Sunday 22 April 2018

Killer Mark Nash pictured relaxing with a beer at table quiz just hours before brutal Grangegorman double murders

Mark Nash at a table quiz just hours before brutal double murder (Photo: Prime Time)
Mark Nash at a table quiz just hours before brutal double murder (Photo: Prime Time)
Sylvia Sheils captured on CCTV hours before the murders (Photo: Prime Time) Newsdesk Newsdesk

Mark Nash relaxed with a beer at a local table quiz just hours before he brutally murdered two women at their sheltered accommodation in Grangegorman in Dublin nearly twenty years ago.

This is the final image taken of convicted double murderer Mark Nash before the Grangegorman killings in 1997, of which he was finally convicted of this week.

When found guilty of the double murder at the Central Criminal Court yesterday, Nash was already serving a double life sentence in Arbour Hill Prison since October 1998 for murdering two people in Ballintober, Castlerea in Roscommon and leaving Sarah Jane Doyle seriously injured in mid-August in 1997.

The 42-year-old, who is originally from England but has last addresses at Prussia Street and Clonliffe Road in Dublin, had pleaded not guilty at the Central Criminal Court to the murder of Sylvia Sheils (59) and Mary Callanan (61) at Grangegorman between March 6 and March 7, 1997.

This photo, obtained by RTE’s Prime Time, shows Nash sitting at a table with three others at a table quiz. On the back of his chair is the black jacket that would 12 years later indicate the presence of the DNA of both murder victims in a spectacular breakthrough.

Dr Linda Williams of Forensic Science Ireland told the court during the murder trial she got a profile match from the threads of the jacket to Ms Sheils' DNA and a 'particle' from inside the seam of the sleeve matched Ms Callinan .

Sylvia Sheils captured on CCTV hours before the murders (Photo: Prime Time)
Sylvia Sheils captured on CCTV hours before the murders (Photo: Prime Time)

The bodies of Mary Callanan and Sylvia Shiels were discovered at 6am on March 7, 1997. Ann Mernagh (46), a resident in No 1 Orchard View, Grangegorman left her bedroom to make breakfast.

The house was part of an independent but supported living complex for those with mental illness.

Ann arrived at the bottom of the staircase and noticed that her handbag was upturned on the ground and that there was a light on in the sitting room.

Entering the kitchen, she saw that the window was open and the wind was blowing the curtains. The drawers in the kitchen press had been opened and one drawer had been removed and placed on the floor.

She ran upstairs to tell Sylvia Sheils, another resident in the house, but when she entered Sylvia's bedroom on the first floor, she was met by an appalling sight.

Sylvia was lying across the bed with her feet on the ground.

She was wearing a slip which had been pulled up around her chest and there was blood around her neck and around her on the bed.

Realising that Sylvia was dead, Ann ran to raise the alarm.

It was then discovered that resident Mary Callinan had also been butchered in cold blood.

Mary (61) was a grey-haired lady from Cabra in Dublin who had been an inpatient at St Brendan's Hospital from 1966 and had lived in the house in Grangegorman since 1988.

Sylvia Sheils was a 60-year-old former civil servant who was first admitted to St Brendan's Hospital in 1980, suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

She had been living in the house since 1994.

Pathologist Prof John Harbison conducted a post-mortem at the city morgue.

Both women had been brutally slain in a manner that defied description, the horrifying details of which were not revealed to the public at the time.

Both their throats had been cut and both had suffered numerous horrific genital and facial injuries. Two electric carving knife blades were recovered from Mary Callinan's room and two knives from Sylvia's.

Grangegorman was convulsed by the killings and it was almost the only topic of conversation for months on end.

A Dublin heroin user with learning disabilities named Dean Lyons (23) was implicated by two burglars. After making false confessions to those murders, he was wrongly imprisoned for nine months. Charges against him were dropped, but legal challenges to Nash's trial going ahead continued for years before his guilty verdict on Monday.

Victim Mary Callinan has no living relatives. Only Sylvia Shiel's sister, Stella Nolan (81), was left to see justice for her talented sibling with the beautiful blue eyes.

The heartfelt words of Ms Nolan were read out by her daughter Suzanne Nolan to the court this week.

On Friday, March 7, 1997, Stella Nolan learned that her sister had been murdered while she slept in her bed.

"For 18 years, justice has been delayed and justice delayed is justice denied. Not only for me, but for my family. Murder does not affect one person only - it affects the whole family," she said through her daughter.

She told how they endured judicial reviews and appeals as they waited for 18 years for justice. She told how she also knew Ms Callinan, who has no surviving relatives.

In Stella's words, Suzanne Nolan told how the murders had affected the lives of three families - Mary's and Sylvia's - but also the family of Dean Lyons, an innocent man imprisoned for nine months for their deaths.

Described as a peace-loving, gentle and sincere person, the court heard Ms Sheils was never violent and lived a quiet life. She had been a civil servant for 20 years.

"Sylvia and Mary's lives were taken from them while they slept in their beds. They had mental health issues and were very vulnerable women. They were completely innocent. They played no part in what happened to them," she said, adding it had been difficult to hear of the violence and instruments used to kill and mutilate them.

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