The Joanne Hayes tapes — a young woman put on trial

Joyce Fegan outlines the timeline of events that led to the Kerry Babies tribunal, which ultimately turned into the trial of Joanne Hayes, who was crosss-examined for five days at the hearing. Below are excerpts from the proceedings.

The Joanne Hayes tapes — a young woman put on trial

After a bizarre convergence of totally unrelated events, a tribunal was set up in January 1985 to examine the Garda mishandling of a Kerry murder investigation. However, it turned into the trial of a young local woman, Joanne Hayes.

Outlined below, is the timeline of events that led to the tribunal-cum-trial.

On April 14, 1984, the body of a newborn baby boy was discovered on White Strand beach in Caherciveen, Co Kerry. The baby had been stabbed to death.

The day before, April 13, in a totally separate case, Joanne Hayes, 25, gave birth to a baby boy in a field in her home in Abbeydorney, some 76km from White Strand beach.

Ms Hayes did not believe her baby was alive and left it in the field after panicking. She admitted herself to hospital and said she had miscarried a baby, but a scan revealed she had carried it to full-term.

The then State pathologist Dr John Harbison was never able to conclude if Ms Hayes’ baby had achieved a “separate existence”.

On April 30, 1984, Ms Hayes came to the attention of the gardaí after inquiries were made about any pregnant women in the Tralee area around the time the baby was found on White Strand beach.

Joanne Hayes, in 1985. She was cross-examined for five days at the tribunal.
Joanne Hayes, in 1985. She was cross-examined for five days at the tribunal.

She had been in a relationship with a married man Jeremiah Locke, with whom she had already had a daughter Yvonne (born in May 19, 1983).

On May 1, 1984, Ms Hayes and some members of her family were brought in for extensive questioning in relation to the Caherciveen baby.

They signed statements admitting involvement in the case and Ms Hayes was charged with the murder of the Caherciveen baby.

The very next day, May 2, the gardaí discovered the body of Ms Hayes’ baby boy at her farm in Abbeydorney.

On May 28, it emerged that Mr Locke’s, Ms Hayes’ and her baby boy’s blood types were all different to the Caherciveen’s baby’s.

However, investigating detectives, began following a theory of “heteropaternal superfecundation,” suspecting that Ms Hayes had been pregnant with twins, conceived through sex with different men in a very short frame of time.

On October 10, 1984, however, all charges against Ms Hayes and her family, in relation to the death of the Caherciveen baby were dropped.

Then on January 7, 1985, the Kerry Babies Tribunal opened in Tralee, chaired by Justice Kevin Lynch.

The tribunal had been set up to see how criminal charges were ever brought against Ms Hayes and her family.

It was also set up to look at the circumstances of her and her family’s questioning by gardaí and how their statements were taken after Ms Hayes alleged she was slapped, threatened with having her child placed in an orphanage and her family farm sold.

During the course of the tribunal Ms Hayes was cross-examined by multiple barristers for five days, the longest period a witness had ever been questioned in the history of the State.

She was asked 2,000 questions which ranged from when she lost her virginity to whether she used her daughter Yvonne as “ammunition” against Mr Locke.

Here are exerts from the transcript of Ms Hayes’ five days of intense and probing cross-examination.

‘Puerile lunacy’

Anthony Kennedy SC, who was acting for 25 gardaí based in Dublin and Tralee, suggested to Ms Hayes that she was pregnant with twins by two different men, delivered one baby in a field, then went to sleep and was woken up by the onset of labour of the second baby:

Q. You continued to bleed after the birth of this baby in the field?

A. That is correct.

Q. Did you know that there is one situation where that most readily happens and that is where the neck or the cervix of the uterus of womb does not close because there is another baby expecting to be delivered and that is the reason for the bleeding?

A. I had only one baby.

Q. I put it to you that you had more than one. We will come to deal with that in a moment. After you had your baby in the field the placenta came and you said to yourself: ‘Thanks be to God that is over and done with now. I can get back to live a normal life.’

