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Jerome Reilly: Ruthless predators who bore the mark of evil

Serial killer and sexual predator Geoffrey Evans, who died last Sunday, cost the State well over €3m in medical care and security since he lapsed into a coma in December 2008 after suffering a stroke during heart surgery.

Evans, along with his malign partner John Shaw, planned to abduct, rape and kill one woman a week.

In 1978, both Shaw and Evans, who was considered the dominant personality in their evil enterprise, were convicted of the rape and murder of two women: Elizabeth Plunkett, a foreign exchange clerk from Ringsend in Dublin; and Mary Duffy, a fast-food cook from Belcarra just outside Castlebar, Co Mayo.

Evans and Shaw were Ireland's longest serving prisoners and laid claim to the notorious title of Ireland's first serial killers.

Evans had been in a coma for three years. The first 18 months of medical care in the Mater Hospital's high dependency unit cost more than €300,000 alone. Six prison officers were also detailed to guard him around the clock. The cost of this security was upwards of €900,000 a year, according to the Irish Prison Service, but that cost was later reduced when Evans became one of the first prisoners to be electronically tagged.

Shaw is still behind bars in Castlerea Prison in Co Roscommon.

Neither Shaw nor Evans ever expressed any remorse over their heinous crimes.

Geoffrey Evans and John Shaw were still in their 30s when they arrived in Ireland in 1974, already on the run from British police who wanted to question them in relation to three savage sexual assaults on women that had happened in and around Manchester.

John Shaw was a powerfully built former miner and already had 26 previous convictions, including two sex attacks in Britain, when he came here.

Geoffrey Evans was a career criminal from Tyldesley not far from Wigan in Greater Manchester, and he also had a string of convictions and a prison record.

While Shaw provided the brawn, the slightly built Evans possessed ruthless cunning which they used to prey on innocent young women on both sides of the Irish sea.

When they arrived in Ireland they concocted an evil fantasy. The plan was that they would stalk, kidnap, rape and murder one woman a week in Ireland, Evans admitted when he was eventually caught.

But to carry out that plan they needed money and transport, and they embarked on a series of burglaries in Co Wicklow to fund their murderous enterprise.

But the break-ins were bungled and they were caught, convicted and sent to prison.

British police heard about their arrest and conviction and began proceedings to extradite them.

They sent fingerprints of Shaw and Evans found at the scene of the three sex attacks that had happened in Britain as part of their court application, believing they had provided enough prima facie evidence to secure their extradition.

However, this was at the height of the Troubles and the Irish courts demanded cast-iron evidence.

At that time, most extradition applications were for individuals wanted in connection with alleged IRA and INLA terrorism.

Inexplicably, the extradition hearing, which took place in the Bridewell in Dublin, found that the fingerprints were not sufficient proof. The court granted bail to Shaw and Evans pending production of further evidence by the British police.

Shaw and Evans were released from custody.

They left Dublin for Fethard, where they had a friend, and it was while they were down in Tipperary that they borrowed a Ford Cortina. With access to transport, they could continue with their plan to prey on women.

In late August 1976, they drove towards Dublin and then went south towards Brittas Bay.

Elizabeth Plunkett was socialising with some girlfriends in McDaniel's pub near the caravan park in Brittas Bay. Two of the girls in the party had a minor spat in the pub and Elizabeth became upset. She left the pub at some stage in the night and was never seen alive again.

According to Shaw and Evans's own testimony, they picked up Elizabeth on the pretext of giving her a lift. The weather was foul that night and it was raining heavily.

Soon Elizabeth got suspicious, but before she could get away both of them savagely beat her.

They drove the terrified young woman to an isolated wood at Castletymon.

Elizabeth went through an unimaginable ordeal. She was raped repeatedly before, on the order of Evans, Shaw strangled her and they left her naked body in the woods.

Shaw and Evans went back to the wood the following night after they had stolen a small boat. They recovered her body and dumped it in the sea, weighed down with a lawnmower.

It would be a full month before her body would wash up about 60km away at Ballyteigue Bay.

But before the search for Elizabeth became widespread Shaw and Evans were spotted trying to burn clothing, which aroused the suspicions of gardai.

They gave false names, saying they were John and Geoffrey Murphy, but they were not arrested and went on their way.

But subsequently, gardai conducted a search of the wood and found one of Elizabeth's sandals.

They also found a piece of cardboard with the name Geoffrey Murphy written on it, and one of the gardai remembered that was the name Geoffrey Shaw had given him.

From then on, they became suspects and a garda bulletin was sent out, looking for two Englishmen, who were by now in the west.

Shaw and Evans had crudely repainted the Ford Cortina by hand and interfered with the number plates.

A local man saw the car in Maam Cross in Conne- mara and knew that two Englishmen were being sought by gardai.

However, by the time the man's suspicions were reported to the gardai the next morning, Shaw and Evans had already left the area. They had escaped again.

Shaw and Evans targeted their second victim, Mary Duffy, who had just finished work at the Wimpy fast-food outlet in Castlebar as Shaw and Evans arrived in the town. She was waiting for her brother to pick her up just outside the town when the murderous sexual predators struck.

Shaw savagely attacked her and they bundled her into the car where she endured a horrifying assault, with one of them holding her down in the back seat as the other drove the road from Castlebar to Connemara. She was raped repeatedly, beaten and very badly injured by the time the car reached Ballynahinch, not far from Clifden.

They brought her to an isolated wood, where she was again raped a number of times and was tied to a tree for hours. Her ordeal may have lasted some 36 hours, with the men coming and going and taking turns to assault her.

Eventually, they strangled her, and once again stole a boat, weighing her body down with a sledgehammer, an anchor and a concrete block and throwing her overboard into Lough Inagh.

Within days, their reign of terror would be over and they would be in custody, thanks to gardai based in Galway.

Garda Jim Boland and Garda PJ Corcoran were on patrol in Salthill and spotted the car reported by the man from Maam Cross.

They reported the sighting and kept the car under surveillance. As the two gardai waited for back-up, Shaw and Evans came out of a hotel disco and drove away. The two gardai followed them along the coast road to Connemara.

The garda car caught up with them. Shaw and Evans saw a car with full headlights travelling behind them and pulled in to let the car pass.

The gardai seized their chance. They overpowered and arrested the pair without a struggle.

Once in custody, Shaw was interrogated by Detective Inspector Gerry O'Carroll. The detective knew Shaw was a Catholic and used an unusual interrogation technique. He persuaded Shaw to kneel with him to say a prayer for the dead women. Afterwards, Shaw broke down and confessed.

Sunday Independent