MICHAEL CLIFFORD: Frank Mullen: ‘I couldn’t leave a legacy like that behind me’

Frank Mullen, an ex-garda, wants vindication from wild accusations over the last 10 years, writes Michael Clifford.

FRANK Mullen and his family have endured over 10 years during which he has been the subject of allegations of sexual abuse, covering up a murder of a baby, and even committing multiple murders

The allegations have been repeated constantly in the media, although he was not identified publicly until January this year when his name appeared in a Facebook post.

Most of the community in Dalkey, Co Dublin, in which he has lived all his life, know him to be the subject of the allegations that have emanated largely from a woman who grew up locally.

Mullen, 78, has been investigated a number of times by gardaí. On eight occasions a file has been sent to the DPP. Each time the DPP recommended no prosecution.

The case has been examined by a senior counsel on behalf of the justice minister. No further action was recommended by the barrister. The allegations have also been investigated by the HSE, which told Mr Mullen that nothing had been proven against him.

Through it all, he says he and his family have lived under a cloud of suspicion that has impacted hugely on their lives.

“For months I couldn’t go down the town,” says Mr Mullen. “People would come up to me and say they were sorry for what me and Ellen [his wife] and the family were going through.”

Ellen says the years of stress have placed a major strain on the couple, their three grown-up children, and even grandchildren. In particular, she points to the media focus, which sometimes included photographs of her husband, with his face pixilated to hide his identity, beside stories of the rape and abuse allegations.

“My youngest daughter rang crying one day,” says Ellen. “She said there’s a photo of dad in the paper and it’s about sex abuse and his face was blacked out. She recognised his jacket and everything else about him.”

The family has received support from friends in their community, but Mr Mullen feels the State agencies, particularly the gardaí, have not investigated the matters properly, which, if they did, he says, would completely vindicate him. “It’s gone on for over 10 years and different chief supers have given me promises that my name would be cleared,” he says.

“The file has never been finished and my name has not been properly vindicated. I carried out my own investigations and gave them the information but that doesn’t appear to have been taken into account.”

His wife concurs. “Frank gave 27 years of his life to An Garda Síochána so I felt very hurt with the way he has been treated.”

Mr Mullen is one of 12 local men — six of whom are deceased — accused by Cynthia Owen, née Murphy of being part of a paedophile ring in Dalkey in the 1970s. Owen grew up locally in a family that was highly dysfunctional. Her parents were alcoholics and two of Cynthia’s eight siblings, and a niece who was reared with them, took their own lives in adulthood. Her niece left a detailed account of sexual abuse in their childhood home.

In 1977, at the age of 15, Cynthia Owen escaped her home when she was sent to live with relatives in Wales. She has, to a large degree, lived in the UK since, where she is happily married with a son.

In 1995, she made a number of allegations about abuse in the home in which she grew up. Included in this was an allegation that she was the mother of a baby found stabbed to death in Dún Laoghaire in 1973. Her pregnancy had been the result of rape when she was 11. A coroner’s court later ruled that she was the mother of the murdered baby.

Over the following years she also alleged that her parents — both of whom are deceased — hired her out to a paedophile ring of which Mr Mullen was a member. She said this arrangement sometimes happened through her father’s role as caretaker in the local hall, where he came into contact with these men.

Mr Mullen served in An Garda Síochána from 1958 to 1985. He was one of the founding members of the Garda Representative Association. After leaving the force, he worked in insurance until his retirement.

He says he can’t fathom how his name, or that of the other men, were the subject of these allegations.

“All of us whom she accused were well known within the community so maybe that was why she used our names. That’s the only reason we can think of,” he says.

He says he knew the Murphys in White’s Villas, but was never in their home. In a transcript of one of his interviews with gardaí, he set out his knowledge of the family. “Yeah, I knew him [Peter Murphy] most of my life in the town. I grew up there. I never got to know him until he became caretaker of the Dalkey town hall. I was probably aware of where they lived. I was aware of a Murphy family [in White’s Villas] I used to pal around with a fella from there.”

Mr Mullen was on duty in Dún Laoghaire Garda Station on the April day in 1973 that the body of the murdered baby was found. “Two young lads came in and said there’s a baby found in the laneway and myself and another chap went over and other people were there and the baby was lying wrapped up in newspapers. Members of the bureau [the murder squad] were called out.”

Apart from taking statements from witnesses, Mr Mullen says he had no other involvement in the investigation, which was active for only six weeks. A number of files related to it went missing, and there was controversy over a Garda statement which the officer in question said he didn’t actually make.

All this would only emerge over 30 years later during a 2005 coroner’s court hearing into the baby’s death. The jury in that court declared unanimously that Cynthia Owen was the mother of the dead baby, posthumously named Noleen.

