Charleton tribunal: Garda whistleblower denies threatening partner and saying he would 'burn her'

A garda whistleblower has denied threatening his partner during an argument and saying he would "burn her in [her] house with [her] girls and bury her", the Charleton tribunal has heard, writes Gerard Cunningham.

Garda Keith Harrison told his partner Marisa Simms she would "end up getting burnt", meaning she would be injured by the actions of her family, the garda's counsel Mark Harty SC told the inquiry. The statement was not intended be taken literally, said Mr Harty, who is representing Garda Harrison.

The tribunal was told that tensions between the couple had worsened and that Garda Harrison had not been invited to the wedding of Ms Simms' sister, Paula McDermott.

Garda Keith Harrison. Picture: RollingNews.ie

Giving evidence to the inquiry today, Garda Brendan Mahon said he spoke to Paula McDermott when she called to Donegal town Garda Station on September 30 2013, concerned about the alleged threat to burn her sister.

Garda Mahon wrote in a note at the time that Garda Harrison had threatened to "burn her in house with girls and bury her".

Garda Mahon said Paula McDermott seemed visibly upset by the incident and had a genuine concern for her sister.

The garda said the alleged threat had happened in a different garda district, and also that he wasn't sure about the protocol for dealing with a complaint from a third party. This was why he wrote a report but did not make an entry on the Pulse computer system, he said, adding that he had consulted with his superior, Sergeant Jim Collins, who advised him to make the report.

Sgt Collins told the inquiry that after he received the report from Garda Mahon, he forwarded it to senior officers.

Sgt Collins said he believed Paula McDermott was most concerned about her upcoming wedding when he spoke to her. In a report to his superiors, he said it could have been that "gardaí are being used as a pawn in this case, as I believe that there is a fear that Garda Harrison may turn up at the wedding on Friday and create a scene."

The sergeant said he had no doubt that Paula McDermott had been told of threats by her sister Ms Simms.

He was later asked to go to Raphoe along with an inspector and interview Ms Simms' mother, Rita McDermott.

Sgt Collins said he had previously been stationed in Raphoe and knew Mrs McDermott from his time there.

Mr Niall O'Neill BL said Mrs McDermott did not recognise the sergeant when he approached her outside her home, and "felt flustered" at being stopped in the street by a garda sergeant and an inspector.

He said she accepted she had said the things that were in her statement, and was not alleging there was any coercion or duress in making the statement. Mrs McDermott has earlier said she felt under pressure to make a statement.

Sgt Collins, who had been stationed in the area five years previously, said he thought Mrs McDermott had known who he was when he called with an inspector.

"She may have been flustered, she didn't appear flustered," Sgt Collins said.

A report was subsequently sent to the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission, along with a statement from Ms Simms taken on October 6, 2013.

Senior GSOC case officer George O'Doherty said that when he contacted Ms Simms about the report on October 9 to see if she wanted to make a formal complaint, she said she wanted to think things over, and that her partner Garda Harrison "was not accepted by her family and she felt under pressure by both sides".

Mr O'Doherty said he was not aware Ms Simms was in hospital when he called her, or that Keith Harrison was with her at the time.

On October 11, Ms Simms called back to say she did not want to go ahead with a complaint.

Mr O'Doherty's evidence will continue tomorrow.

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