Gardaí investigating murder of Marie Tierney to prepare 'sizeable' file for DPP

Gardaí will prepare an extensive file for the Director of Public Prosecutions after a major investigation into the murder of Marie Tierney almost 35 years ago.

Gardaí investigating murder of Marie Tierney to prepare 'sizeable' file for DPP

Gardaí will prepare an extensive file for the Director of Public Prosecutions after a major investigation into the murder of Marie Tierney almost 35 years ago.

The Irish Examiner understands that detectives are “very happy” with their investigation and expect to send a “sizeable” file to the DPP by September.

A man, aged in his 70s, was released without charge overnight on Wednesday, after being questioned in relation to the killing of the mother of two.

The man was the first person arrested in connection with the death of the 34-year-old woman.

In a statement, Garda HQ said: “The man in his 70s arrested in relation to the investigation into the Murder of Marie Tierney in 1984 has been released without charge. A file will be prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.”

The man was arrested on Wednesday morning and detained under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act 1984.

That allows for up to 24 hours in custody, excluding breaks.

Given the nature of the investigation, and the time period that has elapsed, officers did not expect to be able to bring charges immediately and that they would need to submit a file for the DPP to consider.

The arrest was the culmination of a massive cold-case review of the historic murder, which involved fresh interviews with witnesses, many of whom had to be traced, and retired gardaí and the gathering of new forensic evidence.

The collection of fresh forensic evidence was made possible due to technological advances since Ms Tierney's death. This entailed the exhumation of her remains and post mortem tests.

The Irish Examiner understands that “new and very significant” evidence has been gathered by the investigation team.

Ms Tierney's body was discovered in a ditch on Bleach Road, on the outskirts of Kilkenny city, on 21 December 1984. She had been strangled to death.

She had been last seen by her husband Jim two months earlier, on 20 October, leaving the family home at Clintstown, Jenkinstown, Co Kilkenny, in her car. He reported her missing the following day.

The couple, who ran a grocery store and petrol station, had two children, a boy and a girl, aged 12 and 13 at the time.

Her car, a Renault 18 estate, registration number 35-HIP, was located on 22 October at Newpark Fenn, Co Kilkenny. A number of witnesses said the car was abandoned there the night before.

A murder investigation was launched after her body was discovered, including the interviewing of witnesses, but the case never progressed significantly.

In the period after 2012, the matter came to the attention again of gardaí in the Kilkenny/Carlow division as they were examining a second, and unrelated, cold case - that of Ann ‘Nancy’ Smyth - murdered at her home in Kilkenny City in September 1987. A conviction was secured in that case.

Gardaí set up a full review of the Tierney case and sought exhibits from the original investigation. Detectives spoke to retired gardaí about the case, as well as to family members.

Witnesses were contacted again and interviewed. As inquiries continued, new witnesses came forward with information which gardaí said significantly assisted the investigation.

In November 2017, gardaí went public and launched a fresh appeal. But Garda sources said that key forensic evidence, thanks to technical advances, could only be gathered through an exhumation.

The exhumation of Ms Tierney’s remains at Conahy cemetery last year. Pic: Pat Moore
The exhumation of Ms Tierney’s remains at Conahy cemetery last year. Pic: Pat Moore

This resulted in an exhumation of Ms Tierney’s remains at Conahy cemetery at the end of last October. This was attended by specialists from Forensic Science Ireland, the State Pathologist and forensic anthropologist Laureen Buckley.

A post mortem was conducted that day and the remains of Ms Tierney were reinterred later that evening.

The results of the PM and other tests informed the Garda investigation, which culminated in the arrest of the suspect.

Gardaí believe Ms Tierney was probably killed in a location different to where her body was found.

At the time of the exhumation, gardaí said that more than 500 lines of the investigation had been opened and that more than 200 witness statements had been taken.

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