WHO KILLED RAONAID MURRAY?
UNSOLVED MURDERS: In the first of four special cold-case reports, we revisit the gruesome stabbing to death of schoolgirl Raonaid Murray, who was viciously attacked and died just yards from her home in south Dublin Somebody is still shielding the person w
‘It was easy to imagine the poorly lit and misty laneway, the murderer waiting in the shadows, like a horror movie’ ‘Most of the gardai were men in early middle age, with teenage daughters’
RAONAID Murray was just at that point in her teens where her childish features were transforming into a newly defined adult beauty. In her early teens, she had hung around with a group of young Goths in Dun Laoghaire.
She stood out in the group as the tall one with the straight, almost peroxide blonde hair. I knew her to see because my daughters and she shared friends.
I didn’t know her name but knew her as a girl who was best friends with two neighbours’ daughters growing up, like my own, in ‘middle-class’ south County Dublin. So it was strange to be alerted to a story, go to the scene, then return home, park the car and walk over to some friends’ homes and find them in shock.
Saturday, September 4, 1999 was a warm late-summer day. The evening before had been misty, still and humid. It was one of the last warm Friday nights of the summer and people had been socialising and dining in their back gardens in Glenageary.
A group of friends still sitting outside just before midnight in their back garden in Silchester Road heard a girl shouting something like “Leave me alone!” “Go away!”and, they agreed, “Fuck off” around midnight. Then the sounds stopped and they paid no further attention.
The last thing on anyone’s mind in Silchester Road was that a murder was taking place. Some critics of the media later said there was evidence of a hierarchy in the coverage of Raonaid’s murder — that if she was a from a poorer, working-class area, the story would not have received as much attention.
But in this case, it was simply that it was easy to imagine the poorly lit, misty laneway and the murderer waiting in the shadows. It was stuff straight out of a Hollywood teenage horror movie.
The garda division that covers Dun Laoghaire and much of south County Dublin has the lowest homicide rate of the six divisions in the city.
It has no gang-related murders or major organised gangs, other than the Provisional IRA, which used the Dun Laoghaire area for safe houses for on-the-run members from the North and for ‘logistical’ and ‘fundraising’ activities.
The man in charge of the IRA’s ‘England’ division, responsible for bombings and other attacks in Britain, lived quietly in a large semi-detached house not far from where Raonaid was murdered.
The area is supplied with illicit drugs by gangs in the centre and south of Dublin city. There are plenty of minor dealers but none, even to this date, that is used to serious or homicidal violence.
Occasionally, hardened criminals from Dublin city come out to Dun Laoghaire but generally to get offside when things are too hot in the city centre or to socialise and relax. Freddie Thompson’s crew used to come out on summer days with jet skis.
There is the occasional ‘domestic’ murder and almost all of these are solved. The last remaining high-profile unsolved murder was that of a newborn baby in April 1973. The child’s mother was Cynthia Owen, nee Murphy, one of a family of abused children who grew up in a squalid council house in Dalkey. When she gave birth at the age of 11, Cynthia’s grandmother stabbed the baby to death and then carried the body wrapped in newspaper to Dun Laoghaire, leaving it in an alleyway off George’s Street in the town centre. Decades later, Cynthia returned to seek justice for what had befallen her in childhood. But that case too was never solved.
Cynthia exposed the fact, which was accepted in the area, that there was a paedophile ring and that this included well-known local figures.
While a large number of people seemed to know who the paedophiles were, almost no one was prepared to come forward with evidential or even circumstantial evidence that would have supported Cynthia’s campaign and given her and her abused siblings justice.
So Dun Laoghaire and its environs contained figures at the time of Raonaid’s death who were capable of child rape and complicit in murder and more people who made the decision to stay silent about the atrocity inflicted on the Murphy children. It is not understandable or acceptable in civilised society but then thousands of people knew about clerical rapists and abusers but did nothing.
Raonaid was stabbed multiple times, with death caused by one of four wounds that deeply penetrated her shoulder, severing an artery.
She survived only long enough to crawl about 200 feet out of the laneway where she had been attacked and into Silchester Crescent, just around the corner from where she lived. Some of the estimated 31 stab wounds barely penetrated her light clothing.
