A garda sergeant today insisted he was intimidated by a suspect wrongly arrested during a murder case 10 years ago.
Sergeant Paul Heffernan arrested nightclub owner Frank McBrearty Snr during the investigation into the death of a Donegal cattle dealer.
He told the Morris Tribunal Mr McBrearty Snr threatened him that he would never work in the county again during interrogation at Letterkenny garda station.
The garda sergeant, along with two colleagues, quizzed the Raphoe publican on December 5, 1996, about the death of Richie Barron.
The previous day eight members of Mr McBrearty Snr’s extended family were also arrested as part of the botched probe. It was later found Mr Barron died in a hit-and-run collision.
Sergeant Heffernan said the interview was tense and difficult and he felt intimidated by the detainee.
“He (Mr McBrearty Snr) turned to a window behind him and started praying aloud. I thought it was silly behaviour to be honest. I had never witnessed anybody do that before,” he said.
“If I was on my own in the interview room with him I would have been very intimidated.
“He was quite a strong and forceful character.”
Tribunal barrister Anthony Barr SC suggested he wasn’t intimidated but made the claim in a statement to “bolster the case against him”.
Sgt Heffernan replied: “Mr McBrearty can be a volatile character. If I thought that he was going to explode for some reason as a result of answering a question or not liking the question that was to be put to him I would view that behaviour as intimidating.”
Some 25 minutes after the questioning Mr McBrearty Snr was hospitalised on the recommendation of a doctor who believed he was in danger of suffering a heart attack or stroke, Mr Barr said.