing alarm bells.
At one stage, Nevin refused to give a full statement to gardaí, saying she did not trust the local station.
However, she later gave a statement on the advice of her solicitor, claiming her husband was an alcoholic.
Nevin was also “disruptive and agitated” when a
Garda fingerprints expert examined her home for prints, two days after Mr Nevin was murdered.
However, a few loose ends at the scene of the murder ensured detectives became dubious of Nevin’s story and led to her downfall.
Gardaí found no signs of forced entry and no evidence of serious ransacking consistent with a frenzied raid that led to murder. Also, only Nevin’s fingerprints were found on the jewellery box and no jewellery was actually taken in the ‘raid’.
Days after the incident, Nevin told one of her sisters-in-law that her ankles had been tied together and then pulled up towards her back and bound to her wrists with her own nylons. But no such ties were ever found.
On the day of Mr Nevin’s funeral, Nevin told then-assistant Garda commissioner Jim McHugh that the smell of the incense at the ceremony reminded her of the gunsmoke she had smelled in the kitchen on the morning of the murder.
But officers realised instantly it would have been impossible for her to smell the discharge of the shotgun unless she had been in the kitchen shortly after Mr Nevin was killed.
This conflicted with her statement she did not go into the kitchen after the raid.
In June 1996, gardaí felt they had enough evidence to arrest Nevin. But while being questioned for 48 hours the ‘Black Widow’ refused to answer any of the questions put to her – a tactic more often used by terrorists or gangland criminals than by grieving widows.
Thirteen months after Mr Nevin’s murder, she was charged with the crime as well as soliciting three people to kill her husband on dates between 1989 and 1990. The three people were John Jones, Gerry Heapes and William McClean, whose highly controversial evidence would be crucial in securing Nevin’s murder conviction in April 2000.