Shamed former garda claims he was wrongly blamed by tribunal

A retired Sligo garda heavily criticised for lying to the Morris Tribunal today claimed he had been wrongly blamed.

A retired Sligo garda heavily criticised for lying to the Morris Tribunal today claimed he had been wrongly blamed.

John Nicholson was prosecuted and pleaded guilty to three counts of uttering forged documents following a successful investigation by the Carty team.

The Silver Bullet report found Bernard Conlon was taken on as an agent by Det Sgt John White through Garda Nicholson.

Mr Conlon was asked by Garda Nicholson at the behest of Sgt White to be found in a premises with drinks in front of him after hours so Frank McBrearty snr could be prosecuted under liquor licensing laws.

The retired garda co-operated with White in procuring forged certificates and the report stated he lied about these events to the tribunal.

After giving evidence to today’s sitting of the tribunal, Mr Nicholson said: “I have been very much blamed in the wrong by this tribunal. And I would like an opportunity, especially in relation to one matter. I have been blamed in relation to a certain thing in relation to receipts, and also blamed in relation to setting Conlon up in the pub which I had nothing to do with.

“And that’s not the main issue. The main issue is in relation to evidence that was given here and backed up by a handwriting expert, which is a complete and total fabrication.”

He added: “What I am about to say will be proved in the very near future in a different forum.”

Mr Nicholson told the tribunal he would like to bring an issue to its attention in relation to the last module in the interests of justice in this country.

Tribunal chairman, Justice Frederick Morris, said: “I’m assuming is that Mr Nicholson wishes to debate any findings that I have made. My practice [is] that I will not debate them in the tribunal in a later module. All I can say Mr Nicholson as I have said before to Supt Lennon on another occasion, I would not make any findings that I had made were it not for the fact that I was absolutely sure that I was correct.”

Mr Nicholson was transferred in 1972 to Sligo and remained there until he applied for retirement which took effect in 2002.

Mr Nicholson’s involvement in the investigation into the death of cattle dealer Richie Barron came in June 1997 when he took part in the second arrest of Mark McConnell for murder on the basis of new evidence, a statement of admission from Mr McConnell’s cousin.

Frank McBrearty jnr has denied he made a false confession to the murder, which has since been found to be a hit-and-run death.

Mr Nicholson told the sitting of the tribunal today that he had taken notes during the second interview with Mr McConnell on June 25, 1997.

The tribunal heard the notes have since gone missing.

He said it was later that he discovered the notes were missing from the materials.

“I immediately discussed it with a member of the tribunal here that I was 100% sure that I had taken those notes and that I had handed them in with all the other notes,” he said.

“All I did was what the rest of the lads did, I handed them into the incident room in Letterkenny,” he said.

Tribunal counsel Peter Charleton said: “And you are absolutely certain that by notes missing you mean questions such as a statement has been made by Frank McBrearty jnr naming you as his accomplice in this murder. What have you got to say?”

He said: “That would be the main evidence we put to mark McConnell.”

More in this section