Unsolved Murders: Reporters help to keep victims and their grieving families in spotlight

Unsolved Murders: Reporters help to keep victims and their grieving families in spotlight
Grace Livingstone

Journalists are refusing to leave the final chapter untold in a bid to help bring ‘cold case’ killers to justice, writes Pádraig Hoare.

Victims of murder will never get their lives back — but, in a civilised society, there is at least some semblance of satisfaction and relief when a murderer is caught, and will pay for their crimes by being deprived of their liberty for an extended period.

Put simply, those who have been apprehended at least cannot kill again for as long as they remain inside prison walls.

However, the pain will forever linger with families who get no justice, and have no knowledge of why their loved ones died at the hands of another.

Most of us will never know what it is like to see the killing of our loved ones go unpunished, to know the killers remain at large, and that not even the remotest semblance of justice has been dispensed.

There have been egregious examples of murders that remain unsolved in the Irish psyche over the years, but many have largely faded from the public consciousness.

What then for the families of those men and women, who remain none the wiser as to why their loved ones were taken from them in the most perverse of ways?

Such murders include the savage killing of Charles Self in 1982, the baffling murder of Grace Livingstone in 1992, and the shocking case of Eileen Costello O’Shaughnessy in Galway in 1997.

They also include the dreadful murder of Gus Hornibrook in Cork in 2007, and the harrowing deaths of Patricia Doherty, who went missing in 1991 and was found murdered in June 1992, and Antoinette Smith, who was found murdered in Enniskerry in 1988.

Following an initial blaze of publicity, they have all faded largely from the minds of the public, remaining only in the minds of grieving families, frustrated detectives, and dogged reporters such as RTÉ’s Barry Cummins.

Mr Cummins has been determined to remember those who died, and remains relentless in his pursuit of justice for the families, perhaps the last of the public advocates who refuses to leave the final chapter of their stories untold until justice is finally served.

He has written and spoken of many compelling, poignant and vivid stories of people who unfortunately came to public consciousness because of the manner of their deaths, but who were good men and women in life, deserving of a better end.

Mr Cummins has vowed to never give up in his pursuit of justice for such men and women, and his books on the aforementioned murders, as well as others, are available on Kindle as well as in bookstores.

In The Cold Case Files: On the Trail of Ireland’s Undetected Killers, Mr Cummins says: “The only certainty is that there are hundreds of unsolved murders, hundreds of families seeking justice, hundreds of killers who have quite literally got away with murder.

“Every killer has a family, has friends, has a social network, perhaps has work colleagues. The more you look at the scale of Irish cold cases, the more you realise there are potentially thousands of people on this island who have direct information or strong suspicions about the identity of killers who have evaded justice for far too long.”

A recent global phenomenon has been the surge in the popularity of true crime podcasts and internet forums dedicated to solving unsolved murders around the world.

Among the best and most intensively-researched shows to come from Irish podcasters is Mens Rea, a fortnightly true crime podcast that discusses crime in Ireland and the UK.

Every two weeks, host Sinead McHugh delves into the most notorious crimes and examines the people involved, the investigations by the police, and the court cases that followed.

Ms McHugh primarily takes us back through some of the most shocking crimes to have taken place in Ireland, examining the societal impact on the national psyche in their aftermath.

While Ms McHugh’s brilliantly-researched shows primarily deal with crimes where the perpetrator is known, and has faced justice in Irish courts, she has a yearning to see justice done for the families of unsolved crime victims.

The unsolved murder of Grace Livingstone features in one of Mens Rea’s most compelling episodes.

She told the Irish Examiner that crimes remain solvable, and that someone somewhere holds the key to ending the pain and suffering of families.

“The difficulty with cold cases is literally the passage of time. Eyewitness testimony is often inaccurate even just after a crime is committed, but as time passes, people’s memories fade too,” she said.

“But one advantage cases have when years have passed is that often people are more willing to speak to the police.

“Perhaps they’ve had a falling out with someone, or a relationship has broken down, and with some distance from the events, those who know the people involved come forward and are more forthright with the gardaí.”

The other aspect is advances in science, Ms McHugh said.

“If evidence was present at the scene, and has been stored correctly, then there’s a much better chance of finding the person responsible for these heinous acts from a pool of suspects.

“There is an interesting new method being put to great use in the US right now called genetic genealogy, where authorities track their way back through family trees — often though generations — to locate a person with DNA that matches a suspect. This is how the Golden State Killer (also known as the Original Night Stalker was identified and arrested two years ago in California.

