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Monday 17 June 2019

Garda homophobia played a part in the failure to solve case


Old fashioned homophobic bigotry on the part of some gardai -- not involved in the investigation towards the gay community in the early Eighties -- may well have played a part in the failure to solve Dublin's most high profile gay killing in 1982, former detectives have admitted.

The case of Charlie Self, a 33-year-old set designer with RTE, who was brutally murdered at his south Dublin home on January 21, 1982, is currently one of more than 100 "cold cases" being reviewed by the Garda Serious Crime Review Team.

Self, who had shared a house with the then high-profile RTE DJ Vincent Hanley until shortly before his death, was the victim of a vicious knife attack. He was stabbed at least 14 times in the chest and the blade penetrated right through his back six times.

Two fingerprints at Self's house in Annesley Mews, Brighton Avenue in Monkstown were never matched.

Gardai questioned some 1,500 people as part of the investigation and narrowed the suspects down to two young men, both homosexual prostitutes. One had an alibi and the other could not be identified by a witness who had seen the set designer with a young man at a late-opening café on the night of the murder.

But one of the main problems facing the detectives was that despite their best efforts there was a lack of co-operation from the largely underground gay community in Dublin -- at the time homosexuality itself and sex between even consenting adult males were crimes.

In his book entitled Murders in Ireland, Stephen Rae quoted a garda report in the murder file as stating that the gay-rights organisations of the time "were not helpful to us in our inquiries".

A detective recalled that there were a number of "thick, ignorant" gardai -- not involved in the investigation -- who made clear their distaste for gay men. One was even known to have chased a young man through the city centre after an incident at Burgh Quay, which was a known area for gay 'cruising' near the public toilets. It was said that the detective, in plain clothes, had been leaning over the quay wall smoking a cigarette when a passing young gay man took him for another homosexual and nipped his bottom.

Detectives involved in the search for Charlie Self's killer said the behaviour of some gardai created a situation where the gay community was resentful and some refused to co-operate. They even sent gardai a message from a solicitor to this effect, one recalled.

At that time, gay men who suffered attacks or who needed garda help only went to Pearse Street station in the city centre as gardai there were seen as being more sympathetic than the force in general, one recalled last week.

The main gay cruising areas were around Temple Bar, which was then run down and generally shabby, and the laneways east of Tara Street DART station in the Pearse Street district.

It was recalled that Charlie Self had been robbed in his Monkstown home the year prior to his death by a young man, whose name he didn't know and whom he had brought home after meeting him in the city centre. He went into town to make the complaint in Pearse Street rather than report it locally.

On the night he was murdered, Self had been cruising around Dublin city centre, visiting a number of establishments, including the well-known gay bar, Bartley Dunnes. He left the city in a taxi in the company of a young man. Self spent large amounts of money on young male prostitutes.

An RTE colleague who was sharing the house -- he had taken the room vacated by Vincent Hanley -- found his body the next morning. He said he was disturbed at around 2.30am by a young man with dark hair who came into his room and said: "sorry, wrong room" or words to that effect, before leaving. He told gardai it was not unusual for Mr Self to bring young men back to the house and he didn't feel concerned.

Gardai found a particularly nasty five-inch long stab wound on the victim's neck. A ligature was tied round the neck after this wound had been inflicted. Self's living room had been ransacked but robbery did not appear to be a motive.

The killer left through the garden window, leaving footprints in the blood on the carpet. People living nearby did not notice anything unusual that could help the investigation.

Self, who was born in England but brought up in Scotland, worked for the BBC before joining RTE as a set designer seven years before his death. He was well known and liked at Montrose and designed sets for The Late Late Show and Twink's Christmas Special shortly before the murder.

Sunday Independent

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