Detectives investigating the murder of a woman 35 years ago have made a breakthrough in the case with the arrest of a suspect for the crime. The man, aged in his 70s, was detained yesterday morning and questioned in relation to the historic murder of Marie Tierney.
His arrest is the first made for the killing of the 34-year-old mother of two. Ms Tierney’s body was discovered in a ditch on Bleach Rd, on the outskirts of Kilkenny City, on December 21, 1984. She had been strangled to death.
She had been last seen by her husband Jim two months earlier, on October 20, leaving the family home at Clintstown, Jenkinstown, Co Kilkenny, in her car. He reported her missing the following day.
The couple, who ran a grocery store and petrol station, had two children, a boy and a girl, aged 12 and 13 at the time. Her car, a Renault 18 estate, registration number 35-HIP, was located on October 22 at Newpark Fenn, Co Kilkenny.
A number of witnesses said the car was abandoned there the night before. A murder investigation was launched after her body was discovered, including the interviewing of witnesses, but the case never progressed significantly.
In the period after 2012, the matter came to the attention again of gardaí in the Kilkenny/Carlow division as they were examining a second, and unrelated, cold case — that of Ann ‘Nancy’ Smyth, who was murdered at her home in Kilkenny City in September 1987.
Gardaí set up a full review of the Tierney case and sought exhibits from the original investigation. Detectives spoke to retired gardaí about the case, as well as to family members. Witnesses were contacted again and interviewed.
As inquiries continued, new witnesses came forward with information which gardaí said significantly assisted the investigation. In November 2017, gardaí went public and launched a fresh appeal. But Garda sources said that key forensic evidence, thanks to technical advances, could only be gathered through an exhumation.
This resulted in the exhumation of Ms Tierney’s remains at Conahy cemetery at the end of last October. This was attended by specialists from Forensic Science Ireland, the State Pathologist and forensic anthropologist Laureen Buckley.
A postmortem was conducted that day and the remains of Ms Tierney were reinterred later that evening. The results of the autopsy, and other tests, informed the garda investigation, which culminated in the arrest of the suspect.
Gardaí believe Ms Tierney was probably killed in a location different to where her body was found. At the time of the exhumation, gardaí said that more than 500 lines of investigation had been opened and that more than 200 witness statements had been taken.
Their appeal at that time called for anyone who had seen any person or persons walking or cycling near Newpark Fenn, Kilkenny on the night of October 21, 1984 to contact them. They issued the same appeal regarding Bleach Road on the same night.
Yesterday’s Garda statement regarding the arrest said: “Gardaí in Kilkenny investigating the murder of 34-year-old Marie Tierney in 1984 have this morning, Wednesday, June 26, 2019 arrested a man in his 70s.
“Marie was reported missing on the 22 October, 1984, having left her home in her car. The car was located later on the 22 October at Newpark, Kilkenny.
“A comprehensive search was carried out by investigating gardaí and Marie’s body was discovered on the Bleach Road, Kilkenny on December 21, 1984.
“A murder investigation was launched and as a result of a thorough investigation a man in his 70s was this morning arrested in connection with this investigation. The man is currently detained in Kilkenny Garda Station under the provisions of section 4 — Criminal Justice Act 1984.”