Wednesday 21 March 2018

Kilcock fire: Chief suspect in triple murder investigation 'not previously known to gardaí'

Man arrested as part of garda probe into 1987 triple murder house fire 'known to victim'

The house in Kilcock where Kerri Ann and Mary Ellen Byrne (pictured inset above with their mother Elizabeth) died with their aunt, Barbara Doyle (inset below), who was babysitting them in 1987
The house in Kilcock where Kerri Ann and Mary Ellen Byrne (pictured inset above with their mother Elizabeth) died with their aunt, Barbara Doyle (inset below), who was babysitting them in 1987

Ken Foy

A man arrested in connection with the triple murder of two young sisters and their aunt, who died in a house fire 30 years ago, was well known to the adult victim.

A 50-year-old man, who sources say is the "chief suspect", was arrested in north Co Dublin yesterday afternoon and was held at Leixlip Garda station.

The man had not come to the attention of gardaí previously and does not have a criminal record.

Kerrie Ann Byrne (5), her sister Mary Ellen (8), and their aunt Barbara Doyle (20), who was babysitting them at the time, died in the blaze at the children's home in Church Lane, Kilcock, on September 20, 1987.

It is believed that tragic Barbara was a personal target of the man who was arrested in connection with the deaths. She was single at the time of her murder and had been living in Kilcock, Co Kildare.

"There is no doubt that the individual in custody is the chief suspect in the case," a source said. "This arrest had been expected for a number of weeks after gardaí received key new information."

Kerrie and Mary's parents Aidan - who died in 2013 - and Elizabeth had gone to a 21st birthday party on the fateful night in the local area and Barbara was minding the girls.

Last week, gardaí said that evidence uncovered during a cold case review turned the investigation into a triple murder inquiry.

Gardaí said they found evidence that they can not disclose in the event of a prosecution, but this led them to believe the fire was started deliberately.

After making a public appeal for information last Wednesday, officers later thanked members of the public who came forward and provided information to the investigation team.

Chief Superintendent Gerard Roche said: "We are satisfied there are people who will remember this fire and the deaths of Barbara, Mary Ellen, and Kerrie, and who have not yet spoken to gardaí." He asked these people to contact investigating officers.

Speaking at an earlier press conference in Leixlip, Mr Roche said that "new evidence" had sparked the decision to upgrade the investigation on the 30th anniversary of the tragedy.

"New information has come into our possession and we now believe the fire was started deliberately," Supt Roche said.

"This case has never been closed, from time to time it has been revisited, but within the last five years it has been reviewed with the serious crime review team also helping to develop the case further."

The young girls' mother, Elizabeth Byrne, who still lives in the house where the fire occurred, was not surprised by the news of the murder investigation on the tragedy's 30th anniversary as gardaí have been liaising with her regarding the inquiry for some time.

Supt Roche said that the investigating team feel it is "significant" that the fire was reported between 3am and 4am that day.

"It's significant because we believe people may have been travelling home from the 21st who could have seen things in the vicinity," he explained.

Irish Independent

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