Tuesday 17 September 2019

'Someone killed Grace but it wasn't Jimmy Livingstone,' says ex-cop

In a new memoir, a now retired detective recalls his review of an infamous murder

James Livingstone
James Livingstone
Mystery: Retired detective Tom Connolly (pictured) believes Grace Livingstone's 'real killer' got away while the focus was on her husband James Livingstone. In 2008, Livingstone sued the State for wrongful arrest Photo: Gerry Mooney
Grace Livingstone
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

On December 7, 1992, Grace Livingstone (57), a mother of two, housewife, flower arranger and gardener, was murdered in the bedroom of her home in a middle-class housing estate in the seaside Dublin suburb of Malahide

Her hands and feet were bound with two-inch-wide black adhesive tape, another strip was plastered across her mouth. She lay on her stomach on the bed. The killer took her husband's gun from a wardrobe and shot her in the back of the head. Downstairs, a small heap of dust was on the kitchen floor and a sweeping brush leant against the kitchen units.

The garda investigation team soon had a prime suspect; Grace's husband, James Livingstone, a special investigator with the Revenue Commissioners, a member of the FCA and used to firearms.

When Detective Superintendent Tom Connolly was sent in by his bosses to review the investigation eight months after Grace was murdered, he reached an entirely different conclusion.

"Someone killed her but it wasn't Jimmy Livingstone," the now-retired officer said in an interview with the Sunday Independent last week.

Cork-born Connolly, one of the force's most senior serious crime investigators for many years, has written a memoir recording his 39 years as a garda. Called Detective: A Life Upholding the Law, it recounts in painstaking detail his investigations into the murders of five gardai, his colleagues Seamus Quaid, Henry Byrne and John Morley, and of murdered young women, such as Elizabeth Brennan and Mary Duffy.

The Livingstone case was one of the last high-profile cases he dealt with before he retired in 1994. In late August 1993, Connolly was summoned by Deputy Garda Commissioner Tom O'Reilly: "I have a nice job for you," he said. But Connolly found it an "unpleasant task".

"The investigation was over. The file was prepared. It went to the Commissioner. He read it and he got me to review the investigation. He had reservations about it," said Connolly.

By that time, James Livingstone had been arrested for the offence of having an unlicensed firearm, taken from his home in handcuffs in front of television cameras, and spent almost two days in custody.

His workplace, Setanta House, the headquarters of the Revenue Commissioners, was searched. According to Connolly, "people began to shun him, many clearly holding the view that he was responsible for his wife's death."

When Connolly began his review, he was told "constantly" that Livingstone had killed his wife when he came home from work.

"I got the file. I got all the documentation. I went through everything with a fine comb and I couldn't get one shred of reliable evidence that he had any hand, act or part in his wife's death," he said.

On the morning of December 7, Jimmy Livingstone left the family home at The Moorings and drove to work in Kildare Street as usual, picking up his colleague, Art O'Connor. Livingstone was there all day. In Malahide, Grace went to the shop, and was last seen alive chatting to a neighbour on her porch after 2pm.

That evening, Jimmy Livingstone dropped Art O'Connor off first - they lived minutes apart. Both men told gardai they got in at 5.50pm. Livingstone said the house was in darkness. He expected to smell cooking - they were going to his late brother's anniversary Mass in Monaghan that evening and agreed to eat before leaving at 6pm.

He went upstairs to the bedroom, found Grace in darkness, killed with his own gun. Another gun was later found in a hedge outside.

He ran across the road to his neighbours - both nurses - and at 5.58pm phoned the ambulance. The local GP, Dr Moodley, who arrived at 6.35pm, believed that Grace had been dead for two hours. The pathologist, Dr John Harbison, who arrived at 11.30pm, put the time of death at around 6pm, which meant that Livingstone could have done it.

In his book, Connolly writes that the original investigation team "listed 25 reasons" why Jimmy Livingstone was the main suspect, but he couldn't find a "shred of credible evidence" to suggest he was involved in his wife's death.

Connolly instead found "credible" evidence that he was not involved. There was no smell of cordite - as would be expected if Grace had been shot sometime between 5.50pm, when Livingstone got home, and 5.58pm when he called the ambulance. There was no firearms residue on his clothes. A finger mark on the tape was never identified.

Connolly called to Dr Moodley's surgery. He knew what Dr Harbison said but his professional opinion was that Grace Livingstone was dead for approximately two hours when he saw her at 6.35pm. Connolly then spoke to Harbison. "His reply was: 'I could not argue with Dr Moodley's opinion."

He went back over the unexplained sightings of men - who did not make it on to the original suspect list.

One was a young man with collar-length hair and a long coat.

School girls at the corner of the Livingstones' cul-de-sac saw a man in a fawn trench coat at around 4.30pm. Another schoolgirl, who lived on the same cul-de-sac, walked past a man in a trench coat before she reached the Livingstones' house. When she next turned back to look, he was gone. Where?

A landscape gardener working on a house almost opposite the Livingstones packed up as darkness fell. But he didn't have a watch. He turned in the Livingstones' driveway and saw a young man with collar-length hair in the porch picking up a Yucca plant, and then go back inside the house.

There were unexplained noises. At least two neighbours heard loud bangs on or after 4.30pm. Another described hearing a bang but was not sure whether it was before 2.30pm.

Two motorists claimed to have seen someone driving a red car erratically not far from the cul-de-sac - one at 4pm and one at 5pm - on the day of the murder. A third witness later came forward after seeing a garda patrol.

The review team conducted tests at the house, firing off Livingstone's gun. But no matter what way they looked at it, according to Connolly, they "could not find any credible evidence whatsoever" that Grace was alive when Jimmy Livingstone got home from work at 5.50pm.

The review team traced and interviewed two "persons of interest". One was an English charity collector who had been in Dublin collecting with other collectors in the area on that day. His colleagues claimed he used to rob houses where they were collecting but he had returned to the UK shortly before Christmas 1992. It turned out he had a criminal record but his fingerprints didn't match.

A second man was also traced to the UK. This man had a conviction for assault, and had been on the dole for a while in Dublin. He claimed he had a girlfriend whose sister lived 200 yards from the Livingstones. His finger prints didn't match those on the tape either.

Connolly submitted his report. It concluded that there was no evidence that Livingstone was the murderer, and included his belief that Grace was killed before 5pm, and when Livingstone was still in work.

Years later, in 2008, Livingstone sued the State for damages for wrongful arrest. Tom Connolly, who was then retired, was one of the witnesses. But the case was settled before Connolly was called to testify. Afterwards the State said Livingstone was entitled to full presumption of innocence.

Connolly felt torn loyalties but was "delighted" for Jimmy Livingstone.

"My wife died in 2008," said Connolly. ". . .I could understand how a person would feel if their wife was murdered, and be blamed the whole time for it. Not alone by the guards, but by the general public. I think most people thought he did it."

As far as Connolly is concerned, the "real culprit" got away, while the focus was on Jimmy Livingstone.

Detective: A Life Upholding the Law (O'Brien Press, €14.99)

Sunday Independent

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