An elderly woman today told a disgraced former garda to start telling the truth to the Morris Tribunal.
Catherine Eaton clashed with Martin Leonard, whom she accused of being hateful and rude to her when she arrived at Letterkenny Garda Station to bring medication to her ill daughter in custody.
“He wasn’t a nice person at all. He said: ’No, you’re not getting in.' He didn’t care,” she said.
She said that Mr Leonard, as the officer in charge of the station on December 4, 1996, had been the boss man.
“You made me feel that size (she held two of her fingers closely together) that day. Don’t deny it. Tell the truth.”
Mrs Eaton’s daughter, Charlotte Peoples, was one of 12 people arrested for questioning in connection with the death of Donegal cattle dealer Richie Barron.
She told the tribunal that Charlotte had been suffering from pleurisy, a disease of the lung, and that she had rung Letterkenny Garda Station to arrange to bring her medication to her.
The medication was passed on but a coat to keep her warm was not.
Mr Leonard, who is representing himself, denied he had been rude to Mrs Eaton and accused her of of trying to ’nail’ him.
“I’m disagreeing with you totally. You’re so intent on making sure you vilify my character,” he said.
Mrs Eaton, who sat facing him directly with her arms folded and a slight smile on her face, said she had come to the tribunal to tell the truth.
“Let me tell you something, if the truth was told, this tribunal would be over long ago. You’re standing there telling lies,” she said.
Mr Leonard was sacked from the force earlier this year after the conclusion of a disciplinary hearing against him. He was criticised by Judge Frederick Morris for his lack of co-operation with the tribunal and in particular for his comment about a ’don’t hang your own’ attitude among gardaí.
The tribunal heard of the devastating effect the arrest had had on Charlotte Peoples. She became terrified of being arrested again and did not return to her job in a local pub in Raphoe until May 1998.
“She wouldn’t go up the town. She wouldn’t go out. The weight just dropped off her. She lost a lot of weight. She had no interest in anything,” said Mrs Eaton.
She said her daughter had been knocked back again in 1999 when gardaí, prompted by the false allegations of a Sligo man, arrived with a warrant to search their house for a silver bullet.
“I said: ’When are you going to leave us alone?’ She was in a terrible state. It knocked her back into depression again. Well she never got out of it, but it knocked her back.”
Gardaí wrongly believed that Charlotte Peoples and her husband Michael had knowledge about the death of Richie Barron and were covering up for the prime suspects, Frank McBrearty Jr and Mark McConnell. The death of the cattle dealer was later found to be a hit-and-run and not a murder.