When Sinead Kelly was murdered on the canal bank, it was another prostitute who pointed the finger, says Crime Correspondent AllenWHEN the young prostitute Sinead Kelly was murdered on the banks of the Grand Canal in Dublin in June of last year, there was the usual media frenzy regarding the safety of prostitutes and what might be done to protect them from violent pimps and abusive customers. And then we learned that the 21-year-old did not die at the hands of a pimp or of a customer, but instead was murdered on the orders of a drug dealer to whom she owed money.
Last Wednesday, investigating gardai at Harcourt Terrace sent the last of three files on their investigation to the Director of Public Prosecutions. If the DPP directs that the case should go to trial, the public will get to hear how Sinead was unwittingly led to her death by another prostitute, who met her just 20 minutes before she died.
On the night of June 21, 1998, a prostitute the former girlfriend of a drug dealer from Crumlin in Dublin was taken by her ex-boyfriend to the banks of the Grand Canal. He pointed towards Sinead Kelly and told the young prostitute to take a good look at her, so that she would be able to point her out later that night to two of hiscolleagues.
The young prostitute understood that Sinead owed money to her drug dealer ex-boyfriend. She had no problem helping to identify Sinead because she also knew one of the two men to whom she was required to point Sinead out; at that time she was going out with his brother.
At about 12.20am, the young prostitute travelled in a car with her boyfriend's brother and another man to the banks of the canal. She agreed to try to strike up a conversation with Sinead, in order to make it easy for her to be identified by the two men in the car. The canal bank was like a drug addicts' convention, as the two men, the young prostitute and Sinead all had major heroin dependency problems.
In the days immediately following Sinead's murder, the Crumlin drug dealer thought he had it all sewn up. Having dealt in drugs for about four years, the man, who was in his late 20s, had accumulated a considerable amount of wealth, a small army of agents and runners and a nice house in Co Meath. Little did he suspect that some of the individuals he employed to do his dirty work would reveal all in the cold light of day when the buzz of the heroin he supplied them with had worn off, and they realised the pressure detectives at Harcourt Terrace were putting on Sinead's friends and colleagues in their hunt for the killers.
Within days of the discovery of Sinead's body, just before 2am on June 22, 1998, an individual came forward to gardai to describe how a woman had been asked to befriend Sinead just hours before her murder. The witness went on to say that Sinead was a drug dealer and to name the man from whom she received her supplies of heroin. The witness also told gardai that the man had asked two of his ``agents'' to ``rough up'' Sinead, who owed him between £800 and £3,000. Gardai still have not established the precise amount of money which the dealer wanted to collect from Sinead.
Gardai then learned that while Sinead's prostitute colleague had agreed to identify her to the two attackers, she did not know that they intended to injure her. According to a garda source, when they located the prostitute through one of the associates of the man who ordered the attack and told her that Sinead had been stabbed 14 times, she ``went absolutely ballistic. Her life has been shattered by it''.
Soon after Sinead's murder, gardai learned the identity of one of the men present on the night. They also learned the identity of the young prostitute who unwittingly led Sinead to her death.
Within a month, officers under the direction of Superintendent PJ Browne made their first arrest when they lifted the former Crumlin man, now living in Co Meath, and questioned him about the murder and drug trafficking offences. The following day, on July 31, 1998, the Crumlin ``agent'' for the Meath-based man was also arrested. Both were released for operational reasons, but by that time gardai were fairly certain that the Meath-based man had ordered the assault on Sinead and that the Crumlin man had played a significant role in the events on the night of her murder.
Gardai then had difficulty locating the third man involved, who they believe drove the car on the night of the murder. When they finally discovered where he was, they realised that the drug addict had skipped to Britain having been released on bail the previous day in connection with other serious charges.
However, within two months of fleeing to Britain he was behind bars again for committing larceny. Gardai have visited him twice in connection with their investigation, but have not moved ahead with extradition proceedings for operational reasons. They are, however, fully briefed on his role on the morning of June 22, 1998, and are expected to move against him before his British prison term expires.
In May of this year, the case took another twist when gardai secured a warrant to arrest the man they believe inflicted most of the injuries on Sinead, only to realise that he was already in prison. The investigation team then moved to secure authorisation under the newly-introduced Section 42 of the Criminal Justice Act of 1999 which allowed them to remove him from Montjoy for questioning. He was subsequently returned to the prison, where he remains incarcerated.
Gardai are now awaiting directions on the case from the DPP, whose office is considering the files, the last of which was submitted last week. They must now await directions on the nature of the charges to be taken against all three, before moving to formally charge the men.
One thing is clear Sinead Kelly did not die because she was a prostitute. She died because she was naive. According to those familiar with Sinead's supplier, the young woman never dealt drugs on her night job. Instead, the desperate young drug addict dealt by day from Ballymun flats, where she was known to many users as being a soft touch.
As gardai ascertained following her death, Sinead died because she recognised the levels of desperation experienced by those similarly addicted, and she often gave out drugs on credit terms. It now appears that Sinead died not because she greedily hoarded her suppliers' drugs for herself, but because she knew how bad it was to go without.