Monday 19 February 2018

Family tells of 18-year wait for justice

Mark Nash was found guilty of the murders of Sylvia Shiels and Mary Callinan in March 1997
Mark Nash was found guilty of the murders of Sylvia Shiels and Mary Callinan in March 1997
Stella Nolan holds pictures of her sister outside court yesterday after Mark Nash was found guilty of the murders of her and Sylvia Shiels in March 1997

Alison O'Riordan

The only sister of one of the two women murdered as they slept in their beds in Grangegorman almost 20 years ago told how their wait for justice had been long and difficult.

It took just four hours for the Central Criminal Court jury to find Mark Nash guilty of the 'cold case' murder of Sylvia Sheils (59) and Mary Callinan (61). Their mutilated bodies were found in their sheltered accommodation, close to St Brendan's Psychiatric Hospital, Dublin, in March, 1997.

Nash (42) is already serving a double life sentence in Arbour Hill Prison since October 1998 for murdering his then girlfriend's sister Catherine Doyle and her husband Carl Doyle in Ballintober, Castlerea, Roscommon in mid-August 1997. His then girlfriend, Sarah Jane Doyle, was left seriously injured. After his arrest for those offences he admitted the Grangegorman murders, but he later retracted his statements.

It was only in October 2009 that Nash was charged with the double murder at Grangegorman.

Mr Justice Carroll Moran told the 11 jury members that the prosecution's case was based on three things; the admissions made by the accused, the print of a Caterpillar boot found in bedroom number one of the sheltered accommodation and finally scientific evidence and DNA.

In 2009 "a spectacular breakthrough" led to the DNA of the two deceased women being found on a black pin-striped velvet jacket belonging to Nash as part of the cold case review. Dr Linda Williams of Forensic Science Ireland told the court she got a profile match from the threads of the jacket to Ms Sheils' DNA and a 'particle' from inside the seam of the sleeve matched Ms Callinan .

The heartfelt words of Stella Nolan (81), an older sister of Ms Sheils, were read out by her daughter Suzanne Nolan to the court.

On Friday, March 7, 1997, Stella Nolan learned that her sister had been murdered while she slept in her bed.

"For 18 years, justice has been delayed and justice delayed is justice denied. Not only for me, but for my family. Murder does not affect one person only - it affects the whole family," she said through her daughter.

She told how they endured judicial reviews and appeals as they waited for 18 years for justice. She told how she also knew Ms Callinan, who has no surviving relatives.

In Stella's words, Suzanne Nolan told how the murders had affected the lives of three families - Mary's and Sylvia's - but also the family of Dean Lyons, an innocent man imprisoned for nine months for their deaths.

Described as a peace-loving, gentle and sincere person, the court heard Ms Sheils was never violent and lived a quiet life. She had been a civil servant for 20 years.

"Sylvia and Mary's lives were taken from them while they slept in their beds. They had mental health issues and were very vulnerable women. They were completely innocent. They played no part in what happened to them," she said, adding it had been difficult to hear of the violence and instruments used to kill and mutilate them.

Retired State Pathologist John Harbison had reported the serious genital injuries were "outside" his experience in 26 years. Nash - originally from England but with last addresses at Prussia Street and Clonliffe Road in Dublin - was sentenced to life for the double murder.

Irish Independent

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