Mother-of-four (47) avoids jail after failing to disclose information in connection with 2006 murder
A 47-year-old mother of four has been given a two year suspended sentence for failing to disclose information to gardai in connection with the murder of Noel Crawford in Limerick City in 2006.
Mary Maloney of South Claughan Road, Garryowen, Limerick was charged between December 18 2006 and February 2011, both dates inclusive, with having information which she knew or believed might be of material assistance in securing the apprehension, prosecution or conviction of another person for a serious offence, to wit the murder of Noel Crawford and without reasonable excuse did fail to disclose such information as soon as practicable to a member of An Garda Siochana.
Ms Maloney was arraigned before the Central Criminal Court yesterday where she pleaded not guilty.
Mr Justice Carroll Moran told the jury of six men and six women today that the accused now pleaded guilty and that the prosecution had accepted the plea.
Sergeant Denis Treacy confirmed with Mr Sean Gillane SC prosecuting that Ms Maloneys daughter had been abducted in 2006.
"Late in the hours of December 17th 2006, daughter of the accused Jennifer Fitzgerald was the subject of a harrowing ordeal. She was abducted in Limerick city during the course of which a gun was put to her head and the trigger was actually pulled," said Mr Gillane.
"Whether that was a botched attempt, it was undoubtedly traumatic. She managed to make good her escape," he said.
"Mary went to Limerick city, picked up her daughter and observed the traumatic state she was in. Ms Fitzgerald had observed a member of the family responsible. That's what she believed and communicated to the accused," he confirmed.
The court heard that Ms Maloney rang the garda station in Limerick panicked with what had happened to her daughter.
"In the early hours of December 18th, Ms Maloney brought her daughter to hospital where she met members of An Garda Siochana," said Mr Gillane.
"It appears this information regarding the perpetrator of the abductor became known and Ms Maloney went back to her home with her daughter. While she was there, there were a number of phonecalls on mobile phones," he said.
"The accused was overheard to say 'don't do anything stupid'".
The court heard that the deceased (Noel Crawford), a father of seven who had turned forty that day, was in O'Malley park with his brother.
"In O'Malley park, the deceased was sharing a conversation with his brother at the front door of the house. It was approximately three in the morning when a phonecall was received," he said.
"The brother saw an individual approach wearing a balaclava. Noel Crawford had received a shotgun wound to the abdomen causing his death," he said.
"Ms Maloney was aware of the connection of a close relative of hers with the shooting. Another woman returned to the address. After talking to Ms Maloney, she was asked to get rid of her mobile phone. The accused made a request of the other woman to say that this close relative had been asleep drunk in back of van and the other woman maintained the position that she had no information to give," he said.
"Two individuals were charged and subsequently sentenced. One following a jury verdict of guilty of murder and one who pleaded guilty to manslaughter."
Mr Gillane told the court that Ms Maloney has a number of previous convictions including one for which she received a custodial sentence when she was in her mid teens.
Mr Conor Devally SC defending told the court that Mary Maloney is a mother of four.
"Ms Maloney has four children and in recent years has taken over care of two of her grandchildren," he said.
"December 17th and 18th 2006 were very fraught, incredibly shocking and quite chaotic - there was a lot of high emotion," he said.
Sergeant Treacy confirmed that there has been relative peace and quiet between the families concerned who have moved on and put matters behind them.
Mr Devally said: "These are tragic historic matters - Ms Maloney has moved on and gardai are grateful for the fact that peace has developed - it is the position of the State that notwithstanding the nature of offence is serious, that the conclusion was not affected by the behaviour of the accused."
"She was a close blood relative of the person who may have been implicated at the time - that was her subjective reason. Mrs Maloney has transgressed as an adult and doesn't present any risks to the community," he said.
"Her meeting the case as she has even at this late stage in the day - that relief extends to various persons in the city of Limerick and most of them, who are officers, are present here today."
Mr Justice Carroll Moran said that the plea of guilty removed trauma from any victims of the case and was an acknowledgement by the accused person that they had done wrong.
"Ms Maloney has pleaded guilty to count seven which is a charge of withholding information - information she could have known would have been of material assistance," he said.
"It is always serious to withhold information from gardai, particularly when the offence is one of murder," said Mr Justice Moran.
"The aggravating factor is that somebody lost their life and was murdered - the wrong person was murdered as it was seen. There is no understating the seriousness and gravity of that offence," he said.
"The mitigating factor is the fact that she has pleaded guilty. The plea of guilty removes any trauma that may be suffered by any victims of the case. The plea of guilty is an acknowledgment by the accused person that they have done wrong."
"A further mitigating factor is that there are not any relevant previous convictions - it appears there are two serious convictions for robbery and larceny which go back to when Ms Maloney was 16-years-old. I disregard that as well," he said.
"There is a highly fraught situation that is the background to this offence in which her daughter was abducted and a gun was put to her head and the trigger pulled. It appears to be the case that the daughter was highly traumatised as a result," he said.
"Sergeant Treacy accepts she was not a primary mover in the killing of Mr Crawford.
The subject matter of this case was in 2006 - since then there has been relative peace and quiet between the two families. I also bear in mind that her lack of co-operation did not prevent the prosecution of two people - one for manslaughter one for unlawful murder."
"I want to say to you Ms Maloney, Sergeant Treacy has been extremely fair to you. I have to impose a prison sentence of two years to be suspended for the same period entering into a bond of 100 euro," he said.
Mr Justice Moran told the jury that their presence had induced the plea and assured them that they had not been wasting their time.