Garda watchdog probes cover-up claims

Jerry McGrath in handcuffs

The Garda ombudsman is investigating an allegation of a cover-up within the force in a case involving a criminal who committed murder when he was on bail for serious violent charges.

The allegation centres on how members of the gardaí dealt with charges of violence against Jerry McGrath from Dundrum, Co Tipperary, who murdered Silvia Roche Kelly, 33, in a Limerick hotel in 2007.

McGrath, 28, who is serving life for the murder, was on bail at the time on a charge of false imprisonment and assault causing harm. He was granted bail in that case, despite already being on bail for another assault charge six months earlier.

The family of Ms Roche Kelly are pursuing a High Court action against the State on the basis that McGrath should never have been at large when he killed Ms Roche Kelly.

The Irish Examiner has learned that the ombudsman is now investigating the case on foot of a complaint from the victim of the first assault, who alleges a number of officers were involved in a cover-up of the handling of her case in the aftermath of the murder, when it had the potential to become highly embarrassing.

Mary Lynch was viciously assaulted by McGrath in Virginia, Co Cavan, in April 2007 after she had taken him as a fare in her taxi. Despite evidence of the extent of the assault, McGrath was only charged with a minor offence and released on station bail with no conditions attached.

Five months later, while still on bail, McGrath tried to abduct a five-year-old girl after breaking into her family’s home in Co Tipperary. He was apprehended at the scene and when he applied for bail, the court was not told that he was already on bail for the Cavan offence.

Five weeks later, while on bail for the Tipperary offence, he murdered Ms Roche Kelly in the Clarion Hotel in Limerick.

McGrath was subsequently sentenced to 10 years for the Tipperary offence, and nine months for the assault on Ms Lynch.

An investigation into the case by the Irish Examiner has discovered that:

* McGrath was released in the first assault case before the extent of the attack, or the victim’s account of what happened, was known;

* A file on the matter was not sent to the DPP for six months;

* After the false imprisonment in Tipperary, while he was in custody awaiting a bail application, McGrath’s bail on the Cavan case was renewed. No questions were raised as to why he was not in court for the renewal;

* When McGrath applied for bail on the Tipperary charge, the court was not told that he was already on bail for a violent assault;

* When Ms Lynch’s case was finally dealt with in court, she was not present, as she had been informed by a garda two days previously that it was not going ahead.

The earlier investigation recommended disciplinary action against two garda officers, but the Garda Commissioner declined to take action against them.

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