Her assailant could have been male or female. That, sources confirmed last week, remains the case. There was at least one female suspect, a young woman who had family links to the IRA. She was known for her aggressive and violent behaviour.
After Raonaid’s murder, she left Dun Laoghaire and was later reported to have moved abroad. Female DNA was also found under Raonaid’s fingernails but she’d worked that evening in the boutique and would have had physical contact with other women.
The IRA has long had a track record of protecting its own, no matter what. It has protected known paedophiles within its ranks and one of its worst offenders, a west Belfast man, lived in the south Dublin area from the mid-1970s onwards after he had been forced to leave the North, where he was accused of raping young girls in Belfast and Newry, Co Down.
Gardai believed he went on to rape another child in the Dun Laoghaire area but the family was persuaded, either by violence or other means, not to make any formal complaint. The rapist was eventually spirited out of Ireland, it is believed to the United States.
The female suspect in Raonaid’s case was also believed to have been involved in a relationship with a young man in the area. Word reached investigators that this young man may have been fixated with Raonaid and this may have led to discord in the relationship and anger directed towards Raonaid.
There was, however, no evidence to support this. The couple were questioned under caution but both professed to know nothing of the murder. DNA was taken from the young woman but it did not match that found on Raonaid.
The only positive witness evidence in the brief peri-
od between Raonaid leaving friends in Scotts Bar in the centre of Dun Laoghaire and the 15-minute walk to her home in Silchester Park was of an argument with a young man in Glenageary Road Upper on Raonaid’s most likely route home. The description given to gardai somewhat fitted the boyfriend in the ‘jealousy’ scenario.
The murder investigation was headed by then chief superintendent Martin Donnellan, who was head of the National Bureau of Crime Investigation in Harcourt Square in Dublin. The local chief superintendent at the time was Pat Culhane, who has since died.
Gardai who worked the case say that Culhane, once a leading figure in the old Garda Murder Squad, was a ‘problem’ in the investigation and wanted to beat Donnellan’s team to an arrest.
A later re-investigation of the case by the Serious Crime Review Team found serious problems in the initial investigation including a failure to share information and competing loyalties among investigators.
This may have hampered parts of the investigation but did not have a severely damaging effect, reliable sources say. Donnellan’s team and all the local gardai worked flat out on the case. The bulk of the experienced
The killer was almost certainly splattered with blood. In the broad initial sweep for suspects and the gathering of hundreds of witness statements, a statement from a taxi driver, from Cabra but returning from a fare to Dalkey in the early hours, stood out. He was hailed by a young man with blood on his trousers near the centre of Dun Laoghaire.
The driver took the man up Newtownpark Avenue towards Foxrock and became suspicious that he was being directed towards a fake address when he was asked to turn left into Granville Park near the N11. He turned and waited and saw the young man lingering behind a hedge as though waiting for the driver to leave.
It took over a month to identify this young man, a cook who worked in the Dun Laoghaire area at the time. He was questioned and denied knowing Raonaid. He was subsequently arrested in relation to another assault on a young woman outside a disco in Wicklow a year later.
The investigation identified 22 ‘red alert’ suspects in all.
Officers were quite surprised at the amount of ‘weirdos’ living in and around the area at the time. One young man who came to their attention, also a cook by trade, had a shocking array of violent pornography, along with martial arts equipment, including two Samurai swords. But he had a solid alibi.
There was a hotel worker previously accused of falsely imprisoning one woman and assaulting another. He told gardai he did not know Raonaid but friends said he did.
There was a butcher who also had a history of violence investigators were towards women and who men in early middle age, several was said to have drunkenly with teenage daughters. bragged about having killed
The laneway where Raonaid Raonaid. was stabbed was stripped There was also a ‘druggie’ of undergrowth but there was type, said to be part of a very no sign of a weapon or of the weird set of people who held identity of the perpetrator. in depraved parties in a base
There was no eyewitness ment flat in one of the squares evidence that could point to of large Victorian terraced an escape route. The area is houses near the scene criss-crossed with public laneways, of the murder. He was several of which were said to be obsessed overgrown at the time. One with Raonaid. lane almost directly opposite There was a conthe murder scene leads on to victed rapist who had the path along the Dart line been in court in Dun known as the Metals, which Laoghaire the day beruns for a mile between Dun fore the murder but Laoghaire and Killiney Hill was able to give a convincing and is mostly shaded by trees account of his and shrubbery. movements.
