THE MAKING OF A GARDA KILLER
The brutal killing of Garda Tony Golden in Co Louth in 2015 shocked the Irish public. Three years later, the blame game over his death continues
‘My name is Si obhan Philips,” reads the statement given to the Garda. “I began a relationship with Crevan Mackin in November 2010. We have two children together but they are in the custody of my father.
“Crevan began to be physically abusive to me from June 2015,” Siobhan Philips’s statement continued. “He would have grabbed me by the hair, the throat, punched me, kicked me, threatened me with a knife, threatened to put a kettle of boiling water over me. [ He] would have threatened to kill me.”
“I am afraid of what Crevan Mackin will do to me or my family.”
Shortly after signing this statement on Sunday, October 11th, 2015, Siobhan Philips (23) was shot four times, including one bullet to the head, in the house she shared with her partner Adrian Crevan Mackin in Omeath, Co Louth. Despite these injuries, she survived the shooting.
Garda Tony Golden, who had taken the statement from her, was shot five times and killed in the same attack.
Golden’s killer, and Siobhan’s tormenter, Crevan Mackin took his own life immediately after murdering Garda Golden and trying to kill Philips.
Mackin was a convicted criminal with a troubled past. He had been charged with IRA membership months before his death and was on bail for that charge.
He had previously been given a three-year suspended sentence on firearms charges in the North and had convictions for illegal sexual photographs and videos, including images of bestiality.
Several inquiries are under way into this tragic and unusual case, which is complicated by allegations that Mackin was also a Garda informer.
It has been alleged that because he was an informer, his violence towards Philips was not acted on as quickly as it could have been. As a result, it has been alleged, Mackin was at liberty to murder Golden.
Tony – or Tonester – Golden was a 36-year-old father of three. Originally from Co Mayo, he had settled in Blackrock, Co Louth. The local community, and indeed the country, was stunned by the brutality of his murder, 2 ½ years after the shooting dead of another garda in the Louth division: Det Garda Adrian Donohoe. Both men were given State funerals and posthumously awarded Scott medals for bravery.
Some 7,000 people, half of them gardaí, lined the streets of Blackrock, Co Louth, on the day of Golden’s funeral. His widow Nicola led the mourners with their three children: Andrew, Lucy and Alex. Every senior politician in the State was present, including President Michael Higgins.
Tony Golden was the quintessential protective big brother growing up in Farranoo, Ballina, Co Mayo, his younger sibling Patrick told his funeral Mass. Golden was described as a man of the people, taking an active part in the local residents’ association. He had compiled a memo for them shortly before his murder on how Garda resources in the area had been decimated – a controversial subject after his shooting.
Golden had always wanted to be a garda and worked in security in Mayo in the years between finishing school and fulfilling his dream of securing a place on the force. Colleagues described him as meticulous, empathic and a great listener, ideally suited to community police work. He was a lover of the GAA, especially hurling, and had played for Ballina Stevenites before leaving the west to attend the Garda College in Templemore.
His first posting was in Cabinteely, Dublin, and he had been based in Omeath for six years before his murder. As a local garda and Louth district nurse, he and Nicola were regarded as pillars of their community whose lives revolved around their children.
The inquest into the murder of Garda Golden, which took place last Monday, concluded he was unlawfully killed.
During the hearing solicitor James McGuill, acting on behalf of Nicola Golden, said the inquest was an opportunity for misinformation that had built up around the case to be challenged and the record corrected. He said the allegations that Garda Golden’s colleagues effectively stood back from Mackin, leaving him free to kill, because he was an informer were untrue. And he pointed out those allegations, especially from Siobhan’s father Seán Philips, had been repeatedly published and broadcast in the media unchallenged.
This had caused great distress to the dead man’s already grieving family and his colleagues, who had effectively been implicated in causing the murder of their fellow garda, he said.
Born on February 9th, 1990, Mackin spent the early years of his childhood in Portadown, Co Armagh. He was the second eldest of four siblings, three boys and a girl; his mother also had a daughter from a previous relationship.
The family moved to Rostrevor, Co Down, when Creven Mackin was about eight. There, his mother ran a shelter for the elderly. A house for her family was one of the perks of the job. Mackin’s father was a social worker.
