Friday 14 December 2018

Murky waters

THE TORSO IN THE CANAL: THE INSIDE STORY ON IRELAND'S MOST GROTESQUE KILLING By John Mooney Maverick House, ?10.99 EMMA WALSH John Mooney has been a crime correspondent for 10 years and has seen more than his fair share of brutal murders. So for him to define the lurid murder of Farah Swaleh Noor as Ireland's most grotesque is a pretty serious indictment of the perpetrators.

The Torso in the Canal is the inside story on the gruesomely fascinating murder of the Kenyan immigrant in March 2005. The two women, recently found guilty of his murder, killed him in a drug and alcohol-induced frenzy and then dismembered his body before transferring his torso, arms and legs into sacks and depositing them in the Grand Canal.

When the body parts were found the media covered the story for months, during which it emerged that the killers were two young, underprivileged women, Linda and Charlotte Mulhall, who were dubbed 'the scissor sisters'.

Mooney's book is an insider's look at the entire case - from the early formation of the two murderers all the way to the investigation and trial.

At the centre of the story is a breathtaking and sympathetic account of the Mulhall sisters' dysfunctional childhood and the path of drink and drug abuse, low self-esteem and limited life choices that led them to where they are today, serving long sentences for murder.

Whilst the book will gratify the blood and guts readers who want the gory details of the murder, the main thrust of the story focuses on the journey of the two women to a point where they can part slice up a body. The author does not find them to be cold-blooded killers; rather he finds two seriously disturbed victims. In spite of what they had done, they were capable of kindness and gentleness and Linda's four children were well looked after. Small acts of compassion by the two women are recounted by the officers who worked on the case. As the story continues its chronology of the murderers' lives the real truth of the matter emerges, that everyone involved was a victim in some way or anther.

Mooney also considers the victim's past to try to determine his place and position in the story. Noor was a psychopathic killer who had raped, beaten and attacked a number of women, including the Mulhall sister's mother whom he was dating before he was killed. Since he had arrived here in 1996 he had two children with different women and had been questioned in relation to a number of public order offences. He was a nasty piece of work with little to offer either the country where he had found asylum or anyone who got involved with him.

The outcome of this book is that the reader is left with the realisation that there are many shades of grey in what appeared to be a black and white case. Mooney is the only journalist who has got right into the minds of these women and he also reveals that there was a fourth person present when Noor was murdered.

One other person has yet to face justice, the sister's mother Kathleen, who was present during the murder. Her mothering of her daughters and her presence at the murder are parts of this whole story that remain to be exposed.

The author's final comment on the two perpetrators of this macabre murder is revealing in its forgiveness:

"In truth, Linda and Charlotte Mulhall never really had any choices in life. Are they ruthless killers? Most likely not. As Linda herself would say, she was always in the wrong place at the wrong time."

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