ONE half of the pair of murderous drifters who terrified Ireland in 1976 has died, but for almost an hour yesterday the crimes of Geoffrey Evans sent a further chill down the spine.
Evans, a native of Lancashire in England, died at St Mary’s Nursing Home in Dublin over the weekend, having been in a coma since complications following heart surgery at the end of 2008.
Evans, along with his fellow Englishman John Shaw, had been serving a life sentence following his conviction for the murders of Elizabeth Plunkett and Mary Duffy, two defenceless women abducted, raped and killed in barbarous circumstances in 1976.
On yesterday’s Liveline programme on Radio One, retired Det Gerry O’Carroll, involved in getting the damning confession from Shaw about the murders and an “orgy of killing” planned by the two men, said the air was now a little cleaner for Evans’ passing.
Referring to the pair as “two English drifters”, he said they were career criminals wanted for rape in Britain who landed in Ireland using false names and then embarked on a crime spree which ended in the horrific deaths of Ms Plunkett and Ms Duffy.
Mr O’Carroll recalled how Ms Plunkett left a pub in Brittas Bay following a row with her boyfriend, only to fall into the clutches of Shaw and Evans.
“An ordinary little row between her and him led to her death,” he said.
Ms Plunkett, a 23-year-old currency clerk from Ringsend, Dublin, was picked up on the pretext of getting a lift and was then savagely beaten, taken to woods at Castletymon and raped before being killed.
According to Mr O’Carroll, Evans was the main influence within the pairing, and had even instructed Shaw to kill Ms Plunkett while he went for a walk. On returning to find her still alive he ordered that she be killed immediately. Her weighed down body was then tossed into the sea from a boat the pair had stolen.
The two men had already escaped Garda attention, having been released on bail following a spate of burglaries, and had also managed to evade extradition back to Britain. Using a hand-painted Ford Cortina — a “giveaway”, Mr O’Carroll told listeners yesterday — they drove around the country, and abducted Mary Duffy, a 23-year-old cook from Belcarra near Castlebar. Even as she was being abducted the hunt was on for their vehicle, spotted at a filling station in Maam Cross in Co Galway.
However, it was too late for Ms Duffy, who was badly beaten in the car as it sped towards Connemara. On arrival at a remote woodland area at Ballynahinch she was repeatedly raped and tied to a tree. According to Mr O’Carroll: “They kept her alive for 24 hours tied to a tree.”
He said her death and that of Ms Plunkett was a “landmark in horror, undiminished by the passage of the years”. Evans and Shaw had planned a third killing, but their intended victim had what Mr O’Carroll called “a miraculous escape”, her intuition leading her to escape from a pub window after she had asked to use the bathroom when in the car with the two men.
Sightings of the Cortina ultimately led to the two men being spotted and arrested in Salthill in Galway on Sept 27, 1976, but it was Shaw’s confession to Mr O’Carroll during an early hours questioning session in the billiards room of the Eglington Road Garda station which led to both men receiving life sentences.
Pricking Shaw’s conscience by asking if he was a Catholic and a father, and leading him into prayer, Shaw cracked and confessed to the killings and the plans for more victims.
“It was a nightmare, it was horror heaped on horror,” Mr O’Carroll said. “I don’t think we have ever had an abomination on two feet like we did with Evans.”
Following their arrest, Shaw had told Mr O’Carroll in the back of a squad car: “I am glad you got me, we were going to kill one a week.”
Evans, 67, is not thought to have expressed any remorse for his role in the murders and spent the majority of his life sentence in Arbor Hill before his hospital treatment. No funeral details have been announced and it is unknown if any relatives will come forward to claim his body or whether the State will have to bury him. Shaw is still serving his life sentence in Castlerea Prison.
“I have mixed feelings this morning,” Mr O’Carroll said of Evans. “I can’t find it in my heart to have any pity or remorse. The air is a little cleaner for him having passed away.”
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