Black widow Nevin out in weeks

murder: Nation was gripped by tale of affairs, IRA links and contract killers that emerged at Nevin's trial

Conor Feehan

IT WAS the trial that had the whole of Ireland on the edge of their seats.

Catherine Nevin became Ireland's most high-profile female killer after she was found guilty in 2000 of the murder of her husband Tom at their pub, Jack White's Inn in Brittas Bay, in 1996.

The five-day jury deliberation created so much drama and tension that people flocked to the Four Courts to catch a glimpse of the woman who had become known as The Black Widow.

Nevin cut a dash. Every day the clothes and the hair style changed, and people wondered what was to become of this middle-aged woman on trial for the murder of her publican husband.

Her nail varnish and even her glasses were included in the daily costume changes.

Her jewellery, her tan, her accessories, her choice of reading matter -- everything became a subject of comment.

Such was the intensity of the drama surrounding her trial that the judge banned all reporting on her clothes and her appearance.

It was the longest-running murder trial in the history of the State, beginning in February 2000, but then on April 11, there was a knock on the door from the jury's quarters to the courtroom where Nevin had been tried.

You could have heard a pin drop in the courtroom as the verdict was delivered.

Nevin barely reacted when she heard the word "guilty".

Judge Mella Carroll reflecting the feeling of most of the nation, then emotionally told Nevin: "You had your husband assassinated, and you also tried to assassinate his character."

People could scarcely believe that Nevin could have orchestrated her husband's violent and bloody death.

Tom Nevin was blasted at short-range with a shotgun as he totted up the night's takings in Jack White's Bar on March 19, 1996.

Friends and family had seen Nevin grieving at her husband's funeral, standing by his graveside clutching a single red rose.

She told gardai she had her face pushed into her pillow during the 'robbery' in which Tom was supposed to have been targeted.

Catherine Nevin had played the victim, but the evidence at her trial left the nation gob-smacked.

The details became more and more sensational.

There was talk of IRA links and contract killers, and alleged affairs involving Catherine and a judge and garda inspector -- which both men flatly denied.

Gardai knew that Tom Nevin never had any IRA links, and focussed their attention on three key witnesses.

Convicted fraudster William McClean, from Ballinode in Co Monaghan, told the court Catherine had offered him around €20,000 to kill Tom.

Another man, Gerard Heapes, said Catherine had approached him at least 10 times about having her husband killed.

And Finglas-based TV salesman John Jones claimed he was solicited to kill Tom in 1989, and that she had asked him to get the IRA to murder Tom and make it look like a botched robbery.

The trial also had two false starts when the first two juries were discharged. The first because a juror had to withdraw for personal reasons, and the second because it was found the jury room was not soundproof.

All through her 12 years of incarceration in the Dochas Centre, Catherine Nevin still made the headlines, be it for her friendship of other inmates like the infamous 'Scissor Sisters' Charlotte and Linda Mulhall and the recently-released 'Lyin' Eyes' Sharon Collins.

Also in the news has been the legal battle over Tom Nevin's assets, with Catherine seeking half of his €1m estate.

Meanwhile, Tom's brother Patrick and sister Margaret are trying to stop the Black Widow from inheriting anything from the estate because of her involvement in his killing. And as she looks towards her release, Catherine Nevin also has a third appeal against her conviction planned as she continues to protest her innocence.

The public's appetite for the Black Widow has not diminished in the 12 years she has been behind bars, and all eyes will be on her again when she walks free.