Tuesday 21 November 2017

Four decades on, neighbour is finally cleared of killing Una (19)

Martin Conmey with his wife Anne and son Ray leaving court after the hearing yesterday
Martin Conmey with his wife Anne and son Ray leaving court after the hearing yesterday
Martin Conmey, of Porterstown Lane, Co. Meath, reading his statement to the media on leaving the Four Courts yesterday

Aodhan O'Faolain

A MAN falsely convicted of killing his 19-year-old neighbour 42 years ago said he has "gone through a very difficult life" after a court finally declared his conviction a miscarriage of justice.

Martin Conmey (63) said the conviction "affected my health, and it has been difficult to get through most days.

"I have had to watch my two friends who were accused with me suffer as well for something they were innocent of, one of whom lost his life," he said.

However, he said he was "delighted" at the decision by the Court of Criminal Appeal (CCA) yesterday which finally cleared his name.

In 2010 Mr Conmey was acquitted of the manslaughter of Una Lynskey, 38 years after being jailed for three years for the offence. Yesterday, the court said "it seems obvious in the present case there has been a grave defect in the administration of justice brought about by the members of the State".

Mr Conmey, from Ratoath, Co Meath, embraced friends and family following the ruling. Outside court, he said he was delighted that his name had been cleared.

Mr Conmey's lawyers will now lodge an application for compensation as a result of the CCA's miscarriage of justice finding.

The case arose out of the death of civil servant Una Lynskey who, after getting off a bus from Dublin, disappeared less than half a mile from her home on Porterstown Lane in Ratoath, Co Meath, on October 12, 1971.

Her body was discovered two months later in the Dublin mountains in an advanced state of decomposition. The cause of her death has never been determined.

Mr Conmey and his friend Dick Donnelly were convicted of her manslaughter in July 1972.

A third man, Martin Kerrigan, who was also suspected of having been involved in Ms Lynskey's death, was abducted and killed by Una Lynskey's brothers, Sean and James Lynskey, and her cousin, John Gaughan, nine days after her body was discovered.

Mr Donnelly won his appeal against his conviction in 1973 but Mr Conmey's conviction was upheld and he served three years in jail.

In November 2010, the CCA overturned this conviction after finding that early statements taken from witnesses Martin Madden and Sean Reilly – which tended to favour Mr Conmey – were not disclosed to the defence and were "radically inconsistent" with later statements of the same witnesses and with evidence given at the trial.

The CCA heard the later statements placed Mr Conmey and Mr Donnelly in Mr Donnelly's car on Porterstown lane during the crucial 15-minute period in which Ms Lynskey disappeared.

Arising out of the 2010 decision, Mr Conmey applied to the CCA, based on newly discovered facts, to certify his conviction as being a miscarriage of justice. His counsel, Hugh Hartnett SC, argued that the State had never outlined what part in the killing Mr Conmey was meant to have played and there was no single factual or scientific allegation against him.

In its ruling, the CCA said Mr Conmey was convicted on the basis he was involved in a joint enterprise with others. The establishment of a joint enterprise was essential to any case against Mr Conmey.

The CCA said there was no evidence that established a joint enterprise that Mr Conmey was involved in. On this basis, there had been a miscarriage of justice.

One of the witness statements said that no car passed Porterstown Lane in the relevant time period. There could be no doubting the importance of the evidence that put Mr Conmey in Mr Donnelly's car at the relevant time period, the CCA found.

The only surviving witness, Sean Reilly, now gives an account of having been "severely and unlawfully pressurised by gardai to make the altered statements". His account also includes allegations of physical assault. No other explanation for the changed statements was advanced by the State, the CCA added.

Irish Independent

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