A. I never said that.

Q. You said to yourself?

A. I did not.

Q. Or words to that effect?

A. No.

Q. This embarrassing episode was finished. Nobody need know. I will put the baby in a hole tomorrow morning and that is the end of it?

A. No.

Q. It did not happen like that, whatever your mental attitude was when you went to bed. You either slept or did not sleep but at half-past two you suddenly realised that after you thought all my troubles were over here is another one coming. Was that your attitude in the bed?

A. No.

Q. You called Bridie Fuller (Joanne’s aunt). Your first baby in the field was an uneventful normal pregnancy but not the second one?

A. There was only one.

Q. The second one was very difficult because being the second of twins the placenta has not the same space in which to keep away from the baby in the womb and your second birth was very difficult when you thought all your troubles were over in the field. Is that not so?

A. There was only one baby.

Q. You know that there is a medical phenomenon which I will explain to you. It is called puerile lunacy, quite common. Mr Creedon (consultant obstetrician/gynaecologist Dr John Creedon) agreed with it in his evidence, that is that a woman has given birth is capable of all sorts of extraordinary behaviour. You remember that evidence?

A. Yes.

Q. Here you were having delivered the baby in the field, thinking your troubles were now over, suddenly realising that you were about to produce yourself again in bed. Then you called Bridie Fuller in, a very experienced nurse and you had great difficulty before your baby was born, but in a fever, in a temporary lunatic state you got the knife and you stabbed that baby as you describe in your statement. What do you say to that?

A. That is all untrue.

Q. That is all untrue. Not only were you not satisfied with stabbing the baby you beat that baby with a bath brush as described to the tribunal and as shown to the tribunal by Dr Harbison (State pathologist Dr John Harbison who carried out the post-mortem on Joanne’s baby)?

A. That wasn’t my baby.

Q. Whose baby was it?

A. I couldn’t tell you.

Q. Was there another baby born to somebody else in that house?

A. No.

Q. Are you sure?

A. Yes.

Q. When you say —

A. I did not beat any baby.

Q. Or strangle any baby?

A. No.

Q. When you say that wasn’t my baby what do you mean?

A. That baby in Caherciveen is not mine.

State pathologist John Harbison, who testified at the tribunal.
State pathologist John Harbison, who testified at the tribunal.

Another man

Martin Kennedy SC, who was acting for three superintendents, asks Ms Hayes, why she “allowed intimacy” to take place between her and a married man, if she lived in “fairytale land” and whether she used her daughter as “ammunition” to “force” the father to live with them:

Q. You said: ‘I was having intercourse from time to time with Jeremiah Locke around 1981.’ That is what you said to the tribunal. How is it you couldn’t be more accurate to the tribunal?

A. I don’t think they asked me the exact date. I don’t think they asked me for the exact date.

Q. Was that the first time you ever went out with Jeremiah Locke?

A. That is correct.

Q. You knew he was a newly married man?

A. Yes.

Q. Married in 1980?

A. Yes.

Q. Were you intimate with him on that first occasion?

A. Yes.

Q. You hoped then he might leave his new wife and come to you?

A. No.

Q. What was the reason for it?

A. For going with him.

Q. For allowing intimacy to take place between you?

A. It just happened.

Q. These things don’t happen. It requires the consent of two people.

A. Yes.

Q. Why did you allow intimacy to take place on that occasion?

A. I can’t say.

Q. Are you telling the tribunal you were then in love with him at that stage?

A. No.

Q. You weren’t in love and still you allowed intimacy to take place on your first day.

A. Yes.

Q. You went on in your statement, Ms Hayes, you said you did fall in love with him?

A. That is correct.

Q. How long were you going out with him before that happened?

A. I can’t say.

Q. Was it one week, two weeks?

A. I can’t say.

Q. Six months?

A. I don’t know.

Q. You went on: ‘Around May 1982 I became pregnant by Jeremiah but around the Bank Holiday in June, early in June I think it was a Sunday, I lost the baby. I wanted to be pregnant.’

