People (Attorney General) v Lynch


1978 WJSC-CCA 31





People, AG v Lynch
The People at the suit of the Attorney General
Christopher A. Lynch

65/1977 - Griffin Gannon McWilliam - CCA - 21/12/1977 - 1978 1 31


The accused Christopher Anthony Lynch, who was at all material times a member of the Defence Forces, was tried before Butler J. and a jury on a charge that on the 18th day of September 1976 he murdered Veronica Frances Cooney in the City of Dublin. The trial lasted five days and the accused was found guilty and sentenced to be kept to penal servitude for life. An applications by his counsel to the trial judge for a certificate for leave to appeal was refused and the accused now applies to this Court for leave to appeal.


Miss Cooney lived alone in a flat at number 77 Strand Road, Sandymount, a premises owned by a company of which her brother in law Mr. Stewart Martin is a director. The accused had been for some time prior to September 1976 a tenant of a flat at Portmahon House, Rialto, of which premises Mr. Martin is a trustee and of which he was in fact regarded by the tenants as the landlord. The accused did off jobs for Mr. Martin at Portmahon House, and these included painting and decorating. At the beginning of September 1976, Mr. Martin asked the accused to do some wallpapering and painting at 77 Strand Road, and on the 2nd of September took the accused by car to Strand Road and showed him what he required to be done. On that day the accused was given a key to the front door of the premises, the key to be retained by him until the work was finished.


On Sunday the 5th of September 1976, the accused went to 77 Strand Road and commenced the work. On that day, he met Miss Cooney for the first time. Before he finished work, Miss Cooney gave him a cup of tea and they had a conversation of some length. He next went to Strand Road on the 15th of September and worked there for the day but did not meet Miss Cooney who was not at home on that day. On Saturday the 18th of September, he finished work in McKee Barracks, where he was stationed, at approximately 12.30 p.m. and walked to Strand Road, with the intention of doing some work there. He arrived there sometime around 1.30 p.m. Miss Cooney was not then at home. The accused was certainly still there at approximately 2.30 p.m., but after that time his movements, apart from his own statements, are not known until he reached home, where, according to his wife's evidence, he arrived at approximately 6.15 to 6.30 p.m. He had not told his wife that he was going to do some work in Strand Road on that day, nor did he tell her on that evening that he had in fact been there that day. She thought he had been at McKee Barracks all day.


Miss Cooney was seen boarding a Sandymount bus in O'Connell Street at about 3.30 p.m., and seen alighting from the bus near her home at approximately 4 p.m. That was the last occasion on which she was seen alive. On that evening, the accused met a friend, Eugene Delamere, and told him that he was doing what he called a nixer at Strand Road and asked Eugene Delamere to go with him to Strand Road on the following morning to help him with the work. They met by arrangements on the following morning (Sunday) and went to Strand Road, arriving there at approximately 12 noon. The accused opened the front door and both of them went up the stairs, Eugene Delamore being in front. They found the body of Miss Cooney on the landing at the top of the stairs. They ran down the stairs and telephoned for the gardai and an ambulance, and the gardai from Irishtown Station and the ambulance arrived within the next five to ten minutes. The accused and Eugene Delamere remained at Strand Road.


Miss Cooney had been strangled by a scraf which was tied round her neck. In addition, she had three stab wounds in her chest and a knife was embedded in one of these wounds. Doctor Harbinson, the State Pathologist, in evidence expressed the opinion that death was likely to have taken place between 5 a.m. on Saturday morning and 5 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, but that it was possible, though improbable, that death might have been as late as 11 p.m. on Saturday night.


