Clothing linked to ‘spectacular breakthrough’ in double murder

A Garda chief superintendent told a murder trial yesterday that he retrieved clothing from the home of a man accused of murdering two women 18 years ago.

The prosecution has claimed that DNA evidence recovered from a jacket provided “ a spectacular breakthrough” in the case.

Mark Nash, aged 42, who has last addresses at Prussia St and Clonliffe Rd in Dublin, has pleaded not guilty at the Central Criminal Court to the murder of Sylvia Shields, aged 60, and Mary Callanan, aged 61, at sheltered accommodation in Grangegorman between March 6 and March 7, 1997.

Chief Supt Dominic Hayes, who held the rank of detective sergeant at the time, went to Beaumont Hospital on August 16, 1997, to get a statement from Sarah Jane Doyle, Nash’s then partner.

Ms Doyle had head injuries after being the victim of a serious assault in a house in Ballintober, Castlerea, Co Roscommon, and she asked him to return later.

At around 8pm that night, Ms Doyle gave Chief Supt Hayes permission to enter a flat she shared at the time with Nash on Clonliffe Rd in Drumcondra, Dublin 3.

On August 17, 1997, Chief Supt Hayes went to the flat with Det Garda Clayton to get a black pin-striped velvet jacket, a pair of black Caterpillar boots, another pair of boots, and a suit. The next day, Chief Supt Hayes gave the items to the Forensic Science Laboratory at Garda HQ in the Phoenix Park.

The jacket is of relevance as the court previously heard from Brendan Grehan, opening the prosecution’s case on January 22 that, in July 2009, “a spectacular breakthrough” was made in relation to the jacket with new tests and how DNA belonging to Ms Shields and Ms Callanan was found on it.

During cross-examination yesterday, Hugh Hartnett, defending, said to Chief Supt Hayes: “When there, you seized boots. No consent was given for the boots.”

“When I was there I saw boots and thought it was of relevance,” replied Chief Supt Hayes. “There were two pairs of big boots and they can be a rich area of forensic evidence and for that reason I took them.”

“Did you know Detective Superintendent Gallagher was in Galway at that time, making enquiries about boots? Is that a coincidence?” asked Mr Hartnett.

“Yes. I had no contact with Detective Superintendent Gallagher when he was down there,” replied Chief Supt Hayes.

Retired Det Garda Alan Bailey, who took over responsibility for access to the exhibits locker in 2003, was then cross-examined by Mr Hartnett.

Mr Hartnett asked Mr Bailey about Martin Stafford, a suspect for the double murder .

Mr Bailey said Stafford was “one of 250 people who were persons of interest”.

Mr Hartnett put it to Mr Bailey that Stafford “was a person of particular interest” as he had hijacked a car and assaulted a prostitute on March 6, 1997 .

With Stafford’s car spotted and identified “very close” to the murder scene, Mr Hartnett asked Mr Bailey if this made Stafford a person of interest in the case.

“Yes, to a certain extent,” said Mr Bailey. “We seized the car he had been seen driving that night. It was technically examined and there was nothing to link the car to the scene at Grangegorman.”

“Was that the end of it?” asked Mr Hartnett.

“If we believed the person in the car was involved in Grangegorman, there would have to have been certain traces of blood” said Mr Bailey. “We based how we dealt with this person on what we found in the car.”

The trial continues.

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