Wednesday 24 January 2018

Mark Nash: Profile of a notorious killer

Mark Nash
Mark Nash
Denise Calnan

Denise Calnan

IN October 1998 Mark Nash was sentenced to life in a Central Criminal Court trial for the horrrific double murder of a young couple at their home in Co Roscommon.

Catherine Doyle (28) and her husband Carl (29) were brutally killed at their home in Caran, Ballintober, Castlerea on August 16, 1997.

A garda sergeant discovered a seven-year-old boy and two crying babies at the scene of the double murder.

Catherine's sister, Sarah Jane Doyle pretended to be dead after Nash - her then-boyfriend - pushed her down a stairs and repeatedly hit her over the head with an iron object during the violent frenzy. She would later say she had "no idea" why her former boyfriend attacked her.

"He told me that I had to die. He said it a few times. Catherine pulled him off me and then it just all went black,'' she said in evidence.

Ms Doyle, who was 19 years old at the time, dragged herself through long grass to a neighbour's house to raise the alarm.

Mark Nash
Mark Nash

She had met Nash, who said he was from Leeds, about four months earlier in the Vatican bar in Dublin city centre.

Here she got talking to a man by the name of Mark Nash, who said he was from Leeds.

“He was foreign-looking, had curly hair and was with his three friends in the nightclub," she would later say in evidence.

"I talked to him all night and danced with him.

“He was drinking Southern Comfort. He sold advertising on bus shelters and said he lived in a flat.”

Mark Nash told Ms Doyle he had a daughter.

Read more: Timeline: The Grangegorman murders... 18 years later Nash is found guilty

The next day, Ms Doyle and her son met Mark Nash and his daughter outside Burger King on O’Connell Street.

They began seeing each other regularly after this, and at weekends Mark Nash would go to her house, or Ms Doyle to his.

Soon they were living together, but there was no hint of violence until early August when Ms Doyle indicated that she wanted to move to Roscommon to be closer to her family - and Nash broke a television in anger, but did not hit her.

She decided to visit her sister in Roscommon that weekend, and Nash agreed to go with her, bringing their children.

Along with Catherine and Carl, they had a small house party. Nash was sick in the bathroom at one point but apart from this he "seemed okay, he said he was alright" Ms Doyle said.

However, he suddenly attacked her violently and despite her screaming at him to stop, he laughed at her and pushed her down the stairs.

"Then I stopped screaming and just lay there in the hope that he was going to leave me alone,'' she said.

When she opened her eyes again, Nash was not there and she crawled through the kitchenette to the back door and out to long grass near a shed at the back of the house. She eventually dragged herself to a neighbour's house to raise the alarm.

Garda witnesses would tell the court of the horrific, bloodstained scene they came upon at the two-storey house five miles outside Castlerea. Catherine and Carl were dead. They were parents of four children.

It took the jury just over two-and-a-half hours to find Nash guilty of murdering Catherine Doyle who had been stabbed 16 times and of injuring her sister who had been bludgeoned about the head with a stove handle.

Half-an-hour later they unanimously found Nash guilty of murdering Carl Doyle who was stabbed six times. The prosecution maintained that the young man was asleep when he was attacked with a knife, fragments of which were still in his t-shirt when the bodies were discovered.

Nash showed no emotion as he was given the two life sentences for murder and another eight years for the attack on his former girlfriend.

Both families expressed their relief but Joe Doyle, Carl's father, said: "Unfortunately it won't bring Carl and Catherine back.''

"We just want to get on with our lives now. We have a lot on our minds and we're glad this is over,'' he added.

He said the family had tried to shield Carl and Catherine's four children from publicity about the trial.

"They know something is going on,'' he said.

Catherine's 16-year-old brother James wept as the case ended and he phoned his family from a public phone in the Four Courts to tell them of the guilty verdicts. He told reporters that his parents were distraught.

Describing Nash as "evil not mad'', the teenager added; "He has destroyed so many lives. My mother is in bits.''

At the time, Nash also admitted to the double killing of Mary Callanan (61) and Sylvia Shiels (59), who were both patients in Grangegorman psychiatric hospital in March 1997.

The two woman had been staying in a residence on the hospital’s grounds.

Their bodies had been discovered by security officials and each had sustained horrific and multiple fatal injuries with a carving fork and other implements.