The gardai investigating the crime were anxious to obtain statements from the accused and Eugene Delamere, whom they regarded as important witnesses, being the persons who found the body. By arrangement with Sergeant Sweeney of the Irishtown Station, in which area the crime was committed, the accused and Eugene Delamere went home for lunch at 2 p.m. and returned to Irishtown Garda Station at approximately 4 p.m. At 4.45 p.m., the accused went to the Inspector's office with Detective Garda Murphy and Detective Garda Kenny and made an exculpatory statement which finished at 7.45 p.m. In this statement, he said (inter alia) that on Saturday 18th September he arrived in the house at 77 Strand Road at 1.30 p.m. to 1.40 p.m., that he left at 2.30 p.m. not having seen Miss Cooney there, that he arrived home at 3.30 p.m. or 3.45 p.m., and that his wife was then at home watching television. When that statement was finished, he did not leave the Garda Station, nor was he told that he was free to go. He remained in Irishtown Garda Station throughout the night being, for the most part, in the company of some members of the Garda Siochana. During the night, he had no sleep and was questioned by (inter alia) Det-Inspector Courtney, Detective Sergeant Canavan, and Inspector Finlay. He was interviewed by Detective Inspector Courtney and Detective Sergeant Canavan between 1.30 a.m. and 3 a.m., again between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m., and again between 6.20 a.m. and 8.30 a.m.


Shortly after 10 a.m. on Monday morning, the accused was brought by car to Donnybrook Garda Station by Detective Garda Kenny, as Inspector Finlay was anxious to continue the investigations in Donnybrook which was the area headquarters. On arrival at Donnybrook, he was brought to the doctor's room where he was again interviewed by members of the gardai at intervals. At 11.45 a.m., Detective Garda Kenny, who had gone to Portmahon House to collect the clothing being worn by the accused on the previous Saturday, brought the accused's wife to the Garda Station at Donnybrook. She brought her young child with her. She did not see her husband at the Station, but at 1.20 the accused was told that his wife and child were in the Station. At about 1 p.m., Detective Garda Godkin told the accused that his shirt had been found in the washing machine and that it had what then appeared to be blood stains on it. At 1.40 p.m. Detective Garda Godkin asked the accused for the clothes he was then wearing, and provided him with a change of clothing. The critical evidence in the case related to the period immediately after 1.50 p.m. Garda Mulderrig came on duty at 1.45 p.m. and went to the room in which the accused was. He sat down to talk to the accused, who recognised him as a garda he had met in Irishtown on the previous day. The accused said: "I lost my head. I was in her bedroom searching. She came in and stood there looking. I put it round her neck. I had my jacket in the kitchen. I went for it. I could hear her moan. I saw a knife in the kitchen and stuck it in her". Garda Mulderrig cautioned the accused, called Detective Inspector Finlay to the room and informed him, in the presence of the accused, that the accused had said he killed Miss Cooney and that he had cautioned him. The accused then said "that is right. I done it with a bit of cable and stabbed her with a knife from the kitchen sink". Inspector Finlay then cautioned the accused and asked him if he clearly understood "his right to say nothing further, his right to remain silent if he so wished", and the accused said that he understood. He asked the accused if he would make a written statement and the accused agreed and the accused was then informed that he was being detained for the murder of Miss Cooney. Inspector Finlay suggested that the accused might wish to have a sleep before making the written statement. The accused thought this would be best, and had a rest. When he awakened at 5.30, he was given tea and sandwiches, and taken to the Inspector's office where he made a written statement to Inspector Finaly, this statement being completed at 8.05 p.m. This was an inculpatory statement in which the accused described putting a scarf around Miss Cooney's neck and squeezing it, going to the kitchen, picking up a knife he found there, and stabbing her a few times in the middle of her chest, the last stab leaving the knife sticking out of her chest.


In the absence of the verbal and written statements made by the accused, there was no evidence on which the accused could have been convicted of the murder of the deceased. When the trial reached the stage at which evidence of the statements would be offered on behalf of the State, counsel on behalf of the accused objected to the admissibility of these statements as not being voluntary statements. Objection having been taken to their admissibility, it became the duty and responsibility of the trial judge to enter upon an inquiry as to whether or not the statements were voluntary, and, even though voluntary, whether or not circumstances across or existed which required him to exercise his discretion to exclude them. The trial judge adopted the recognised and proper procedure by hearing, in the absence of the jury, and evidence the prosecution and the accused wished to call in relation to the question of whether the statements were voluntary or not. For this purpose, several...

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