A publican wrongly arrested during a botched murder inquiry today claimed he was unable to visit his mother’s grave because of the shame gardaí had brought on his family.
Frank McBrearty Snr’s home in Raphoe, Co Donegal, was raided by 14 Garda officers 10 years ago during an investigation into the death of cattle dealer Richie Barron.
Mr McBrearty’s son and nephew were the prime suspects in the murder case, but it was later ruled that Mr Barron died in a hit-and-run collision and that they had nothing to do with his death.
The Garda cover-up following the wrongful arrests of 12 people during the probe ultimately led to the Morris Tribunal and the unravelling of a web of corruption within the force.
Mr McBrearty Snr told the hearing his family was almost destroyed because gardaí were trying to frame them for Mr Barron’s death.
“In a small town of 1,400 people we were shamed out of this world,” he said. “We were spat on. We couldn’t go to the graveyard to my mother’s grave.
“We couldn’t go to Mass. We were attacked, assaulted.
“You have to live in this situation to know what’s going on here, what these guards was up to along with their informers.
“Not one of these people has been charged for anything. They haven’t been charged. They haven’t lost anything.
“I have lost nearly all my life’s savings, banks and everything, to try and fight for the truth.”
Mr McBrearty Snr told the tribunal he was arrested on December 5, 1996, on the word of criminal informers.
“I shouldn’t even have been arrested,” he said. None of us (should have). We were all innocent people. We were arrested by the word of criminals.
“There was no proper feedback about what these people were up to, the guards - (Garda) John O’Dowd and the team and the criminals they used, the informers they used.”
Officers laughed and sniggered throughout the search and called his family “the Mafia”, he claimed.
A personal photograph of him at a party was taken and later put up at Letterkenny Garda Station with the words “The Don” written on it, the tribunal heard.
A few hours into his interrogation, Mr McBrearty Snr was admitted to Letterkenny General Hospital on the advice of a doctor, who suspected he was in danger of having a heart attack or stroke.
He said he was down on his hands and knees in the garda station protesting his innocence and was crying during interrogation before being taken into medical care.
Inspector John McGinley, in the presence of Superintendent John Fitzgerald, asked him to sign a blank sheet of paper, he alleged.
“(Inspector McGinley) said sign that, you’ll have no more bother … he was the main man trying to frame me and my family, him and the four Dublin boys (detectives from the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation),” said Mr McBrearty Snr.
“I said: ‘No way, I’m not signing anything’.”
Mr McBrearty said: “I tried to reason with them that we were all innocent people. They wouldn’t listen to us.
“They were banging on the table saying: ‘You’re a hard man, you’re not so hard a man down here. Give us the information that we need and you’ll be released shortly’.”
He said Detective Garda Martin Anderson was peering into the interrogation room through the fan light over the door and smiling.
During his time in hospital Mr McBrearty Snr said he was under constant watch by two gardaí who restricted his visitation rights.
Both Detective Garda Anderson and Detective Garda James Frain prevented his son and nephews from seeing him, he claimed.
After being released from hospital on the afternoon of December 12 he was immediately taken back into garda custody for further interrogation.
Mr McBrearty Snr will continue to give evidence tomorrow.