Cynthia’s father, Peter Murphy, and some of her older siblings disputed much of the evidence in the coroner’s court and launched a legal action. Peter Murphy died while that action was ongoing, but a settlement was subsequently reached with Cynthia’s sister, Catherine, exonerating her of any wrongdoing.

Following the coroner court’s verdict, the justice minister at the time, Michael McDowell, appointed senior counsel Patrick Gageby to look into Cynthia’s allegations, particularly around the investigation into the baby’s death.

The Gageby report recommended no further action. The report was not published. Cynthia was shown a copy of it, but a request from Mr Mullen for a viewing, through his solicitor, was denied. The solicitor did receive a reply to the request.

“The report has made no findings nor expressed any reservation that reflect in any way whatsoever on the good character of your client,” the letter stated.

Mr Mullen was interviewed by gardaí on a number of occasions over the course of their investigations. In 2010, he requested a letter from the gardaí explaining if he had been vindicated. The local superintendent wrote to him: “Aside from that alleged by Ms Owen, no further allegations have come to light against you and you are not currently the subject of any criminal investigation in this regard.”

In 2011, he received a letter from the HSE saying it was investigating the allegations to check whether he “was a danger to children”. He refused to be interviewed on the basis that he had been frustrated that previous inquiries had failed to properly vindicate him, as he saw it.

“I had no confidence in the HSE investigation or that it would uncover anything new,” he said.

Among the allegations against him that the HSE told him it was investigating was one that Cynthia Owen had been “brought to Dalkey Island on two or three times where she was abused in a ‘satanic’ way. There were goats involved in the ritual.”

Later, a newspaper reported that the HSE investigation had found her allegations “credible and consistent”. Mr Mullen wrote to the agency asking whether this was accurate. He received a reply from the social worker who had conducted the investigation. “My letter stated that Ms Owen’s account of her allegations was credible and consistent. The HSE has not stated that the allegations against you are true. The HSE does not have evidence to corroborate the allegations and therefore cannot confirm whether they are true.”

During all this time, Owen regularly featured in the media, including The Late, Late Show. She wrote a book, Living With Evil, which detailed her harrowing upbringing. Regularly, she called for a public inquiry into the whole affair.

She was again in the media in recent months when it emerged that a review panel looking into over 200 allegations of Garda malpractice recommended no further action in relation to her case.

Through it all, Mr Mullen and his family felt themselves to be caught in a nightmare. A number of criminal and civil inquiries had found he had no case to answer, yet in the media he was being repeatedly accused of the most awful crimes.

His name was not mentioned, but as far as he was concerned, most people in Dalkey knew exactly to whom Cynthia was referring. “It has had a devastating effect on me and the family,” says Mr Mullen.

Ellen Mullen found the media focus highly stressful. On one occasion, she says a reporter more or less camped outside their home for days. “She was parked across the road from ten in the morning,” says Ellen. “And then when Frank came home from a swim, I had opened the gate to let him in and she came over and passed some remark in the gate. It was awful.”

In 2014, gardaí conducted another review. Mr Mullen was eager to co-operate, as he thought it might finally bring him vindication. By then, he had been shown a list of allegations that numbered over 100.

In the course of a Garda interview during the 2014 review, he received a major shock. “I was told a document came into their possession. He read it out about the disaster of the Howard family where 13 of them were burned to death in Dalkey.” (This was a tragedy that occurred in March 1974 in which 13 members of the Howard family perished in a house fire.)

“He said there was an allegation that me and others broke into the Howard family home, murdered some of them with a pickaxe handle, and burned the bodies. And that I drove one of those left alive around and tried to kill him.”

Mr Mullen says he didn’t hear any more as he passed out. An ambulance was called, but he recovered without attending hospital. Later that year, he encountered some major health difficulties which included suffering a stroke.

The Irish Examiner understands that the allegation originated with the surviving member of the Howard family, who has died in the last year. It was passed on to Cynthia Owen, who conveyed it to the gardaí. The cause of the fire has always been regarded as accidental.

Last year, Mr Mullen’s long tenure with Dalkey United came to an end. He had been one of the founder members of the club more than 50 years ago. Among the players he mentored and remained friends with was Irish football legend Paul McGrath.

Mr Mullen says he was asked to leave the club as a result of the controversy that swirled around the allegations made against him. “I was asked to resign pending all these investigations and rumours and I refused. Then they expelled me without even allowing me to produce evidence. I cried my eyes out.”

The club’s chairman, Colin Beecham, told the Irish Examiner that the club had no comment to make on the matter.

In January this year, Mr Mullen received another blow. Cynthia Owen uploaded further allegations on a Facebook page. She identified Mullen by name, along with others who she claims abused her.

One line of the post stated: “I was also taken to a place called the Hellfire club in Rathfarnham by garda Frank Mullen and sold to me there too during the satanic abuse rituals [sic].”

This was the first time Mr Mullen had ever heard an allegation of taking her to the Hellfire club, which is located in Rathfarnham, some 15km from Dalkey village. The posting was taken down within a week.

