The prosecution counsel in the trial of a man accused of murdering two women eighteen years ago has told a murder trial jury that if the accused is not guilty, there are a series of "truly amazing coincidences."
Mark Nash (42), who has last addresses at Prussia Street and Clonliffe Road in Dublin, has pleaded not guilty at the Central Criminal Court to the murder of Sylvia Shields (60) and Mary Callanan (61) between March 6 and March 7, 1997.
The trial has heard the two women were living in sheltered accommodation in a house attached to St Brendan’s Psychiatric Hospital in Grangegorman at the time.
Counsel for the State, Mr Brendan Grehan SC today began his closing speech where he told the jury of six men and five women that what "struck" him during the course of the trial was that if a stranger had walked into court 17 in the Central Criminal Courts, they would have wondered who the case was against.
"Something about guards using a baton on Mark Nash and him not getting treatment. There seems to be something about a guard called Super Int Gallagher who was not available to give evidence, who might have had something to do with this case and the fact he was in the room in Mill Street garda station in Galway for five minutes with Mark Nash," he said.
"Or it might have been something about some outrageous contamination happening in Forensic Science Ireland or in a garda station," added Mr Grehan.
The jury previously heard that a jacket belonging to the accused and heavily blood stained clothing and bedding found at the scene were examined in the same room at the laboratory six weeks apart.
During the course of the trial the court also heard that a profile taken from the button threads of the right sleeve of the black velvet jacket belonging to Mark Nash matched Sylvia Shields DNA profile and a DNA profile obtained from a "particle" found inside the seam of the right sleeve of the black velvet jacket, also matched the deceased Mary Callanan.
In reference to this, Mr Grehan put it to the jury that there was a suggestion put by counsel for the defence of DNA blowing around the lab like "snow in a blizzard."
"In my submission, there is a suggestion made that contamination can account for the DNA evidence and this is a desperate and failed attempt to explain away what is the blindingly obvious, that the DNA of two deceased women recovered on the right sleeve of Mark Nash's jacket, got there during the murders, not that contamination was rife and cleaning standards were akin to some back street garage," he said.
Mr Grehan continued by saying that all of these various matters that cropped up are in effect, “mere red herrings” in terms of what this case is about.
"What the prosecution say in a nutshell is that if Mark Nash is not guilty, there are a series of truly amazing coincidences," added Mr Grehan.
Mr Grehan referred to the fact that Mark Nash lived close by to where the Grangegorman murders took place and how the accused was arrested in respect of a totally unrelated matter in August 1997 where he made "volunteered admissions" to committing the killings at Grangegorman.
"He had also alluded to it in correspondence with his girlfriend Sarah Jane Doyle before his arrest in Tuam and before he met with the guards," added Mr Grehan.
"Before he said it to any garda in Mill Street station, he had said it a long the lines to his solicitor. Not only did he follow up with a full statement in custody and while he was in prison in Mountjoy, Mark Nash told the prison chaplain, he wanted him to contact the authorities to tell them he wanted to contact the guards re the Grangegorman murders," put Mr Grehan to the jury.
Mr Grehan told the court how there were over 260 persons of interest in the investigation and that was the way the investigation had progressed in terms of the initial garda views of the case.
The court heard today there was initially no clear suspect in the case despite the efforts of the gardai and no clear DNA was ever recovered from scene.
The court heard that when gardai were alerted to Mark Nash's confessions, they seized some of his clothing including caterpillar boots.
Mr Grehan told the jury that the only significant item recovered by Superintendent Eugene Gilligan was a footprint in lino from the front room of Orchard View in Grangegorman and that footprint was in blood.
"In the aftermath of the terrible murders, one of the sole pieces of evidence which could link Mark Nash to the scene was the footprint of a caterpillar boot and Mark Nash owns a pair of caterpillar boots," said Mr Grehan.
Mr Grehan said this was the "plank in the prosecution's case" and it is "no mere coincidence" that Mark Nash happened to own a pair of caterpillar type 9 boots.
