Wednesday 23 October 2019

The man who made sure the dead got justice...

Hubert Murphy talks to former inspector Pat Marry and the role he played in key murder cases

A toenail, just a toenail, that's all we wanted.' But Det Inspector Pat Marry and his garda colleague, Brendan Duffy, just couldn't get it. The sands of time had run out on Ciara Breen.

This week, as the former top detective releases his book - The Making of a Detective - in the d Hotel in Drogheda on Tuesday, October 1 - he revealed that not finding the body of the Dundalk teenager is still something that disappoints him to this day. But he says there are people in Dundalk who know what happened to Ciara and he still asks them to come forward to end a nightmare that has gone on for two decades.

Ciara Breen (17) went missing in Dundalk in February 1997.

Almost 20 years later, in 2015, gardai began searching Balmer's Bog for her remains. But with no joy.

'It's the one that disappoints me to this day. We were sure she was in the bog with the chief suspect the night she disappeared. We were so close to finding her, we needed a bone, a toenail, just a toenail, that's all we wanted,' he stated.

'I gave my word to Bernadette (Ciara's late mother) that we'd do our best and it was disappointing that we couldn't bring it home.'

The garda investigation was badly impacted by the fact that 500 tons of rubble was dumped in the area in the years after Ciara's death. 'It was covered with top soil and that just halved our chances again of finding her,' he added.

Ciara's case was part of Operation Trace, looking into the disappearance of several women.

'But we knew Ciara wasn't killed by a serial killer. What we had was solid, but we just couldn't prove she was dead.

'It's upsetting still, we were so close.'

Now living in Mullingar and working as a private investigator, Pat was involved in a series of murder investigations and nearly always got a result.

'You never forget the dead and I always found empathy with families of victims.

'You get an uneasy quietness at murder scenes and you feel the person's spirit is still there. They look to you to give them justice.

'I know what the families are going through and they rely on you to take a case seriously and not let them down.'

Pat would always try to find out what he could about the victim and even in their death, 'you get to know them well,' he explains.

'They were taken at a time they didn't want to go and no-one has the right to do that to them.'

His focus was always on making a difference in people's lives and he feels he did that whenever possible. When he left the Gardai, he got letters of thanks from families. They remain close to his heart.

'You meet families in the worst circumstances. They want to know why their loved one was killed and who did it. The truth is what they want and I always gave them the full facts, even if that was hard. People should always be told the full story.'

He believes that the Garda are there to serve the people and that is something he always said to his team - you are accountable to your superiors, the public and the courts.'

If there's anything he misses from his days in the force, it is the officers he served with - all magnificent professionals - but not the job itself.

'I believe Chief Supt Christy Mangan is a breath of fresh air in Louth. He has massive experience and is not afraid to stand up and be counted.'

One of his most difficult cases was the March 2012 murders of 31-year-old Anthony Burnett and 25-year-old Joseph Redmond.

Their remains were found in a burning car in Ravensdale. 'We had a burnt out car and two skeletons and we asked each other, how will we get to the bottom of this.'

But months of work, including bringing in experts from Bristol who study cars on CCTV systems, found that a car that had been chased by the PSNI that same night and was later abandoned was linked to the killing of the two men. 'The suspects had changed the number plates, but left the tax discs the samem so we could say they were the same vehicle that was chased and that had been earlier spotted on CCTV following the vehicle that was set on fire.'

The murder of Jacqueline McDonagh in Dundalk also saw him meet experts in the field of steroid use and how it impacts on a body - but enough to kill?

He recalled the Rachel O'Reilly murder case in the Naul, her husband Joe, jailed for life for her killing. 'He would say he couldn't get a fair trial due to the huge media coverage, but we investigated the stories and found he had generated 30% of them himself.'

He also came face to face with the killer of Mary Gough in a Spanish jail.

Mary Gough (27) had been married to Colin Whelan for just six months when her body was found at the bottom of the stairs in their home in Clonard Street, Balbriggan, Co Dublin, on March 1st, 2001.

Later, Whelan faked his death and left for Spain, but was spotted and arrested and it was down to Pat Marry to bring him home.

'It was the first extradition case from Spain to Ireland and I flew to Madrid and met the police there. I went down to the cells and it was like something from the Silence of the Lambs with these faces looking out. Then I came to Colin Whelan's cell and he was standing beside a bed. We looked at each other and nodded. He knew the game was up.'

His late brother was his inspiration for the book and he fondly recalls his words of encouragement. 'He died in 2018 and always wanted me to write my stories down and this is it,' he stated.

A keen musician, Pat is part of the committee bringing the Fleadh to Mullingar in 2020 and 2021, while he also does charity work with the Irish Heart Foundation and stroke survivors.

'In my garda life, I felt I made a difference and I suppose that was something I remember from the Jacqueline McDonagh case. A year after the trial, her parents asked to meet me for a cup of tea and I agreed. I wondered what they wanted, but when we met they simply said they wanted to say thank you.'

Drogheda Independent