After walking calmly through a sea of photographers, the couple settled on a bench to wait for coroner, Frank O’Connell.
The most notable absentee was the family’s neighbour and one-time friend of Robert, Wayne O’Donoghue, currently serving a four-year sentence for the 11-year-old’s manslaughter.
There was a marked change in Mark and Majella Holohan’s bearing as they prepared for yet another courtroom sitting. During O’Donoghue’s long trial they had been, for the most part, silent witnesses to the proceedings. Yesterday, with no legal representation, they made it clear they were more than equipped to ask the questions themselves.
“We are here on our own behalf,” said Majella, who sat with pen poised throughout the 90-minute inquest, as Detective Sergeant Brian Goulding and State Pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy, gave evidence.
After Detective Sergeant Brian Goulding had given a garda chronology of events to the packed courthouse, mainly made up of journalists, Mark asked the couple’s first and only question of the detective: “Do you think there was a sexual motive?”
The coroner told Mr Holohan that the question could not be answered.
The couple had further queries for Dr Cassidy.
At one point, after Mr O’Connell said another question could not be answered in the inquest forum, Majella glanced up and said, “Grand”, before quickly moving onto the next issue.
“How long did our little boy suffer?” “How long did Wayne O’Donoghue strangle our little boy for?” were among the questions put to Dr Cassidy.
It was clear from the line of questioning that the family had taken considerable external expert advice ahead of the proceedings, and they even presented a scenario to the State pathologist of how their son could have come across his injuries.
At one point, when the couple appeared to become a little frustrated with the lack of definitive evidence as to what happened on January 4, Majella Holohan momentarily let emotion come through in her line of questioning.
“For all the evidence, we still do not have answers. We are only looking at it from lay people’s point of view,” she said.
At the end of the questioning Majella said: “Thank you ever so much, Dr Cassidy, that is grand.”
Coroner Frank O’Connell acceded to Superintendent Liam Hayes’s request to adjourn the matter.
He explained to the family that he was adjourning it ‘sine die’ — without a specific time or date — to allow criminal proceedings to be brought to a conclusion.
The four-year sentence handed down to Wayne O’Donoghue at the Central Criminal Court is currently being appealed by the Director of Public Prosecutions, on the grounds of leniency.
Mr O’Connell explained that interested parties, including the family, may have the chance to make submissions to the inquest at a later date.