“These unsolved cases are incredibly important, and we mustn’t forget these victims. Not only do the families involved deserve closure — public safety is an issue. We need to know that people who have committed these heartless killings are not walking our streets, and that justice has been done.”

Patricia Doherty: Family endures agonising wait

The family of Patricia Doherty have faced more agony and despair than most will ever have to go through.

Her family would endure the most agonising of waiting and knowing little about her fate, until they received the worst of all possible news months later.

Her body was found on June 21, 1992, in Glassamucky Brakes off the Kilakee Rd, Co Dublin, near the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation.

The Kerry native lived with her husband and two children when she disappeared. The prison officer was last seen alive while on her way to go Christmas shopping in Tallaght, and was reported missing by her husband on Christmas Day.

Her body would be found by a turf cutter at Glassamucky Brakes bogland in the Featherbeds in the Dublin Mountains.

Missing persons advocate and cold-case specialist reporter Barry Cummins of RTÉ wrote for the Irish Examiner in 2013 that Patricia’s body lay hidden close to a memorial stone called Lemass Cross.

“This stone marks the place where the body of Noel Lemass, a member of the anti-Treaty IRA forces, was found in 1923,” he wrote. “He had been abducted from a Dublin street and shot dead by pro-Treaty forces. Noel’s brother Seán went on to become leader of Fianna Fáil and taoiseach.

“Noel’s murder clearly shows that the Dublin Mountains have long been used to hide bodies. In more recent years, it seems predatory killers, perhaps a serial killer or killers, have homed in on this particular part of the country to commit their crimes.

“Geographical profiles would point to the fact that remote spots such as the Featherbeds and Killakee mountain and Glassamucky Brakes are only 10 or 15 minutes’ drive from the M50. The killers do not necessarily come from this part of south Dublin. They could live anywhere.”

In his book Missing, Mr Cummins describes how on Christmas morning 1991, Paddy Doherty walked into Tallaght Garda Station to report his wife missing.

He checked Mountjoy Prison, where Patricia was employed, but she had not reported for work the previous day. He told gardaí that he had spoken with friends and family, but nobody had seen Patricia. He had last seen Patricia around 9pm on December 23 when she left their home at Allenton Lawns.

“Patricia had previously worked as a school secretary in Tallaght, but in 1991 she changed career entirely, becoming a prison officer. For six months Patricia Doherty was classified as a missing person. Her husband went on national radio appealing for help with the case. There were a number of reported sightings, but all came to nothing.

“Paddy Doherty told gardaí he’d picked up a number of silent phone calls, which he thought were from Patricia; he believed she was still alive. He checked her AIB account in Tallaght, but it hadn’t been touched. Patricia Doherty was identified by dental records and also by her jewellery and clothing. Paddy was shown a number of personal items by detectives, all of which had been recovered from the body found at Featherbed Mountain.”

State pathologist in 1991, Professor John Harbison, said the cause of Patricia’s death was unascertainable, that he did not find any type of head injury, and that it was possible she had been strangled, but that could not be stated absolutely.

“It appeared Patricia was fully clothed when she was murdered and her body buried in the mountains,” Mr Cummins wrote.

“Although it was straying into the grounds of speculation, many detectives believed there was no sexual motive for her murder. Gardaí wondered if Patricia had known her killer. Was it someone living in Tallaght?

“Detectives examined her work at Mountjoy Prison, looking at prisoners she had been in contact with, but there was no prominent suspect. Nobody was ever arrested in connection with her murder. In recent years, the case was re-examined by the Garda Serious Crime Review Team, and a number of recommendations were made to detectives in Tallaght to advance the investigation. Still her killer remains at large.”

Charles Self: Savage murder of gay set designer in Dublin

It is hard to fathom today, in an Ireland that showed the world in 2015 that marriage should be equal for all, but when Charles Self was murdered in his home in 1982, he was a criminal in the eyes of the law.

His crime? Charles Self was a gay man. Homosexuality would not be decriminalised until 1993.

His brutal murder remains unsolved, and it would be naive to think his sexuality did not hinder the investigation into his death.

A warm and popular member of Dublin’s gay community, Mr Self’s murder at his home in Monkstown shamefully brought all the ignorant tropes about victims of crime, especially gay ones, to the surface.

Charles Self murdered in 1982 in Dublin
Charles Self murdered in 1982 in Dublin

Gay people were “of the other” to most Irish people, a subculture neither understood at best, shamefully feared, shunned and brutalised at worst.