A. That is correct.

Q. Why was that?

A. I was in love with Jeremiah.

Q. You were in love with Jeremiah at that stage?

A. Yes.

Q. It was some time between the 26th October 1981 and May 1962 you fell in love with Jeremiah. Is that your evidence?

A. Yes.

Q. ‘I thought from the beginning that Jeremiah Locke would go away with me and that we would live together.’

A. Yes.

Q. What is the tribunal to understand by that expression ‘from the beginning?’

A. When we fell in love.

Q. So far you have told us about one-sided love?

A. Maybe it was one-sided.

Q. Then you used the expression in your statement: ‘We would live together happily ever after.’

A. Yes.

Q. Do you remember using that expression?

A. I possibly did.

Q. Do you not realise that expression only occurs in fairy tales?

A. Yes.

Q. Were you living in fairy tale land at that time?

A. No.

Jeremiah Locke, the father of Joanne Hayes’ children.
Jeremiah Locke, the father of Joanne Hayes’ children.

Q. Did you ever have a row with Jeremiah?

A. Yes, often.

Q. Often had a row with him?

A. Yes, of course.

Q. When you used the expression you hoped we would live together happily ever after like the prince finding his princess, putting her up on his white Charger (car) and riding off into the sunset is that what you had in mind?

A. No.

Q. Up to what time in your association with Jeremiah did you think there was a possibility that he would leave his wife and children and go to live with you?

A. Until after Yvonne (Joanne and Jeremiah’s daughter) was born.

Q. Yvonne was born on the 19th May 1983 and from that time onwards you realised that your hope and your love was to remain unfulfilled?

A. I still love him.

Q. Did you still hope he would leave his wife and come and live with you?

A. I don’t think so.

Q. Why then, Ms Hayes, did you continue to allow intimacy to take place between you?

A. I don’t think so.

Q. Why then Ms Hayes did you allow intimacy to take place between you?

A. Because I was in love with him.

Q. Do you think he was in love with you?

A. He said he was.

Q. Did you ask him if he were in love with you why would he not come and live with you?

A. Yes.

Q. What reply did he make?

A. He said he would eventually.

Q. You still had hopes.

A. No, I had no hope after Yvonne was born.

Q. Was it after Yvonne was born that he told you he still loved you and would live with you eventually?

A. Yes.

Q. How long after Yvonne was born?

A. I can’t say.

Q. You had no further hope after that?

A. Not really.

Q. What are we to understand by that answer?

A. I partly guessed he wouldn’t leave his wife.

Q. Were you upset that Jeremiah appeared to show no interest in Yvonne?

A. Yes.

Q. You said in your statement that he only saw Yvonne twice after she was born?

A. That is correct.

Q. Once in the hospital, St Catherine’s Hospital and once when you brought Yvonne to work?

A. Yes.

Q. He never called to see his daughter?

A. Yes.

Q. Did that upset you?

A. Yes.

Q. Why did you continue to associate with Jeremiah?

A. I was still in love with him.

Q. Even after the birth of Yvonne?

A. Yes.

Q. Were you hoping to use your daughter, Yvonne, as ammunition?

A. No.

Q. To force Jeremiah to leave his wife and children and come and live with you?

A. No.

Q. But you knew, Ms Hayes, that what had failed once was certainly not going to work the second time. Did you know that?

A. What do you mean?

Q. That having used Yvonne as ammunition?

A. I did not use her as ammunition.

Q. You said having the baby for him you felt that that would make him come to live with you?

A. I did not have the baby for him.

Q. For whom did you have the baby?

A. Myself.

Q. You continued to associate with Jeremiah Locke after the 19th May. Was that right?

A. That is correct.

Q. Are you still continuing your association with Jeremiah Locke?

A. No.

Q. When was the last time you were out with him?

A. A good bit before the 12th April.

Q. How long before the 12th April?

A. I can’t say.

Q. A month or six weeks?

A. Probably a month or more.

Q. Around the middle of March or early March?

A. Yes.

Q. You were still going out?

A. Yes.

Q. Were you intimate then?

A. No.

Q. I have to put some questions to you which may be difficult for you to answer but if you have difficulty with them tell me. I want to put it to you that your sister Kathleen, who is five years your senior, was not working?

