Saturday 14 December 2019

Black Widow loses 'final' bid to have murder appeal heard

Catherine Nevin
Catherine Nevin
Tom and Catherine Nevin

Brian Kavanagh

CATHERINE Nevin has lost what is likely to be her final attempt to have an appeal against her murder conviction heard in the Supreme Court.

Fourteen years after she was found guilty of the murder of Tom Nevin, the 'Black Widow' was back in court yesterday claiming she had "no hand, act or part" in his death.

Legal representatives for the 61-year-old said the Supreme Court needed to clarify a point of law that could affect the right to effective cross-examination in "courts across the country".

However, addressing the Court of Criminal Appeal, Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman said that the court made the point "in the strongest possible terms" that there was "absolutely no points of any merit whatsoever" in her application.

Delivering an oral ruling, Mr Justice Hardiman said Catherine Nevin's case had been "immensely long running" and had been "entertained" by the court at "patient and perhaps excessive length".


Nevin, who appeared before the court wearing a white blouse, black cardigan and black trousers, made little reaction to the judgment of the court.

In 2000, Nevin was jailed for life for murdering her husband Tom at their pub, Jack White's Inn, near Brittas Bay, Co Wicklow, on March 19, 1996.

She also received a seven-year sentence for soliciting three men – Gerry Heapes, William McClean and John Jones – to kill her husband in 1989 and 1990. None of the three men were suspects in the murder of Mr Nevin.

She has always denied any involvement in the murder but lost an appeal against her conviction in 2003. In 2010 she also lost an application to have her conviction declared a miscarriage of justice.

At the close of the 2010 application, the Court of Criminal Appeal ruled that garda documents known as "Suspect Ante- cedent History" forms relating to Mr Heapes and Mr Jones would be disclosed to Nevin's legal team. This material was not available to the defence at trial.

The court heard that a suspect history form relating to Mr McClean was only brought to the attention of the defence by a newspaper article, published eight years after Nevin was jailed for life.

The document lists William McClean's associates as members of illegal and paramilitary organisations, including the INLA and Provisional IRA.

However, Mr McClean had emphatically denied during the trial that he had any links to paramilitary organisations.

Counsel for the State, Tom O'Connell SC, said the appeal court, having examined 140 of the suspect antecedent history forms, had concluded that none of them were of any evidential value and they were in effect based on hearsay and opinion.

He told the court that the rule of evidence as to the finality of answers given to questions going to credibility had been settled for several centuries.

Mr Justice Hardiman said that in the course of their investigations the gardai created documents which were "misleadingly entitled" suspect history forms. He said the court had become intimately familiar with these forms because they had examined 140 of them when ruling on the miscarriage of justice application.


He said that despite their title, these were not suspect forms because quite a few of them related to people whom the gardai believed were in no way suspect.

Mr Justice Hardiman said the trial judge had ruled that the only material relevant to the case should be disclosed to the defence and this should not relate to speculation, rumour or hearsay.

He said in the ordinary course of events this "should have been the end of it" but Niamh O'Connor, then a journalist working for a tabloid newspaper, in some way came in to the possession one of the suspect history forms.

He said "no great discovery" had been made about these forms and they had not come about by some process of "great research".

Rather they had been given to Ms O'Connor in the hope she would publish them, and she did.

Mr Justice Hardiman said the court noted that Ms O'Connor also said that she had been approached by a professional person acting on behalf of Nevin who had asked her to "spin a yarn" about the case in a favourable manner and in return it was promised Nevin would give her first interview to Ms O'Connor if released.

He said the court could see "nothing whatsoever" in the application and it would be dismissed.

Irish Independent

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