"The jacket identified by Mark Nash found DNA profiles of both deceased ladies. These matters are powerful corroborating evidence of Mark Nash's guilt," added Mr Grehan.
In relation to the DNA belonging to both women being found on the sleeve of Mr Nash's jacket, Mr Grehan put it to the jury: "Due to the similarity of the injuries on the two people, the fork used and found embedded in Mary Callanan also appears to have been used on Sylvia Shields, obviously there was very close contact by hand of the assailant to the bodies of both deceased women, whether it was the act of cutting their throats, stabbing them in the chest, attempting to amputate the breast of Mary Callanan or violence on the genital areas of both of the deceased."
Mr Grehan stressed there would have been very close proximity of the hand area of the assailant with "a lot of tissue and potential blood."
"It appears Mark Nash is right handed and you may have seen him writing and taking notes during the trial, The DNA evidence was retrieved from the lower right hand of the sleeve of the jacket," added Mr Grehan.
Mr Grehan touched upon how Mark Nash came to make his admissions to committing the killings in Galway after he was arrested at Two Mile Ditch, on the Tuam Road in Galway on August 16 1997 for the serious assault of a Sarah Jane Doyle in Roscommon.
The court previously heard that one of the guards who had arrested Mr Nash for the assault of Sarah Jane Doyle at Two Two Mile Ditch, on the Tuam Road in Galway had used a baton.
Mr Grehan dealt with "the baton matter" and how the injury to Mark Nash's head was "entirely dispelled" by the doctor who examined him at the time.
"If there is concern that a head injury or the baton is anything to do with the case, the evidence doesn't support it," added Mr Grehan.
Mr Grehan said Mark Nash made admissions to the Grangegorman murders even before he went to Mill Street garda station, when he sent a letter to Sarah Jane Doyle at Beaumont Hospital which the prosecution say is significant.
"This is the second time I've gone this way, and led to same thing before,” read Mr Grehan to the court today.
Referring to a second letter addressed to Sarah Jane Doyle from Mark Nash, Mr Grehan says reading from the accused's letter: "For a long time now I have violent tendencies. It happened before in Ireland near Prussia st which you will read all about."
The statement taken from Mark Nash by Garda Dillon in Mill Street garda station in Galway was "volunteered" and taken over a relatively brief period of time said Mr Grehan,
"According to Garda Dillon he himself knew very little about the Grangegorman murders at that time, he certainly knew no detail. He said the statement given by Mark Nash was in a free flowing way and the only questions asked was to clarify matters," added Mr Grehan.
"Here is Mark Nash able to say exactly where he was on the night in question. This is fully backed up and supported by other evidence in the case. The guards could not have known and how was it Mark Nash was able to remember with such precision what he was doing on that night and what he was wearing," said Mr Grehan.
Apart from the statement Mark Nash gave he also drew a sketch of the inside of the house at Orchard View in Mill Street garda station.
"It wasn't the guards drawing this and it wasn't simply Mark Nash making a statement but he drew a sketch. If this is something that is made up, here is Mark Nash drawing a further sketch and going to great trouble to do so,” said Mr Grehan.
The court previously heard that Garda Dillon gave evidence that Super Int Gallagher came into the interview room in Mill Street garda station in Galway while Mark Nash was being interviewed.
"One of suggestions that has been floated is that somehow that the boys from Dublin were given information to Galway gardai to enable them to take a statement from Mark Nash."
“No one was looking for Mark Nash for the Grangegorman murders, the Grangegorman murders had been solved, Dean Lyons had confessed and had been charged in respect to one of them, three weeks earlier, what conceivable interest could gardai have in terms of prompting some sort of a statement," put Mr Grehan to the jury.
“This was a huge headache for the gardai, a tremor going through the gardai, one person was in custody charged with a Grangegorman murder when someone else comes along and confesses to it, there can be no conceivable evidence why someone would want to elicit something improper from Mark Nash," continued to Mr Grehan.
Counsel for the prosecution Mr Grehan will continuing his closing speech to the jury in the morning.