His half- sister, Sinead Hynes, gave a statement to the Garda after Mackin’s devastating shooting in October, 2015. It describes a troubled child struggling in the middle of a family that would later “abandon” him.
Hynes said she was 15 years older than her half-brother and could see from a very early age “his behaviour was not normal”.
He was unaware of the consequences of his actions, she said, and was eventually di- agnosed, at 11 or 12, with Asperger’s syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. In his teenage years, “silly” actions morphed into criminal behaviour, including break-ins and crashing cars.
The young Mackin threatened his mother with a knife and aged about 16 was suspected of an act of bestiality with a sheep. He also later threatened the lives of two social workers.
“My mother would always make excuses for Crevan,” Sinead Hynes told gardaí. “She would always blame someone else for getting Crevan into trouble. She would never lay the blame on him.”
In an apparent bid to break out of their own increasingly heavy drinking, and to get away from Mackin, his parents decided to emigrate to Australia.
In Mackin’s early adulthood, a girl he was “besotted with” called off the relationship and he became depressed and began self-medicating.
Hynes convinced him to admit himself to the Blue Stone Unit, a secure psychiatric facility in Craigavon hospital in Co Armagh. Though his mental state improved there, it was while he was in the unit that his parents, brothers and sister left for Australia – without telling him.
On release from the unit Mackin moved into Simon Community accommodation in Newry. While living there, around 2007and 2008, he began mixing with republicans and became political for the first time.
He secured a house in Newry, through the Simon Community, and worked for a time in a local clothes shop.
Mackin met Siobhan Philips around 2010 when she was 16 and he was 20.
Siobhan Philips was born on June 30th, 1994, four years after her parents – Seán and Bronagh – married. Her mother was from Omeath, Co Louth, and her father from Newry, Co Down. Philips has two brothers, one three years older than her, another three years younger.
When Philips was five, her parents separated. She went to live with her mother in Louth; later sitting her Leaving Cert in Bush Post Primary, Riverstown, Dundalk. After school she pursued a hairdressing course in Newry Tech. Mention was made at the inquest that, like Mackin, Philips has Asperger’s syndrome.
She had begun seeing Mackin while still at school. They had been together about nine months when she became pregnant around the time of her Leaving Cert and shortly before her 17th birthday.
Philips dropped out of her hairdressing course and moved with Mackin into a rented house in the Newry area beside her mother. The baby – a boy – was born in March 2012.
Not long after the birth, the PSNI raided their house and found illegal pornography, including bestiality images, on Mackin’s laptop. He was eventually convicted and given a suspended sentence.
Because of this, social services in the North became involved with the family. In late 2012, they advised Philips to end her relationship with Mackin and told her that under no circumstances should he have access to their son – whom Mackin wanted to call Pádraig Pearse.
So concerned were social services in Newry about Mackin’s interest in bestiality that they sent Siobhan’s mother, Bronagh Philips, on a six-week course to educate her about the links between bestiality and child sex-abuse.
Siobhan told social services the relationship with Mackin was over. But she moved, with Mackin and the baby, south of the Border to Omeath to get away from the child welfare authorities in the North – though she also spent nights north of the Border with her mother.
In March 2014 they were living on the Mullach Alainn estate in Omeath when their second child, a girl, was born.
Now, social services realised the relationship between Philips and Mackin was far from over, and Philips was given a painful ultimatum by Newry social services. The children could go and live with her father, his second wife Norma, and their two young children, in the North – or they would be put up for adoption.
In January 2015, gardaí raided the house shared by Mackin and Philips in Omeath.
They had received a tip-off from the police in the US that Mackin had been buying parts of decommissioned guns online. He had been receiving the gun parts from the US in the postal services to various addresses he used on both sides of the Border. And he had paid for them, on the darknet, with Siobhan’s credit card.
The raid uncovered what the Garda’s special detective unit believed were components for bomb making and two re- purposed firearms, which he was selling to re- publicans and crime gangs – a loaded Glock semi-automatic pistol and over 300 rounds of ammunition were found in his car after his death.
Following the January raid he was charged with membership of the IRA at the Special Criminal Court. Once charged, Mackin was remanded in custody to Portlaoise Prison.