A. No.

Q. After Yvonne was born and that while you were enjoying the good life, earning good money, working every day at the sports centre, enjoying your work, no doubt meeting the public, looking after the cash, answering the telephone, socialising, going to parties, your sister Kathleen then approaching 30 years of age was sitting at home minding your baby?

A. Kathleen went out as well.

Questions and answers are exchanged over how much Kathleen was being paid.

Q. Do you think Kathleen was happy with that arrangement?

A. I can’t say.

Q. Wasn’t life passing her by?

A. I don’t know.

Q. She wasn’t getting any younger?

A. No.

Q. Then you got pregnant again sometime after August 1983?

A. Yes.

Q. Was that with Jeremiah?

A. Yes.

Q. Were you having intimate relations with any other man around that time?

A. No.

Q. We know you did have intimate relations with another man. Was that before you met Jeremiah?

A. Yes.

Q. Or before you went out?

A. No, before I met Jeremiah.

Q. You met Jeremiah first around 1980.

A. I met him in 1978 when he started to work.

Q. It was prior to that?

A. No, I knew Jeremiah before that.

Q. You went out with somebody else?

A. I wasn’t friends with Jeremiah at that stage.

Q. Was the man you went out with, was he a married man?

A. No.

Q. How many men were there before you went out with Jeremiah?

A. One.

Q. Just the one?

A. Yes.

Q. How long had you been going out with this man?

A. Six months.

Q. Why did you stop your association with this man?

A. I can’t say, just finished.

Q. On whose side did it finish?

A. Probably mine, maybe it was his.

Q. Which was it?

A. I can’t say.

Q. Is it you can’t remember or you don’t want to say?

A. I can’t remember.

Q. Who broke up that?

A. I can’t remember.

Q. Did you take up with another man?

A. No.

Q. From the termination of that affair before you knew or went out with Jeremiah?

A. No.

Abbeydorney supporters of Joanne Hayes at the tribunal in Tralee.
Abbeydorney supporters of Joanne Hayes at the tribunal in Tralee.

Expert evidence

Anthony Kennedy SC, who was acting for 25 gardaí based in Dublin and Tralee, asks Ms Hayes if she is disputing two experts who gave their opinion about how she delivered her baby in the field:

Q. We have heard here from Dr Harbison — I don’t think Dr Harbison has any difficulty distinguishing between the truth and a lie?

A. Yes.

Q. Dr Harbison told the court that the umbilic cord had been parted with a clean cut. You swore that you cut the cord?

A. I still swear I pulled at that cord and it broke.

Q. And Dr Creedon was expressly asked that question at the conclusion of his cross-examination. I said to the judge: ‘If your lordship would allow me to suggest to your lordship one further question of this witness as we have him in the box, to ask him would it be possible for you, Ms Hayes and Dr Harbison had found a clean cut at the end of the umbilical cord,’ and the answer was ‘it would be impossible. Torn it would be torn and cut it would be neat and straight as Dr Harbison found it?’

A. I don’t agree. I pulled that cord and it broke.

Q. You pulled the cord and it broke?

A. Yes.

Q. You don’t accept what the two experts say. One of them has been 16 years in obstetrics and the other has been about 30 years in pathology?

