Sunday 18 March 2018

'It's like Hillsborough - deny the problem exists and hope it goes away' - widower of murdered Sylvia Roche Kelly slams report into gardai

Sylvia Roche Kelly
Sylvia Roche Kelly

Sasha Brady

The widower of Sylvia Roche Kelly has given his reaction to the final report of the Commission of Investigation into garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe’s allegations of misconduct in the force.

The report by Mr Justice Kevin O'Higgins identified many problems with garda management and resources in the Cavan-Monaghan division in 2007 and 2008 but said the failures investigated were "at a human level and caused by poorly supervised individuals", according RTÉ News.

It found no evidence of garda corruption.

The report into allegations by whistleblower Garda Maurice McCabe examined, in part, the case of Gerard McGrath of Dundrum in Co. Tipperary.

He was on bail in December 2007 when he murdered Sylvia Roche Kelly at a Limerick hotel, on the night she celebrated her 33rd birthday. She was found lying down in the bath of her hotel room after being violently beaten and strangled.

McGrath had been out on bail for violently assaulting a female taxi driver in Cavan, Mary Lynch, in April 2007. Following the attack he attempted to abduct a five-year-old girl in Tipperary, before going on to murder Ms Roche Kelly.

Jerry McGrath, who was found guilty of false imprisonment of a girl, 5, and of the murder of Ms Roche-Kelly. Photo: TV3
Jerry McGrath, who was found guilty of false imprisonment of a girl, 5, and of the murder of Ms Roche-Kelly. Photo: TV3

The Commission of Investigation that examined allegations of Garda malpractice has found that officers objected to bail being granted to a violent offender.

The report found issues in McGrath's case, but does not apportion blame for Ms Roche Kelly's death to any garda.

Lorcan Roche Kelly, the victim's widower who later unsuccessfully sued the state for releasing McGrath instead of keeping him in custody, said the final report offered "nothing new".

"Nine years of my life I've been living with what has happened. There was nothing new or surprising in the report," he told the Sean O'Rourke show on RTE Radio One.

He said the initial misclassification of the assault on Mary Lynch has been highlighted as a significant failure.

"It was a very serious assault," he said of that attack.

"She was able to find a shopping bag of her own hair in the car afterwards, she'd been assaulted that badly. That was treated as a section two assault, which is a pretty mild thing. That's how it was initially classified.

"In October, he was caught red-handed walking out the door of a house with a five-year-old child under his arm. Only for he was caught red-handed Lord knows what would have happened there," he said.

"The failing was that the initial offence in Cavan was treated so wrong that it never raised any flags for anybody. The gardai in Tipperary - when they were objecting to bail - never mentioned to the judge that the Cavan case was outstanding. The judge in Tipperary gave bail to Jerry McGrath, gave him his freedom and a couple of weeks later he went on to murder Sylvia."

Mr Kelly Roche said he he feels that the gardai didn't object to the bail correctly for not mentioning the Cavan offence.

"My biggest issue with this is that it felt like a cover up from the gardai afterwards. It's taken nine years to get this report... and that's because the gardai have been incredibly uncooperative throughout the entire process to show what happened, to admit to any failings."

Mr Roche Kelly claims that at the murder trial of his wife, when asked by the judge if McGrath had any previous convictions, a member of the gardai described the attack on Mary Lynch as a "conviction of making off without payment".

A couple of months later at the trial for the child abduction, the garda said to the judge that there wasn't any convictions.

"I was watching the Hillsborough documentary on BBC last night and it felt very like that. Rather than admitting there's a problem and having to deal with the problem, deny it exists at all and hope it goes away. Throughout the entire process this is what I've been faced it," Mr Roche Kelly said.

"Nine years later and I have never had the gardai come to me and try explain what has happened. I've never had anyone from the Department of Justice come to me to try and explain what has happened. Nobody has ever approached me and said 'this is where we failed and this is what we're going to do'".

The report found that Mr Roche Kelly was "not well served" by the Garda Ombudsman or the garda investigations.

"I have no faith in the Garda Siochana at all," said Mr Roche Kelly.

He said that he's unsatisfied that the report found "no evidence of corruption" but he's "not surprised".

Speaking of the case he took against the State following the murder of his wife, Mr Roche Kelly said he knew he had close to zero chances of winning.

"My reason for taking the case against the State knowing that our chances of winning the case were close to zero but still the case had to be taken because you have to kick against the door that is the institutional inertia and the institution first-view the gardai have of themselves," he said.

"I have four daughters and hopefully they'll grow up in Ireland but for them to live in a state where they can turn around and say the 'gardai are not institutionally corrupt' or the 'gardai are an institution that looks to the people of Ireland first', we have to keep kicking that door."

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