Murder accused had been waiting for Garda interview, court hears

The jury in the Melissa Mahon murder trial has heard that when interviewed Ronald McManus told gardaí “I’ve been waiting some time for this”.

The jury in the Melissa Mahon murder trial has heard that when interviewed Ronald McManus told gardaí “I’ve been waiting some time for this”.

Mr McManus was arrested on April 10, 2008 and when asked by Detective Sergeant Dermot Flannery and Detective Garda Paul Casey how he was introduced to Melissa he said: “Just read the newspapers. You’ve let me be abused and attacked and done nothing about this”.

Mr McManus (aged 44), also known as Ronnie Dunbar, of Rathbraughan Park, Sligo, has pleaded not guilty at the Central Criminal Court to murdering Melissa Mahon in September 2006. He also denies threatening to kill one of his daughters, Samantha Conroy.

Ms Mahon went missing from the care of the Health Service Executive on September 14, 2006. A missing person investigation was launched by gardaí and her remains were found on the shore of Lough Gill in Sligo in February 2008 following a statement to gardaí by Samantha Conroy.

Det. Sgt Padraig Scanlon told the court that the accused was arrested on suspicion of murder on April 10, 2008. Under cross examination by Brendan Grehan SC, defending, Det. Sgt Scanlon said that the accused was not arrested in the days following the discovery of remains at Lough Gill as further inquires had to be carried out.

He said he could not accept Mr Grehan’s suggestion that “gardaí were happy to simply dangle Mr McManus out there and let the media get involved and turn this into a circus”.

Det. Sgt Scanlon agreed with Mr Grehan that he called to the accused man’s home on February 23, 2008 in relation to damage that had been done to his house and a threat which had been made to him.

Det. Sgt Scanlon also agreed that Melissa’s parents had refused to make a statement to gardaí about her disappearance and had indicated that she was in England with relatives but would not provide an address for her.

Det. Sgt Dermot Flannery told Isobel Kennedy that he was present for four interviews conducted with Mr McManus on April 10 and 11, 2008. When asked if he understood why he was arrested and detained, Mr McManus told gardaí: “I’ve been waiting for this for some time”.

He denied killing the girl and said: “I was trying to get her out of harm’s way”.

He told gardaí: “If social workers had done their job right I wouldn’t be here now”.

Mr McManus, who said he would not be made a scapegoat, said he had a “father-daughter” or “platonic relationship” with Melissa. He said she never slept in his house apart from an occasion when he was not present.

He described Melissa as “a rebel, she knew how to play people, she was clever and articulated [sic]”.

He told gardaí that Melissa was openly affectionate towards him and was looking for a father figure. He denied that he manipulated her, preyed on her and fed her rubbish about the new world and demons.

Mr McManus repeatedly told gardaí: “I am an innocent man, I have given you a full account” as he was questioned about the murder. When asked about his daughters’ statements he said: “I can see that any solicitor will wipe the floor with those conflicting statements”.

He told gardaí that he had convinced Melissa to go into care and was trying to get her off the streets. He said she was drinking and taking drugs with other young people in houses in Sligo. He said he had taken her “out and about to get her away from trouble in the town”.

When asked if he had had a sexual relationship with Melissa he saidí “You’re reading too many papers”. He said that her own parents treated the girl like an animal.

He told gardaí that his youngest daughter could clear up the situation and as far as he knew his daughter, Shirley Conroy, was not privy to what had happened to Melissa.

It was put to him that he used his daughters to carry the body so they would be implicated and he could hide behind them, but he said that that was a “fairytale”.

Mr McManus denied disposing of Melissa’s body. When questioned about the sleeping bag her body was allegedly dumped in he repeated: “I am an innocent man”.

He told gardaí to keep the sleeping bag well away from him saying: “I don’t want my DNA to get on that, I don’t want you fitting me up for murder.”

He told gardaí that he did not have a plan to kill Melissa and said that what was being put to him was circumstantial.

When gardaí suggested that his interest in the girl was sexual and that she was pregnant with his child he said: “That’s hearsay. If you have evidence put it to me.”

He said: “I didn’t kill anyone, I didn’t carry anyone in the boot of my car, I didn’t strangle anyone.”

Asked if the killing was an accident he said: “I don’t have a clue, I wasn’t there."

The trial continues before Mr Justice Barry White and a jury of six men and six women. It will continue at least for the rest of this week.

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