As long as the murder of Charles Self remains unsolved, a stain of Ireland’s ignominious past will linger.

An English-born Scotsman, Charles Self was a set designer for RTÉ, working on The Late Late Show, who secured a professional coup by persuading him to leave the BBC in favour of a new life in Ireland.

He lived at a home with his friend, famed DJ and fellow gay man Vincent Hanley, in Monsktown in 1982.

On the night of January 20, Charles Self socialised with friends at the Bailey in Dawson Street, before heading to Bartley Dunne’s bar in Stephen’s St Lower — a safe haven for gay men who yearned for company, and which understood the furtive lifestyle foisted upon them by an unsympathetic society.

After a final drink at The Hotpot on Burgh Quay, Mr Self entered a taxi with a well-dressed fair-haired man in his mid-20s around 12.20am. The taxi driver dropped the men off around 12.40am at Mr Self’s home.

The 32-year-old would be found dead the next morning by Bert Tyrer, a fellow set designer staying at The Mews, who stayed sometimes while his friend Mr Hanley was away and his bedroom was free.

Charles Self had been stabbed over a dozen times, with his throat also slashed. The investigation, although said to be somewhat thorough for 1982, was hampered by the notoriously poor relationship between the gay community and authorities at the time.

Gay men were seen as authors of their own misfortune by most citizens, with well-worn tropes about promiscuity and deviancy dominating public discourse.

After weeks of investigation, the trail went cold and the young man who accompanied Mr Self to his home was never identified.

Media interest in the case also waned, as two murders in July of that year took over the headlines.

Bridie Gargan and Donal Dunne’s murder at the hands of socialite Malcolm McArthur shunted Charles Self’s case onto the backburner, while the shocking homophobic killing of Declan Flynn by a gang of “queer-bashing” youths in September of that year cemented the feeling that gay people didn’t really matter all that much — the killers received suspended sentences.

Despite a cold case review in 2008 by a detective seen as empathetic to the LGBTQI community, it led to no breakthrough in the quest to find Charles Self’s killer.

However, the review did suggest that the crime scene was not all it seemed to be during the first investigation, and that the young man in the taxi may just as well have been a terrified witness to the murder, as opposed to a suspect.

Gardaí still want this man to come forward, believing he holds the key to solving the case once and for all.

Sinead McHugh of the forensically researched Irish true crime Mens Rea podcast said Charles Self’s case is one that sticks with her.

She told the Irish Examiner: “I think of him as a person I would have loved to have known, artistic and outgoing. His murder was particularly brutal, and the crimescene makes no sense. The poor man had been stabbed and there was a ligature around his neck. Another man in the house who was asleep upstairs apparently heard nothing.

“An open window in the back of the house and an identikit sketch appear to be the only leads. It’s thought many people didn’t come forward with information because of the fact being gay was illegal at the time. There wasn’t great relations between gardaí and the gay community at the time, as evidenced by later events following the murder of Declan Flynn in Fairview Park over the summer of 1983.”

Grace Livingstone: A day like any other for Grace before killing in leafy suburb

It was a vicious killing that shocked the nation when it happened in 1992 — but the murder of Grace Livingstone has largely faded from the public consciousness in the 28 years since.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas that year, Ireland grappled with how a quiet 56-year-old with no known enemies or public profile could be so brutally killed in her own home in leafy Malahide.

Grace Livingstone
Grace Livingstone

Another neighbour would speak to her around 2pm, and Grace was never seen alive again after she entered her home at 2.10pm.

A loud noise piqued neighbours’ attention at around 4.30pm that afternoon, being described by one as a booming sound, and like a firecracker or a banger by another.

Grace’s husband James Livingstone found his wife’s body that evening around 6pm, having come home from work at the Revenue Commissioners. He and Grace had planned on attending a removal that evening.

He found Grace face-down in their bed, bound and gagged and shot through the back of her head, with the murder weapon being one of his own guns that he used for hunting.

Mr Livingstone immediately became the focus of the investigation, despite no evidence linking him to the crime.

Grace’s son Conor found out that his mother was murdered after he bumped into a relative waiting for James when walking past Malahide Garda Station. Daughter Tara was in France at the time.

Mr Livingstone was arrested in March 1993 in connection with the possession of unlicensed firearms, part of what he called gardaí’s “irrational fixation” with him as a prime suspect.

