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Saturday 17 March 2018

Isolated, barren mountain landscape conceals chilling multitude of grisly murders

Lynette McKeown
Lynette McKeown
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

Dressed in a grey tweed suit, mauve silk blouse and black brimmed hat, the corpse of Honor Bright lay slumped by the Ticknock crossroads. She had been shot through the heart in the early hours of June 9, 1925.

Her body, which had been dumped in a ditch, was discovered by a timber carter who tried to rouse her before running for help. Ms Bright's death became a national talking point because of the scandal surrounding her final moments, coupled with a sense of shame regarding her profession.

Born Elizabeth O'Neill, she lived in the Liberties and worked as a prostitute. She used to walk the streets near St Stephen's Green. The night she was murdered, she had met two distinguished gentlemen; a retired garda superintendent, Leopold J Dillon, and a country GP, Dr PK Purcell. She disappeared with them, and the next time she was seen was lying near the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains.

The men were charged with her murder but were acquitted by a jury after three minutes' deliberation.

Their defence counsel said they had merely succumbed "to the two things men have fallen victim to from the beginning of time - wine and woman".

Since then, a startling number of women have been raped, strangled, beaten and discarded in bog land in the shadows of the mountains.

Elaine O'Hara
Elaine O'Hara

The isolated and barren landscape has concealed a multitude of murders.

While some of these killings are carefully calculated, such as that of childcare worker Elaine O'Hara by architect Graham Dwyer in 2012, others seem less focused but equally devastating.

In 1991, newlywed Patricia O'Toole gave former soldier Sean Courtney a lift when he offered to direct her to a house. Inside the car, Courtney punched her and knocked her out. He shoved her into the passenger seat and drove to Mount Venus Road where he bludgeoned her to death with a rock.

In many cases, women would simply vanish while completing mundane tasks like taking bus journeys home, travelling to music concerts, or getting some last-minute Christmas shopping done.

Marioara Rostas
Marioara Rostas

On December 22, 1979, Phyllis Murphy, a factory worker at Curragh Knitwear, spent the day Christmas shopping in Newbridge. She was last seen at a bus stop outside the Keadeen Hotel shortly after 6.25pm. On January 18, 1980, her body was found at Ballinagee Bridge near Turloch Hill power station.

Twenty-three years were to pass before former Army sergeant and father-of-five John Crerar was convicted of battering her to death.

In 1991, Patricia Doherty, a 30-year-old prison officer and mother-of-two, disappeared while on her way home from Christmas shopping in Tallaght. A man out cutting turf found her body buried in bogland at Glassamucky Brakes near Featherbed Mountain. She was still wearing her long coat, and the keys to her house were in the bog soil.

In July 1982, Patricia Furlong (21) was raped and murdered in a field in Glencullen after attending the annual Fraughan festival near Johnnie Fox's Pub, while in 1987, single mother Antoinette Smith was murdered after returning from a David Bowie concert in Slane.

Other women, in arguably more vulnerable positions in society, have also been targeted by predators.

Romanian teenager Marioara Rostas  had only been in the State 18 days in 2008 when she went missing as she was begging for money from passing motorists at the junction of Lombard St and Pearse St. Her body was found wrapped in plastic in a shallow grave in the mountains four years later. She had died of four bullet wounds to her head.

Layla Brennan had been a dental receptionist but had become addicted to heroin and lost her job as a result. The 24-year-old then turned to prostitution to pay for the addiction. On the night of her death on March 2, 1999, she was walking along Nassau Street when double rapist Philip Colgan pulled up alongside, asking for directions. Colgan strangled her with her bra before dumping her body in the Dublin Mountains.

In 2004, Lynette McKeown, a 19-year-old heroin addict working as a street prostitute in Arbour Hill, disappeared. A week later her naked body was found in a ditch off the N81.

The fear that must have engulfed all these women in their final moments hangs heavy on the crest of the mountains, and makes the tragedy of each of these killings deafening.

Irish Independent

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