Monday 23 April 2018

The Blaine brothers were local angels loved by all, until one day their paths crossed evil

Town of Castlebar is still scarred at the loss of innocents who would bless cars as they walked, writes Kirsty Blake Knox

Jack Blaine in Castlebar just before Christmas 2010. Photo: Alison Laredo Photography
Jack Blaine in Castlebar just before Christmas 2010. Photo: Alison Laredo Photography
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

Jack Blaine was a creature of habit. Every day, he would leave his home and shuffle down Castlebar's Tucker Street blessing parked cars, doorways and window frames.

"He'd cross himself and kiss his hand - that was Jack's signature move," one neighbour said.

"Once he did that some piece of good luck was bound to come your way."

Having returned from England to help their ailing mother, Jack (76) and his younger brother Tom (69) had lived in their modest grey house on South Antrim Street for over 30 years.

Tom Blaine (left) and Jack (right) with Paul and their aunt Mary Kearns
Tom Blaine (left) and Jack (right) with Paul and their aunt Mary Kearns

They were well known in Castlebar, Co Mayo, described as "simple, decent men" who were "harmless" and "always smiling".

"They were gentle souls," Kevin Beirne, who owns the auctioneers next door to the brothers' home, said.

"You couldn't help but love them. There was an innocence to the Blaines. And a goodness. That's what made it all so shocking."

The brothers had their problems; Tom suffered from schizophrenia and Jack had dementia. Both of them were partially deaf, Jack's sight was failing and he had been left with a bad back after a concrete staircase collapsed on him during a building accident.

The brothers lived frugal lives; they didn't own a radio or a television. They didn't read the papers, they never used a toaster.

They kept themselves to themselves, but their presence seemed to permeate the community; everyone in the town talks about them with a level of familial protectiveness and affection.

The brothers’ cousin Paul Dunne outside their home in Castlebar, Co Mayo
The brothers’ cousin Paul Dunne outside their home in Castlebar, Co Mayo

"I class them as two saints or two angels," their first cousin Paul Dunne said when I approached him.

"I don't know what angels or saints do be doing, but I can't think of anything else to call Jack and Tom."

On July 10, 2013, Jack made one of many nightly trips across the road to Rocky's Bar with his Christmas mug.

There the staff would fix him some tea, carry it outside and leave it on the windowsill. Jack would then wander across the road and back through his front door.

"Crossing the road would take him four minutes or so," Paul Dunne explained.

On July 10, as Jack began crossing the road, Alan Cawley (26) came to his side playing the part of Good Samaritan. Released from Castlerea Prison four days earlier, Cawley helped Jack across the road, and then slipped through the Blaines' front door.

A memorial to the siblings
A memorial to the siblings

"Once he was inside he put on surgical gloves and went to work bating them with shovels and sticks," Dunne said.

Cawley attacked Jack first, punching him and striking him with a spade before pouring a kettle full of scalding water over his groin to 'cleanse him'.

Jack was struck so hard in the face that one of his teeth was found in his stomach during the post-mortem exam.

Cawley then saw Tom lying in his bed, he picked up Tom's walking stick and, in his own words, "started lashing out".

He left the house an hour later and returned to Newport Road B&B. The following morning he burned his clothes before attending a Bible meeting.

The Blaines' home help Helen Maloney found the two brothers' bodies at 7.15am.

Ms Maloney, who visited the brothers three times a day, walked into their kitchen and called out her usual greeting: "Are you ready to rock and roll?"

She got no answer and looking into Tom Blaine's bedroom, saw him lying on the floor. She rushed out on to the street where the owner of Rocky's Bar, Michael Moran, was completing some menial work.

"I couldn't sleep for six months after seeing that," Mr Moran said. "I would stand there and look out the window at the house."

The defence had spent a huge degree of time focusing on Cawley's mental health.

"That was the thing that vexed me," Paul Dunne said. "Everyone has problems - if he had been sick, he would have got help.

"He is a nasty, evil person. He was going around killing animals, boiling frogs, beheading cats. There's madness and then there is badness. He is evil."

The Blaines' home remains empty four years on; in the windowsills sit red candles, rosary beads, and a faded and framed picture of the Virgin Mary.

This week, Alan Cawley was sentenced to life for the brothers' murders.

For many locals, the verdict hadn't diluted their sense of anger or the loss.

"Of course we're angry," a man standing outside Flynn's Bar said. "What he did to them men, life is too good for him."

When questioned, Cawley said it was hard to imagine that the men had meant anything to anyone since they meant nothing to him.

The Blaine brothers may have meant nothing to Cawley, but it's evident speaking to neighbours, cousins and passers-by that these men meant a huge deal to everyone in Castlebar.

In a gentle and unassuming manner, they touched the lives of everyone they met.

Irish Independent

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