A. I just pulled that cord and it broke.

Q. It broke neat and straight?

A. I don’t know what way.

Q. You have heard the evidence of Dr Harbison that he examined it?

A. Yes.

Q. You accept the evidence as being true, it was cut?

A. It wasn’t cut.

‘Lies come easily’

Martin Kennedy SC representing three superintendents, asks Ms Hayes if she agrees that “lies come easily to her lips” and that she finds it “difficult to distinguish between the truth and the untruth”.

Q. Ms Hayes, do you realise this tribunal is being presided over by a High Court judge?

A. I do.

Q. Do you realise that that High Court has powers to commit you for contempt of court if you disobey any of the rulings of the court?

A. Yes.

Q. At the conclusion yesterday afternoon Mr Justice Lynch (High Court judge appointed to chair the tribunal) said: ‘Have you any objections to the witness — I think it would be better if the witness did not discuss with her legal advisors overnight. Do you remember Mr Justice Lynch saying that to you yesterday?

A. Yes.

Q. What then were you doing in Room 13 with your solicitor for a quarter of an hour after the tribunal rose?

A. We weren’t talking about the case.

Q. You and Kathleen, and one of the people from the sports centre and Mr Mann (Joanne Hayes’ solicitor)?

A. That is correct.

Q. What were you discussing?

A. We were discussing his suit.

Q. Whose suit?

A. Mr Mann’s.

Q. A quarter of an hour talking about it?

A. We had a cup of tea.

Q. What else did you discuss?

A. His overcoat.

Q. What else?

A. I don’t know what else. we didn’t discuss the case.

Q. His suit and his overcoat?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you accept Ms Hayes, that you find it difficult to distinguish between the truth and the untruth?

A. No.

Q. I put it to you that lies come easily to you when they suit your purpose?

A. I am on oath here, yes.

Q. I put the question to you. I put it to you that lies come easily to your lips when they suit your purpose?

A. It is possible.

Q. It is possible. We have heard the evidence of the opening days of this tribunal of three witnesses, Irene McGaley (a former colleague of Joanne’s), Martina Ronan (a friend and former colleague of Joanne’s) and Mrs Mary O’Riordan (a close friend of Joanne’s). I will refresh your memory of what they said. Mrs O’Riordan said in the course of a conversation with you after your baby or babies were born, she said to you on the telephone when you phoned her — you remember phoning her?

A. I do.

Q. Around the 25th or 26th April. ‘I said this is Mary O’Riordan talking. I said: ‘Hello Joanne, how are you?’ You replied: ‘Bad, I have lost the baby. I have been in hospital for a week.

Mr McCarthy (Ms Hayes’ senior counsel):

My lord, my friend is putting evidence to the witness but he doesn’t appear to be reading from the transcript.

Mr Justice Lynch:

I don’t want cross-examination interrupted in as far as possible. Everybody is going to be given the full opportunity of unhindered cross-examination.

Judge Kevin Lynch on the Hayes farm.
Judge Kevin Lynch on the Hayes farm.

Labour details

Martin Kennedy SC, representing three superintendents, asks Ms Hayes when she lost her virginity and the details of her labour with her daughter Yvonne, including when her afterbirth arrived:

Q. Has there been any other man in your life apart from Jeremiah Locke?

A. No, only Jeremiah.

Q. I have to put this to you, because it has been raised in evidence, Jeremiah Locke said that when he began to make love with you that he said that in answer to questions he said that you were not a virgin at that time?

A. That is correct.

Q. Is that correct?

A. Yes.

Q. You told the tribunal that when you became pregnant the last time you think your family suspected and there is some evidence that Kathleen did suspect but you didn’t tell any of them?

A. No, I did not.

Q. Why didn’t you tell them?

A. Well, they were good enough to care for Yvonne. I did not feel like telling them I was pregnant again by the same man when he was married.

