There were no cloak and dagger methods used during interviews with a Donegal woman in relation to the death of cattle dealer Richie Barron, a garda claimed today.
Sgt Paul Heffernan, who was one of the officers involved in interviewing Katrina Brolly in Letterkenny Garda Station in December 1996, insisted before the Morris Tribunal that his questions were straightforward.
“During the course of these interviews Mr Chairman, we asked straightforward questions, there was no cloak and dagger stuff, for want of a better expression,” Sgt Heffernan, who was just one of a number of gardai who questioned Mrs Brolly, said.
“The questions were basic and straightforward.”
The sergeant said he did not receive instructions from other officers to attempt to break Mrs Brolly during the interviews he carried out.
The tribunal is hearing evidence over the detention of Mrs Brolly and her sister Roisin McConnell on December 4, 1996 in relation to the death of Mr Barron.
Three officers – Det Gda John Dooley, Det Sgt John White and Gda Joan Gallagher – are accused of intimidating Mrs McConnell and Mrs Brolly while investigating the whereabouts of Mrs McConnell’s husband Mark, who was wrongly accused of being involved in the death.
Det Sgt White and Det Gda Dooley have admitted at the tribunal the psychological torture meted out to the two women.
During his dealings with Mrs Brolly, Sgt Heffernan said he did not recall her requesting a telephone call to check on her children.
“I don’t have any memory of that but if Mrs Brolly says she requested the telephone call from me and I didn’t alert the member in charge I have no reason to disbelieve it,” he said.
Paul McDermott, counsel for the tribunal, queried whether Mrs Brolly had made a complaint of abuse to the sergeant.
“My best memory of that is Mrs Brolly said to me ’I didn’t come here to be abused’,” he said.
“She directed it at me, not in reference to what had happened previously. So from that, I wouldn’t say I got defensive, but said I did not abuse you Mrs Brolly or words to that effect. ”
Sgt Heffernan said he did not associate it as an allegation that other officers had been abusing her.
He said he should have inquired further what she had meant by the remark.
Mrs Brolly previously told the tribunal she had informed Gda Heffernan about her hair being pulled by another garda and that she had never been granted her requested telephone call.
Mr McDermott said: “Do you recall her making a complaint to you about having her hair pulled?”
Sgt Heffernan replied: “Mrs Brolly did not specifically inform me her hair had been pulled or that she had been assaulted in that fashion.”
Under cross-examination by Mr McDermott, retired Detective Gda Sean Herraghty said he did not remember Mrs Brolly mentioning the alleged hair pulling.
“No if she said that the alarm bells would start ringing immediately, I have an obligation if there is a complaint made in my presence that I would do something about it,” the retired detective garda said.
Mr Herraghty said he did not recall tapping Mrs Brolly on the hand with a pen during interviews as a reprimand for pointing at one of his colleagues. He denied threatening her by telling her she would serve seven years in prison.
The former detective said the period of jail time associated with the offence may have been mentioned to her as part of the discussion.
He added: “You presume if a person has been arrested they are arrested on fairly good grounds and that the homework was done and if you are questioning them you presume they are guilty.”
Mr Herraghty said in this case he was not responsible for Mrs Brolly’s arrest.
He said Mrs Brolly was not abused in his, or Sgt Heffernan’s presence.