GARDAI have refused to dismiss a sensational new claim that they were involved in a top-level cover-up in the case of murdered priest Fr Niall Molloy.
The allegation has been read by thousands of people who bought the Christmas bestseller Badfellas by leading crime writer Paul Williams.
In it, he says that notorious Dublin criminal John Traynor returned the stolen Garda file on the Molloy case in return for a promise that charges against him would be dropped.
Williams says “The file contained notes and statements that certain people in power did not want in the public domain.”
John Traynor is the prime suspect in the murder of Sunday Independent journalist Veronica Guerin. He was the crime reporter’s main underworld source, and prior to her murder was seeking a High Court injunction to prevent her writing about his connections with organised crime.
He fled the country after her death in June 1996 yet Gardai have always claimed they did not have sufficient evidence to link him to her murder.
A nephew of Fr Molloy, Bill Maher, whose family have been denied justice for almost 27 years, said this week:
“If this extraordinary claim is untrue, why won’t the Gardai come straight out and deny it?
“The country’s top crime reporter is effectively saying the police acted corruptly in this case. Either he is right or he is wrong. Why this silence from the Gardai? Our family has suffered long enough in the pursuit of justice for our beloved uncle and we are now calling on Commissioner Martin Callanan to answer these charges.”
Fr Molloy was brutally beaten to death in July 1985 in the aftermath of a lavish society wedding in the home of his close friends Theresa and Richard Flynn in Clara, Co Offaly.
Among the high-profile guests was Brian Lenihan senior, the then deputy leader of Fianna Fáil and former minister for justice.
A post mortem found that the 52-year-old Roscommon curate died as a result of numerous blows to the head.
The bride’s father, Richard Flynn, was charged in court with manslaughter one year later. But the trial judge directed that Mr Flynn be acquitted on the grounds that Fr Molloy may have died of a heart attack.
At the inquest one month later, a jury ruled out the possibility of heart failure and decided unanimously after 12 minutes that the priest had died as a result of acute brain hemorrhage consistent with severe injuries to the head.
It subsequently emerged that Justice Roe was an acquaintance of the Flynns and had written to the then DPP Eamonn Barnes in advance of the trial, in an attempt to subvert the course of justice.
These letters were contained in the Garda file, which was stolen from the DPP’s office by Martin ‘The General’ Cahill in 1987. Cahill broke into the office after hearing that the file contained information that would embarrass the authorities.
In the midlands, it is widely believed that people other than Richard Flynn were responsible for the murder.
In October 2010, the Irish Independent uncovered vital new evidence that other people were present in the Clara mansion on the night of the murder, including a county surgeon with close connections to Fianna Fáil.
Six months after Fr Molloy’s death, this doctor died suddenly at the age of 50 after confessing to a friend that his life was in turmoil as a result of what had happened in Clara that night.
This and other critical information including new witness statements were given to the Gardai by the Irish Independent, and former commissioner Fachtna Murphy called for a review of the case by the Cold Case unit, which has been ongoing now for more than a year. At the time, both Labour and Fine Gael pledged that the case warranted a public inquiry.
Last month, the Molloy family expressed their ‘utter disillusionment’ at the pace of the new Garda review and said they had a distinct impression that it would not bring their uncle’s killers to justice.
“From the very start, we have been so disturbed and frustrated by the Gardai’s handling of the case,” said Mr Maher.
“The initial investigation was grossly incompetent. Vital evidence, including Niall’s broken watch, was handed back to us hours after his murder, and to this day, with all the modern technology available to the Guards, blood found in the house has still not been identified.”
Two Gardai involved in the case have also expressed their disbelief at the state’s failure to deliver justice. The first officer at the scene of the crime, retired Sergeant Kevin Forde, says he is bewildered that the killers are still at large.
Last night, former detective inspector and Evening Herald columnist Gerry O’Carroll, who initiated his own investigation into the case following personal concerns of a cover-up, described the revelations regarding John Traynor as “disturbing in the extreme.”
“I could never understand why Traynor, the number one suspect in Veronica Guerin’s murder, was allowed to come in and out of our country with impunity,” he said.
“The allegation that he may have escaped all these years because he handed over the Fr Molloy file is utterly shocking and merits an immediate independent judicial inquiry, given all the new evidence pointing to a state cover-up.
“I tried to pursue this case privately because I was so concerned that justice had not been done, and I was hit over the knuckles by the authorities for stepping outside my remit and almost confined to barracks for it.
Known in gangland circles as the ‘Coach’, Traynor (63) is currently in custody in Britain where he is serving a sentence for handling stolen bearer bonds.