After a court case taken against the State in 2008, Mr Livingstone emerged without that stain on his character, having been vindicated by a court, and his name cleared.

Gardaí said the 70-year-old was entitled to the “full and unreserved presumption of innocence” at the case, and Mr Livingstone was an innocent man.

An unknown youth was spotted near the house on the day, and locals recalled seeing a suspicious red or orange car in the area, the court heard during the hearing.

Scientific and ballistic evidence had also pointed to her death taking place before Mr Livingstone had returned home from work.

To this day, no motive has been established for Grace Livingstone’s death or a suspect identified.

Sinead McHugh of the Mens Rea true crime podcast, which covered the case extensively, told the Irish Examiner: “This case is really striking to me. I spent my teenage years in Malahide and know the neighbourhood and area where Ms Livingstone was killed reasonably well.

“It’s hard to believe that, even on a dark winter’s evening, a stranger made his way into the estate, shot her, and fled without anyone noticing. A number of leads were pursued by gardaí, but they have led to nothing.

“Mr Livingstone seems to firmly believe that the murder of his wife related to his work for Revenue, and its honestly hard to think of any other motive for this senseless crime.”

Gus Hornibrook: Gardaí still hoping for return call about brutal Cork murder

The unlawful killing of any person is hard to comprehend — but the savagery inflicted upon pensioner Gus Hornibrook in 2007 is unfathomable to even the most hardened of minds.

The 73-year-old was found dead in his home on Templeacre Avenue in Gurranabraher in Cork after midday on November 6, 2007, by his brother Robert. It is believed he had been killed some hours earlier, late on November 5.

Nobody has ever been questioned or charged in relation to the murder.

Gus Hornibrook, murdered in Cork in 2007.
Gus Hornibrook, murdered in Cork in 2007.

In a sign of the well-respected community spirit in the area, Mr Hornibrook had always left his door unlocked. There was no sign of forced entry at the home, no sign of robbery, and actual sums of cash were found in the house after the killing.

An inquest into Mr Hornibrook’s death heard that his hands had been bound to his sides by two neck-ties, and then wrapped around his flexed knees.

He had cuts to both sides of his face, blood on his hands, several rib fractures, and fractures to the bones in his neck. Material was found in his mouth, indicating a pillow had been held over his face.

A key clue was the discovery by gardaí of a Profumo tie at the scene, which detectives believe is linked to the murderer or murderers.

Very few of the ties had been sold in Cork, and it was hoped that releasing a photograph of it would provide a breakthrough in the case.

However, no breakthroughs have ever been made in the 13 years since.

The tie is navy and blue, believed not to belong to Mr Hornibrook, and gardaí believe it holds significant evidential value.

Gus Hornibrook was last seen at 9.30pm at his home, mere minutes after leaving Singleton’s shop on Gurranabraher Rd. He had also visited a local chipper that evening, a part of his regular daily routine.

Mr Hornibrook was often seen walking along the local roads at all times of the day, as well as feeding the birds in the area.

Footage of him in Singleton’s shop, along with a reconstruction of his last known movements, were aired on CrimeCall on RTÉ in November 2012.

Up to a dozen calls were received after the programme was aired, but the appeal soon found itself in familiar territory — maddeningly frustrating and with no fresh leads to work with.

Detectives think there are people who know what happened to Gus Hornibrook but have not come forward out of fear of retribution.

One man may have vital information which could alter the progress of the investigation, detectives believe.

He rang Gurranabraher Garda Station on November 7, 2017, at 9.55am and spoke to Detective Garda Derek Mulcahy for five and a half minutes.

He said he could make further contact later that day, but failed to do so. Despite numerous appeals by gardaí and Mr Hornibrook’s family, the man has never revealed himself or any further information.

Eileen O’Shaughnessy: ‘Someone knows something’ about 1997 taxi driver killing

The murder of Eileen O’Shaughnessy in Galway in 1997 was as poignant as it was tragic and brutal.

Missing and Unsolved: Ireland’s Disappeared: The Cold Case Files, RTÉ reporter and longtime missing persons and unsolved cases advocate, Barry Cummins, describes the murder.

Eileen Costello O'Shaughnessy.
Eileen Costello O'Shaughnessy.

“Eileen said she was going to Claregalway, a town six miles north of Galway on the N17 road to Tuam. The dispatcher assumed Eileen had a fare in the taxi. About 20 minutes later, the dispatcher tried to contact Eileen by radio to pick up another fare in Claregalway, but Eileen didn’t answer her radio. At 11.44pm, three men found Eileen’s bloodstained taxi.