He was initially placed in E Block with republican prisoners. When they rejected him he was moved to A Block where non-political prisoners are housed. (After he died, dissident republicans Óglaigh Na hÉireann distanced themselves from Mackin, describing him as a “Walter Mitty character and likely informer”.)
It was widely reported that he had spent as little as 10 days in Portlaoise but informed sources have told The Irish Times he was there seven weeks before securing bail. Mackin’s mother sent ¤5,000 from Australia, and his half-sister Sinead Hynes went independent surety – agreeing to pay a sum of money if he did not appear in court.
The children had now gone to live with their grandfather and his wife Norma in Newry. Their mother could see them for only one hour each week at a social services centre in Newry in a supervised visit. Mackin could do the same; but for one hour each fortnight.
Now living together without the children in Omeath, Philips resumed her hairdressing course. But the level of contact with her family plummeted. Mackin – a controlling force – was manipulating and isolating her to have total control over her in the first half of 2015.
She would communicate only infrequently with her mother; mostly texts, often of a single word, to arrange to collect post. She had been estranged from her father for some years.
When Mackin came out of prison in early 2015 he became fixated on his belief, later confirmed, that Philips had been unfaithful to him while he was inside.
Hynes has told gardaí that, in the later part of the summer, just as social services began suggesting that Mackin appeared to pose no risk to the children, he confronted Philips about seeing other men while he had been in jail.
He had asked an associate to hack into Philips’s Facebook account via the darknet and had discovered messages of a sexual nature she had sent to several men. Hynes tried to calm the situation; to mediate between Mackin and Philips so they would remain a couple and get more access to their children.
But Hynes was horrified to learn of the compromise of sorts that the couple reached. “Crevan told me in front of Siobhan that he was going to get revenge on Siobhan by sleeping with girls,” she told
gardaí in a statement after the shooting.
“He told me that he was going to have unprotected sex with these girls, just like Siobhan did. If he acquired any sexually transmitted infections as a result, these would b e passed to Siobhan, he said.
“He said Siobhan was going to have to grin and bear it. I asked Siobhan how she felt about this plan of Crevan’s. She seemed to think that this was what Crevan needed to do to forgive her and get over the issue. I told them that they were crazy to think this would solve things.”
Philips later confided in Hynes that Mackin was regularly “battering” her when he lost his temper. “She showed me her ankle. I could see a large yellow bruise. She told me that Crevan put a gun to her ankle, causing the bruising.
“I advised Siobhan to take herself out of that situation and move out. Clearly, she didn’t.”
Hynes believes her half- brother was deeply affected by rumours he was a paedophile. These were raised with him by the women Mackin was trying to have sex with to punish Siobhan. In a mark of their dysfunction, Mackin even complained to Siobhan that her family were spreading the rumours, and that it was affecting his efforts to have affairs.
“For all his faults he had a sweet side and was loving to me,” Hynes told gardaí of her half-brother after he had murdered Golden and then killed himself.
“With the Asperger’s, the ADHA, his family going to Australia without him, basically abandoning him; then the whole thing with kids, social services, the IRA membership charge, then Siobhan cheating on him – the rumours about him being a paedophile probably took its toll on Crevan in the end.”
This week in a Dundalk courthouse began the legal fall-out; the blame game that often follows loss and acts of such extreme violence.
The occasion may have been the inquest into Garda Golden’s killing, but the hearing was about much more than simply determining the cause of his death. Two and a half years of claims of cover-up and Garda negligence were put to the test for the first time.
And with Mackin’s inquest and civil cases from the Philips family still to come and two inquiries by Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission under way, the blame game is far from over.
The ombudsman is trying to determine why and how Mackin secured bail when he was charged in January, 2015 with membership of the IRA.
His solicitor Paul Tiernan has claimed Mackin told him he had been sent to the political wing of Portlaoise prison to “spy” on the Real IRA. But he was not allowed on the wing by other dissident republicans. This led to the decision to free him on bail, he said Mackin had claimed.
Among the other unanswered questions are whether Mackin was a Garda informer and, if so, if that had any bearing on how the gardaí handled complaints of domestic violence made against him in the 24 hour period before the shooting.
