Monday 23 October 2017

Litany of failures over handling of complaints raises fresh concerns

Sylvia Roche-Kelly (33), whose body was discovered in a Limerick hotel in 2007 after birthday party. Inset, her killer Jerry McGrath
Sylvia Roche-Kelly (33), whose body was discovered in a Limerick hotel in 2007 after birthday party. Inset, her killer Jerry McGrath
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

CONCERNS exist over how gardai and the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) handled complaints about cases involving jailed murderer Jerry McGrath.

The report by barrister Sean Guerin said there was "cause for concern as to the adequacy of the investigation of the complaints" made by Sgt Maurice McCabe.

The handling of two investigations into McGrath by gardai has been the subject of controversy after he was free to murder separated mother Sylvia Roche-Kelly in Limerick in December 2007 despite having been arrested over two incidents in the previous months.

These were the assault of a taxi driver in Virginia, Co Cavan in April 2007, and the abduction of a five-year-old girl from her bed in Dundrum, Co Tipperary, that October. On December 8, 2007, less than six weeks after the abduction, McGrath met Sylvia Roche-Kelly in a Limerick City nightclub where she was celebrating her 33rd birthday and later strangled her to death.

He was on bail for the two previous incidents at the time.

In the dossier compiled by Sgt McCabe, he alleged that a Garda superintendent had the full details of both incidents, but did nothing.

The Guerin Report found that gardai in Cavan and Tipperary did not have an appreciation of the seriousness of each other's investigations.

If they had, the outcome may have been different.

In the first incident McGrath kicked, bit and pulled hair out of the head of taxi driver Mary Lynch, who feared she was going to be raped or murdered.

The Guerin Report noted that McGrath was initially just charged with simple assault.

It found nothing in garda files to indicate why he was not charged with a more serious offence.

Garda records also did not show who made the decision to release him on station bail.

A report made by a garda four years later stated McGrath was given bail by a judge at Virginia District Court on the condition he live with his parents in Co Tipperary and not interfere with witnesses.

But no record could be found of any such bail bond or conditions attached to his release.

Amendments to the file so that more serious and additional charges could be brought were taking place when McGrath committed his second offence, the abduction of the child.

After he was arrested for that, McGrath admitted he had been mostly living with friends and not his parents, which would have been a breach of his bail conditions, if such a restriction was ever actually imposed.

In any event, gardai in Tipperary did not have an appreciation that McGrath may have been breaching bail conditions.

According to a Tipperary garda who checked with Cavan counterparts, he was told the assault on Ms Lynch was a case of a dispute over a taxi fare.

The Guerin Report described this account as "plainly inadequate".

McGrath was remanded on continuing bail from Virginia Court over the taxi driver assault.

McGrath was also given bail over the Tipperary incident. Although there were strenuous objections from gardai, the events in Cavan could not be brought to the attention of the judge.

The issues raised by the handling of McGrath by gardai have been investigated or reviewed in three separate garda investigations and by the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission.

Irish Independent

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