Q. Take Kathleen your sister, you didn’t even tell Kathleen?

A. No.

Q. Was there any reason why you didn’t go to a doctor?

A. No.

Q. Do you not think it was rather foolish?

A. Yes, very silly.

Q. Perhaps, even stupid?

A. Yes, very stupid.

Q. What did you intend to do after the baby was born?

A. I intended to get a flat for Yvonne and myself here in Tralee.

Q. Here in town?

A. Yes.

Q. Why was that?

A. I don’t think it was fair to the lads at home and I would get as much social welfare at home as if I was out on my own.

Q. Is the Unmarried Mothers Allowance?

A. Yes.

Q. Was that the reason why you didn’t tell your family you were pregnant.

A. It is possible.

Q. You said that you kept it to yourself but we heard the staff in the sports centre or at least the female members of the staff were aware of the fact that you were pregnant?

A. That is correct.

Q. It was drawn to Mr Bohen’s attention and he talked to you about it?

A. Yes, that is correct.

Q. Did you believe that they suspected you were pregnant at the time. Were you able to conceal it?

A. Possibly they knew.

Q. Was there any reason why you didn’t go along and apply for maternity leave?

A. I had no intention of coming back to work.

Q. You didn’t intend to come back?

A. No.

Q. If we come to the night of the 12th April, you remember giving birth and in reply to Mr Moriarty (Michael Moriarty SC, on behalf of the tribunal) you have told us about the afterbirth?

A. That is correct.

Q. You may not be able to put a time on it but would you be able to say how many minutes after the birth?

A. I can’t say. It was very quick.

Q. You may remember the previous year when Yvonne was born the afterbirth came within, according to the records, within three minutes. Did the afterbirth come as quickly in the field with this baby as it did with Yvonne or was it more or less the same?

A. More or less the same length of time.

Q. Do you remember did this happen before or after you pulled at the umbilical cord?

A. It was after.

Q. You have heard Dr Harbison give evidence?

A. Yes.

Q. You heard him give evidence that in his opinion on his examination the umbilical cord was cut?

A. I heard him say that.

Q. Both he and Mr Creedon have referred to the fact that the umbilical cord was very difficult to pull, an umbilical cord. What do you want to say to that?

A. I pulled it and it broke.

Q. You pulled it and it broke?

A. Yes, that is what happened.

Judge Brian Curtin SC arriving at the tribunal.
Judge Brian Curtin SC arriving at the tribunal.

Slaps and threats

Dermot McCarthy SC, acting on behalf of the Hayes family, asks Ms Hayes if being slapped and threats to sell her family’s farm, put her mother in jail and her daughter in an orphanage prompted her to admit to a crime she did not commit:

Q. Thinking of this day you had in the station, the long day you had there, you admitted to a crime, a stabbing crime, admitted to facts of murdering a baby that wasn’t yours?

A. That is correct.

Q. You admitted to something that did not happen.

A. Yes.

Q. What was it that made you do it?

A. When they read out Mom’s statement and they kept roarin’, and shouting at me to tell them that I killed stabbed the baby, I was convinced I had done it.

Q. I suppose you had something to worry about because you had in fact abandoned your own baby?

A. That is correct.

Q. Did you think it was going to be much of a change to say that you stabbed, that you had stabbed the baby?

A. They wanted me for the Caherciveen baby no matter what else I would have said.

Q. Would it be a fair comment to say that if either of the babies they wanted, that they wouldn’t take the baby you were offering and that they might accept another baby and prevent your mother going to jail, and Yvonne going to an orphanage?

A. Yes, sorry, what is the question?

Q. Was that or would that be a fair comment on your position that you admitted to one baby and you might as well admit to the other?

A. I did not admit to the Caherciveen baby and I admitted to my own baby and I told them about it. They convinced me that the Cahirciveen baby was mine.

Q. Eventually the time came they offered to put your mother into jail?

A. Yes.

Q. And Yvonne into a hospital?

A. Into an orphanage.

Q. Did the slaps in the face have anything to do with making you admit to this?

A. Possibly, yes, it all had an effect.

Q. The selling of the farm was a major element?

A. Yes, they said they would sell the farm that evening.

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