“The silver Toyota Carina was parked oddly in the middle of a car park off the N17 road. The car lights were off and there was no-one inside, but the driver’s window was open and the keys were in the ignition. It was soon established that the vehicle had been driven by Eileen Costello O’Shaughnessy, who was unaccounted for. A major search was immediately undertaken, but it was the next morning before Eileen was found at a muddy boreen near Claregalway.

“It was clear that Eileen had been beaten to death in her taxi and her body then left in the laneway before her killer drove the taxi back towards Galway City. Eileen’s murder has been the subject of a number of cold-case reviews, but her killer has not been brought to justice.”

More than 20 years on, gardaí continue to investigate this case and have four areas of appeal they are focusing on.

At around 8.30pm, on the N17, close to Tinkers Lane, a woman with blonde hair was seen walking in the direction of Galway against oncoming traffic. She was at the hard shoulder and appeared in a distracted state.

This woman has never been identified.

Secondly, at 8.45pm a motorist observed Eileen’s taxi, a silver Toyota Carina registration number 97G6663, driving erratically on the N17 towards Galway. As the cars approached Leaders shop, the motorist overtook the taxi and saw a man with a beard driving it. The taxi turned left into Lydon House Bakery. This man has never been identified.

At around 9pm, a man was seen jumping down from a wall close to Lydon House Bakery and walking in the direction of Galway. He was wearing a green jacket and carrying a small canvas bag. This man has never been identified.

Finally, a small red car was seen at 2am at Tinkers Lane where Eileen’s body was found. The car had reversed up the laneway and had the parking lights on. The occupants of this car have never been identified.

Sinead McHugh of the Mens Rea true crime podcast said the murder remains eminently solvable.

She said: “Ms Costello’s car was seen with unidentified men in it, and other cars were seen in the area where her body was found, and her taxi was left abandoned in Galway City. This is certainly a case of ‘someone knows something’. Perhaps renewed and sustained appeals to the public for information on the case might influence someone with information to come forward.”

James Cahillane: James was badly beaten and house burned to conceal attack

The body of James Cahillane was discovered in his home at Ardraw, Beaufort, Killorglin, Co Kerry on April 19, 2012 shortly after neighbours saw smoke emanating from the burning house.

Upon investigation, it emerged that James had been badly beaten, and died as a result of blunt force trauma and smoke inhalation.

James Cahillane. Picture: Domnick Walsh
James Cahillane. Picture: Domnick Walsh

According to gardaí, the 58-year-old Killorglin native had moved five kilometres to Beaufort in later years. He was well liked and a popular individual, and had worked in a company in the town for 20 years, socialising in the town regularly. On Wednesday, April 18, James left his place of work in the town and went to two local pubs.

A short time before midnight he got a taxi home from Clifford’s Pub. The taxi driver waited until he got safely inside his house. This was the last time James was seen alive. At 2am the fire was discovered by a neighbour who alerted the emergency services.

Chelsea were playing Barcelona in the Champions League that night, which gardaí have hoped may trigger a memory in someone who may have seen anything of suspicion or something odd to assist the investigation.

Shortly after 1am, two people out hunting foxes stopped briefly outside James’s house but noted nothing suspicious. Just one hour later, the house was on fire.

Gardaí said in an appeal in 2017 that they wanted to acknowledge the support and assistance received from the local community, but appealed for anyone within the community with information to come forward.

“I am convinced there are people in the Killorglin and mid-Kerry area who may have some information in relation to this unsolved murder. Five years have passed. Friendships, loyalties and associations may have changed,” Supt Flor Murphy told a press conference in 2017 to mark the fifth anniversary of the crime.

The house was destroyed and that was deliberate, Supt Murphy said, to conceal the crime and destroy evidence.

However a hammer head which may have been the murder weapon was recovered, the Supt revealed.

Gardaí believe James Cahillane may have been targeted that evening and the person responsible may have known him and they cannot rule out the person lay in wait for him, Supt Murphy said.

Mr Cahillane’s daughter Lisa revealed that day how difficult it had been for herself and her brother to know herthat “a good father and a good man” had died in this way.

“It’s been incredibly hard. Obviously we still don’t have any answers for this crime. We do really want to get some answers and so we are appealing to anyone’s conscience out there to come forward with any information they have,” she said.

She said her father was a very friendly, quiet, gentle man and never confrontational in any way and he never bothered anyone.

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