And, there was another young man, a bar worker, who said he knew Raonaid but had no personal contact with her. He was later arrested for allegedly threatening a female partner with a knife.
Yet another man who knew Raonaid was subsequently arrested for an attack on a woman and gardai found violent pornography, including bestiality, on his computer.
In all, 210 men and women were earmarked as potential suspects, ‘persons of interest’.
One of these was Farah Swaleh Noor, the violent, drink- and drug-addicted Somali immigrant who was killed and then dismembered by ‘Scissor sisters’ Linda and Charlotte Mulhall in March 2005. During their investigations into that case, gardai discovered that on the same day as Raonaid’s murder, Noor had been drinking beer on the seafront at Sandycove beside Dun Laoghaire. His route home to a hostel in Deansgrange would have taken him through Glenageary.
Noor also bragged to the Mulhalls that he had murdered Raonaid but he was a fantasist and gardai could establish no link.
South County Dublin’s most notorious inhabitant, Graham Dwyer, was also a young postbury graduate architect living in the south of the city at the time. He had never come to the attention of gardai until he murdered and tried to
secretly Dun Laoghaire woman Elaine O’Hara in August 2012.
During this investigation, gardai revisited the evidence in Roanaid’s case to see if there was any connection.
Dwyer had inflicted multiple stab wounds on women and had a sexual fixation linked to repeated stabbing, a perversion known as piquerism. As part of this re-examination, I was called to give a statement about an incident I reported on about a month after Raonaid’s murder, 14 years earlier. A young man had come down the laneway at the back of my house in the early hours of a Sunday morning, dropped his trousers and begun masturbating. I called the gardai and handed over the CCTV tape from the camera overlooking the lane. I was shown one of the images and the young man in the picture bore a resemblance to Dwyer.
Gardai interviewed 3,500 people in Raonaid’s case, including everyone they could identify who had been socialising in the town centre that evening. The entire crew of the LE Emer, which was docked in Dun Laoghaire for the weekend, were interviewed and were able to account for their movements.
DNA swabs were taken from 50 women but none matched that found on Raonaid’s fingernails. A senior source involved in the continuing investigation said that it has continued, quietly, to be a priority case and gardai “will not let it go”. But nothing to date has pointed firmly to any single suspect. Someone, the source said “knows what happened” and almost as inexplicable as the murder is this reticence to come forward and tell what they know. There were failings, some serious, in the investigation of Raonaid’s case but the fact remains that someone protected — and continues to protect — the murderer of a beautiful innocent young woman. And that is not all. The families of victims and almost all sentient people require that in cases such as this there is a law and order process that results in a perpetrator being uncovered, brought to justice and sentenced to a lengthy time in jail. ‘Life’ imprisonment in a case where someone killed another person in hot temper and was guilty of no other offences could mean as little as six or seven years in jail. The killer of Raonaid Murray or those close to him or her should know this and know that after serving such a term in jail they, at least, would have what is politely termed ‘closure’. There will never be any ‘closure’ for Raonaid’s family and friends.
Raonaid’s friends that I know have their own children now. She was just like my daughters and was done to death in a place I had chosen to live in because it was, on the surface, safe. It hit me in this case more than any other — and I’ve covered hundreds of murders — that this whole idea of ‘closure’ is nonsense. Justice is needed.
‘There was no sign of a weapon or of the identity of the perpetrator’
BRUTAL CRIME: Raonaid (above) was stabbed to death in this laneway (left) at Silchester Road, Dun Laoghaire. One suspect Noor (below), the violent, was Farah Swaleh drink- and drug-addicted later murdered by the Somali man who was so-called ‘Scissor...
ANGUISH: Raonaid’s parents Deirdre and Jim Murray