Man facing trial for murder of widow in 1987 gets bail despite fears over witness intimidation
A cold case murder accused has been granted bail after the Court of Appeal reversed a High Court decision to detain him in custody due to fears about potential interference with witnesses.
John Joseph Malone (52) is to face trial for the murder of widow Ann Nancy Smyth (79), whose body was found during a blaze at her Kilkenny city home in 1987.
Mr Malone was charged last October, three years after gardaí reopened the case and 28 years after Ms Smyth's death.
The accused was twice refused bail after Mr Justice Michael Moriarty heard evidence from a witness in his forthcoming trial about two incidents of alleged intimidation.
However, in a ruling published this week, the Court of Appeal decided to reverse the decision not to allow bail, ruling Mr Malone could be freed as long as there were restrictions on his movements.
The ruling outlined testimony previously given by pensioner Jude Curran to Mr Justice Moriarty in the High Court.
It is claimed Mr Malone confessed to Mr Curran that he murdered Ms Smyth.
Mr Curran described how the accused visited his house in 2010. He claimed Mr Malone picked up a large knife and stuck it into the kitchen table while at the same time telling Mr Curran that the pensioner could have him arrested and sent to prison for what he had told him.
Mr Curran said he had found this behaviour threatening.
He also alleged that a brother of the accused, Paul Malone, had approached him outside his house and showed him witness statements, including one made by the pensioner. He said Paul Malone stated to him that gardaí would not always be around to protect him, comments Mr Curran found threatening.
The accused denied any involvement in the incident involving his brother and Mr Justice Moriarty accepted there was no evidence that he was involved. However, after hearing Mr Curran's evidence, Mr Justice Moriarty expressed fears about Mr Malone living in Kilkenny "within close proximity to witnesses in the case".
The judge said Kilkenny was "a small medieval city in size and could not be compared to Dublin or even Cork or Galway".
But following an appeal by Mr Malone, the Court of Appeal reversed the High Court decision, granting bail on strict conditions.
In a judgment by Mr Justice Alan Mahon, the court said it had to have regard to Mr Malone's constitutional presumption of innocence and the lack of evidence of any actual or attempted intimidation of Mr Curran or any other prosecution witness by the accused since 2010. Mr Justice Mahon said the court also had to have regard to the fact that his trial is not scheduled to begin until March 2017.
He said Mr Malone could be released on bail if two independent sureties totalling €7,500 in cash were provided.
The accused will have to live at his mother's home in Newpark, Kilkenny, and must also surrender his passport.
He will be forbidden from entering the part of Kilkenny city north of the River Nore, other than to sign on daily at the Garda station.
Mr Malone must also refrain from contacting Mr Curran and other prosecution witnesses.