This horrific attack occurred just five months before the Roscommon killings, but a 24-year-old Dublin man - Dean Lyons from Tallaght - had been charged with one of the Grangegorman murders after he had ‘confessed’ to gardai.

However, Nash told detectives how he killed the two women, and was able to give gardai information that had not been published in the media.

Following Nash’s admission, the charge against Dean Lyons was dropped.

However, Nash later retracted his statement in a number of verbal and written communications with gardai.

Lyons died in September 2000 - apparently from a heroin overdose - in a friend's house in Manchester after he was released from Strangeways prison in England. An apology to his family was later published in the national media.

The Grangegorman crime remained unsolved.

By 2002 major advances in DNA technology raised garda investigators' hopes that they would ultimately be able to provide sufficient evidence to substantiate charges.

Fresh tests were carried out on materials retrieved from the scene of the horrific crimes.

Gardai sent the materials and clothing to a laboratory in the UK for examination, and hoped further advances with DNA probing would eventually lead to a breakthrough.

In February 2005, detectives investigating the murders sent more samples taken from a window sill in the kitchen of the house where Mary Callanan and Sylvia Shiels had lived.

It was believed their killer cut himself as he broke a pane of glass to open the window and gain access.

By that time, the Director of Public Prosecutions had directed that no charges be brought against Nash in relation to Grangegorman unless evidence other than his statements of admission to gardai was produced.

In August 2012, Nash failed in a High Court bid to restrain the Director of Public Prosecutions from charging him with the double murder.

Nash had sought the injunction on the grounds of prosecutorial delay, adverse publicity, prejudice due to unavailability of witnesses and the manner of care and storage of items of prosecution evidence from which purported identification evidence was derived.

Mr Justice Michael Moriarty, in rejecting Nash’s application, said the Grangegorman double murder was as horrific a crime as virtually any in living memory.

On the 19 January 2015, the jury were finally sworn in for the Grangegorman murder trial.

Nash (now aged 42) pleaded not guilty at the Central Criminal Court to the murder of Ms Shields and Ms Callanan between March 6 and March 7, 1997, now 18 years ago.

Retired State Pathologist John Harbison was one of the first witnesses to give evidence.

He told the court that the serious injuries to two women found dead was "outside" his experience in 26 years.

Another witness for the prosecution, Detective Garda Eugene Gilligan, since retired said he arrived at Orchard View, Grangegorman on the morning of March 7 1997 where in the kitchen he found three drawers open, the second drawer contained kitchen utensils, while the third drawer containing a loose cutlery tray lay on the floor.

Mr Gilligan told the court how he first identified the body of Mary Callanan at the house, who was found in her bedroom wearing a blue floral nightdress which had been gathered around her upper chest with just a slipper on her right foot.

Two electric carving knife blades were found in her bedroom, one beside her neck and another on the floor.

A third kitchen fork, which featured a red handle, was found protruding from her body.

The jury of seven men and five women were then told by Mr Gilligan that Sylvia Shiels body was found lying on her back across her bed with her feet on the ground.

She was found wearing a bra, a black slip and the torn remains of her knickers were attached to her left thigh.

Ms Shiels had sustained numerous injuries including to neck, head, chest, and abdomen.

Retired Detective Garda Gilligan said two knives were found in her bedroom

Evidence was heard for 48 days.

Before jury deliberations Mr Justice Moran told the jury there were two counts against the accused.

"You could bring in different verdicts on two counts and I don’t want to trespass into your deliberations but in reality there should only be one verdict on the two counts,” Mr Justice Moran told the jury.

“The evidence has been that the same man probably committed the two murders and the similarity of injuries with the cutting of throats and genital mutilation.

“It is most likely that the same person committed both murders but whether it was the accused is a separate matter.”

In his charge to the jury, Mr Justice Moran told the jury members that the murder was based on three things, the admissions made by the accused, the print of the caterpillar boot found in bedroom number one of Orchard View, and the scientific evidence and DNA.

He put it to the jury: "You are chosen at random from the electorate list, you come from all walks of life, different backgrounds, are of both sexes and that’s deliberate and the theory is you all bring all of your experience of life and put it into the one pot, out of which will come the correct verdict."

"You will have sympathy and compassion for accused that’s natural. You have to put all such sympathies aside and look at matters as calculating and dispassionately as you can."

Now guilty of four murders, Mark Nash will await sentencing in the knowledge that he is one of Ireland's most-notorious killers.

Online Editors

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