The inquiries also need to address the level of information about Mackin that was available to frontline gardai via the Garda’s Pulse database – especially intelligence that may have warned unarmed gardaí of his volatility and his history with firearms.
The Philips family – especially Siobhan’s father Seán – believes Mackin was a Garda informer. Seán Philips has repeatedly claimed that Mackin’s status as an informer afforded him special protection from the law.
After the beating that began in her home on the night of Friday, October 9th, Siobhan Philips caught the bus as usual the next morning from Omeath to Newry to go to work in the hairdressing salon.
But at around 2pm that day she contact- ed her father’s wife, Norma Philips. Despite having been estranged from her father and Norma for years, Siobhan Philips now desperately needed their help.
The then 21-year-old mother of two explained she had been attacked by Mackin through the previous night and had finally decided to leave him.
Norma collected her from the hair salon in Newry to Dundalk Garda station to make a statement, though no statement was taken. Seán and Norma Philips then brought Siobhan to Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry for treatment for her assault injuries.
They were interviewed by the PSNI there. They have said they believed the PSNI officers took their complaints more seriously; though they did not give the PSNI a statement. While Siobhan Philips was undergoing treatment for her injuries from the night-long beating, a scan revealed she was pregnant.
It was close to midnight when they left the hospital. They decided – out of fear of Mackin – to go to Omeath Garda station where Siobhan could give a statement. When they found it closed they set out for nearby Carlingford Garda station.
On the way there they met a patrol car and flagged it down. They explained their situation to the gardaí in the car and said they wanted to make a statement.
The gardaí said they were the only personnel patrolling a wide area and they could not take a statement while deployed on patrol duties.
Seán Philips said he and his wife were by now exasperated with the Garda. They urgently wanted a statement taken because they believed – mistakenly, as it turned out - Mackin’s bail relating to his IRA membership charge would immediately be revoked because of his assault on Siobhan Philips and his threats to kill her and her family.
They believed he would be arrested and returned to Portlaoise Prison and that Siobhan and the extended family would be safe from Mackin – for a time at least.
On the afternoon of the following day – Sunday, October 11th – they met Garda Tony Golden in Omeath station and a statement was taken.
It read: “On Friday, October 9th we were sitting (at home). The TV was on. He was quiet. I asked him what he was thinking about. He was saying ‘about how much of a tramp you are’, ‘how cold you are to me’, ‘how you didn’t care about me when I was inside’. He would sit back quietly thinking and would have said ‘ how much that he was thinking about going over to hit you’.
“Eventually around 8pm Crevan came over to my sofa . . . He would have hit me about the head four or five times.
“After hitting me he would have calmed down after getting the violence out of his system. But then by talking to himself he would work himself up again and come over and hit me again. This would have happened five times in total.
“On the fifth time he went into the kitchen and got a steak knife. He cut my left wrist and my right thigh just above the knee. I was lying on the sofa, he had me pinned down.
“He was over me with the knife in his hand. He cut my right thigh through my tracksuit bottoms. I said to him ‘what about the kids’ and this calmed him down.
“Every time I got back up he said ‘sit the f**k down’. Eventually I convinced him to go to bed . . .
“I must have dozed off because the next thing I remember is being kicked to the head . . .
“Crevan Mackin pinned me to the wall and kneed me to my ribs. He grabbed me by the throat and squeezed my windpipe . . .
“I want gardaí to investigate the assaults and threats against me by Crevan Mackin.”
Even then, Garda Golden said he could not arrest Mackin on the spot and revoke his bail. He said there was no such power available to him under the Irish criminal justice system.
Instead, he needed to make further inquiries, with witnesses Siobhan Philips mentioned in her statement. After that, court approval would be required before bail could be revoked.
Solicitor James McGuill, for Garda Golden’s wife Nicola, told last Monday’s inquest the manner in which the gardaí dealt with the Philips family during their efforts to have a statement taken from Siobhan, was neither unusual nor unprofessional.
The issue of whether Mackin was a Garda informer was not directly addressed at the inquest. But McGuill said even if he was an informer, that information would not have been available to the frontline gardaí the family encountered as they tried to have a statement taken from Siobhan.