Ellen Mullen says she has hardly slept since that week. “It hurts. I found it hard to go outside the gate after that. Everybody in Dalkey would have known about the Facebook thing.”

Apart from the nature of some of the allegations, Mr Mullen takes issue with some detail which he says could have been easily checked out. He was told a witness identified him visiting the Murphy home in uniform when Cynthia Owen was a child. Yet his employment record shows he was out of uniform from 1964/65, when she was only aged 3.

Another allegation was that Cynthia Owen had been taken to a named house where she says she was abused by members of this ring. Yet the man she named as occupying the house only took up residence in 1984, when Cynthia Owen had long left Dalkey.

These are just two of the inconsistencies as Mr Mullen sees it, which he feels should have prompted the gardaí to be more conclusive in proclaiming his innocence.

The failure of the gardaí to properly vindicate him, as he sees it, informed Mr Mullen’s decision to identify himself in this interview. The cloud of suspicion that has hung over him has had a major adverse impact on his life and that of those around him.

He didn’t want things to end that way. “We’re five generations in Dalkey and I couldn’t leave a legacy like that behind me. I had to clear my name before I departed this world.”

Cynthia Owen’s response to Frank Mullen

The Irish Examiner contacted Cynthia Owen through her solicitor Gerry Dunne to put to her some of the points made by Frank Mullen and to give her the opportunity to contribute in relation to Mr Mullen and her allegations.

Mr Dunne responded in a long email, the main points of which are summarised here.

Mr Dunne made the point that Ms Owen would like to see the article before publication in order to provide context, but it was pointed out that for reasons of balance and professional practice neither she nor Frank Mullen would be given sight of it pre-publication.

In relation to Frank Mullen’s claim that he couldn’t have been in the Murphy home in uniform as he outlined, Ms Owen pointed out that a witness claims Frank Mullen was in the family home in uniform in 1963 when Cynthia’s mother Josie Murphy had given birth to a baby that didn’t survive. Ms Owen “would like to add that nowhere has it been alleged by her that Mr Mullen committed any offence against her at the family home at 4 White’s Villas”.

Frank Mullen says that he has no recollection of ever being in the Murphy home.

In relation to the alleged abuse at a house, where she says one of the named men were living at the time, and which, according to Thom’s Directory, that man wasn’t registered as living there until 1984, the following response was provided.

"As you can appreciate, it is not reasonable that a very young girl who was being systematically abused and raped would remember details of who exactly the occupier or the owner of a particular house was on specific dates.

“Furthermore, whether somebody was the owner or in fact merely the occupier of a property is not a defining factor in whether our client was abused and raped by a named group of individuals at a particular house.”

The allegation in relation to the Howard family tragedy received the following response.

“The Howard family was living very near to where Cynthia Owen lived as a child and the fire in question occurred in March 1974 when the Howard family home was burnt down with both parents and almost all of the children in a large family dying.

“A number of years ago Anthony Howard made contact with our client through social media and informed her that he had been trying to get the Gardaí to deal with his allegations for some time without success.

“Extremely serious allegations were made by Mr Howard against Frank Mullen, which up until then our client was unaware of.

“Our client understands that when Anthony Howard attended a Memorial Mass in Dalkey for his family in 2014 he repeated his allegations to various people.

“Our client has also been informed by Gardaí in recent times that they were seeking to speak with Anthony Howard who had made it clear that he wanted some progress made on his allegations.

“Unfortunately, Anthony Howard has now died and our client does not know whether Gardaí are continuing to follow up on any of Mr Howard’s allegations.” (The fire in March 1974 was regarded at the time as a tragic accident. Mr Howard was a newspaper vendor and one of the rooms of the house was understood to be full of newspapers. An oil heater in the house was believed to have been the source of the fire).

In response to Frank Mullen’s claim that the Facebook posting last January was the first time it had been alleged that Ms Owen was taken to the Hellfire club in Rathfarnham, her solicitor replied: “Our client is of the view that she had previously mentioned the Hell Fire club.” Frank Mullen says the Facebook posting was the first he had ever heard of an allegation mentioning the Hellfire club.

Ms Owen’s solicitor raised a number of questions about the investigation into the murdered baby in 1973. Frank Mullen maintains his only input into that investigation was to take some witness statements and that the rest of the investigation was conducted by the murder squad as it was then known.


More in this Section

Muzzling news media is not the answer


Breaking Stories

Peter Casey stands by remarks on Travelling community in presidential debate

Woman accused of murder ‘feels safe in prison’

Maurice McCabe ‘owed hefty payout by State’

Peter Casey refuses to back down over Traveller comments

Breaking Stories

A question of taste: Sinead Dunphy

Ten to see at Cork Film Festival

Women’s Enterprise Day: Go forth and be successful

The devastating consequences of alienation for children

More From The Irish Examiner