Garda Anthony Quane had dealt with the family at the public office in Dundalk Garda station the day before the shooting. He was the person they met during their first effort to have a statement taken from Siobhan.
The inquest was told that the Philips family had repeatedly suggested a Garda computer was consulted in Dundalk and once it became clear who Mackin was – they say an informer – no statement was taken from them.
“As soon as we mentioned Crevan Mackin everything shut down,” Seán Philips told
The Irish Times last year. Garda Quane gave evidence to Monday’s inquest and confirmed Siobhan Philips and her family had outlined the attack on her by Mackin the previous night.
But he said he was duty bound to advise her she must seek medical treatment for her injuries first. And only after being treated could she give a statement.
Had she given a statement while injured and without having been examined and treated, the detail and reliability of that statement could be questioned at a later date, he said.
As well as advising her to go to hospital, he told her not to go back to the house in Omeath where Mackin was. He also advised her not to see Mackin, and he checked she had a safe place to stay – with her father north of the Border.
Garda Quane also detailed all of her options on both sides of the Border relating to barring, safety and protection orders.
He then contacted Golden, who was off duty and at home at the time. He reached Golden by telephone and made an appointment for him to take a statement from Siobhan Philips the following day in Omeath station.
McGuill put it to Seán Philips that at the initial point of contact with the gardaí, in Dundalk, full security advice had been issued and an appointment made, and ultimately kept, for a statement to be taken the next day.
He also put it to Seán Philips that when the statement was taken from Siobhan it took several hours. And he suggested to Seán Philips that the length of time it had taken demonstrated why an appointment had to be made. It also showed, he said, why the gardai in the patrol car could not have taken the statement the previous night.
McGuill also pointed out that when Seán Philips became aware in September, 2015, that Mackin was beating Siobhan he had gone to the gardaí. A Garda member had then accompanied Seán Philips to the house Siobhan shared with Mackin in Omeath, to see if she would make a formal statement of complaint against him.
But she had refused to do so; a not uncommon feature of domestic abuse cases where women live in fear.
McGuill said the actions of the gardaí on that occasion were incompatible with the allegation being put forward by the Philips family; that gardaí knew Mackin was an informer and they must protect him from arrest.
McGuill was adamant about one thing; Siobhan Philips should have informed everyone that Mackin had access to guns. But she chose not to; not even when Garda Golden finished taking her statement and said he would go with her to the house where Mackin was, so she could collect her belongings and leave him.
And so Garda Golden, who was unarmed and trying to help her, went with her to the house on Sunday afternoon.
McGuill raised several times what he said was the dishonesty of Siobhan Philips in not sharing the knowledge she had about Mackin having access to guns. He found support, of a kind, for his remarks from an unlikely quarter; her father and her step mother.
Norma Philips said she was always uneasy about becoming kinship foster carers for Siobhan’s and Mackin’s children. And she would not have taken them into her home to share it with her own two children, aged 10 and 7 years at the time, had she known Mackin had access to guns.
She now felt naive they hadn’t pressed for more information when agreeing to “take in Mackin’s kids”.
“I am sick to my stomach that the lives of my own children were put at risk because of this monster,” she said.
Seán Philips, who was waiting outside the house when the treble shooting took place inside, said had he known Crevan Mackin had access to guns he would have shared the information with gardai. And he would have insisted neither Garda Golden nor Siobhan go to the house.
“I had no way of knowing this guy had weapons; I would have told the guards from the top of my voice. I never would have taken myself to that house or asked anyone else to go. I mean, this guy was a monster.”
“But,” said Philips, “I want the truth and nobody should be afraid of the truth.”
He was over me with the knife in his hand. He cut my right thigh through my tracksuit bottoms. I said to him ‘what about the kids’
Adrian Crevan Mackin who, in 2015, shot dead Garda Tony Golden and seriously injured Mackin’s former partner Siobhan Phillips before taking his own life. Left: Golden with his wife Nicola Golden and their three children
Clockwise from above: Garda Tony Golden’s coffin is taken into St Oliver Plunkett Church, Blackrock near Dundalk; Siobhan Philips’s father Sean and his wife Norma Phillips at the inquest into Golden’s death; and the Mullach Alainn estate in Omeath, Co...