The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Guardians of Perjury


Martin Galvin • 29 October 2006


After many delays and almost as many changes in court venue, the trial of two detectives charged with perjury to jail Colm Murphy commenced and collapsed. Dundalk wags had predicted in jest that the detectives might produce passports stamped Zambia, claiming to have been out of the country when Mr. Murphy was arrested, interrogated and charged. The facetious reference alluded to British crime scene constable Fiona Cooper. When caught in contradictions in the Belfast trial of Sean Hoey, Cooper returned with a passport stamped Zambia covering the dates when crucial reports were issued over her name. She defended herself by accusing her boss and other ranking crime scene constables.

In Dublin there was no need for passports or passing blame. The altered written reports of Mr. Murphy's interrogation were not admitted into evidence against the very detectives who wrote the reports, because the chain of custody had been broken. Writings prepared by gardai, maintained in custody by gardai, and controlled by gardai could not be admitted in a trial against gardai, because of gardai mishandling of the evidence. The gardai congratulated themselves on the outcome.

After excluding all evidence on a legal technicality, a verdict of acquittal was entered and then presented in the headlines as if a trial on the merits had been fully litigated. The verdict however may do little for victim Colm Murphy. Tainted evidence, inadmissible against the gardai will apparently become untainted when Colm Murphy is scheduled for a re-trial.


The ordeal of Colm Murphy began some six months after the Omagh tragedy. A prominent businessman, builder and bar owner, Mr. Murphy was seen by numerous clients and customers throughout that day in Dundalk.

Mr. Murphy is also a well known Republican, hardly surprising for someone originally from South Armagh. He had been imprisoned twice for Irish Republican Army related charges in the twenty-six counties, and fallen victim to an FBI sting operation in New York on charges of conspiracy to purchase weaponry for the Irish National Liberation Army. All this transpired years before he had returned to Dundalk and a successful business career.

Crown investigators believed that a cell phone owned by Mr. Murphy had been used in the Omagh vicinity on that tragic day. There were of course, several hundreds of cell phones used in the area that day. No one was charged with making or receiving a call from the phone registered to Mr. Murphy. A hundred innocent explanations existed.. Because of his Republican background the British and their Dublin counterparts suspected that Colm Murphy's phone was somehow involved. There was clearly no legal evidence to support conspiracy charges, much less legal proof sufficient to convict. A conspiracy charge required admissible evidence that Colm Murphy knew about the planned action and knowingly provided the cell phone in furtherance of a conspiracy to carry out the planned action. Absent witnesses, only a confession could supply the missing elements.


In February 1999, Colm Murphy was arrested and taken to Monaghan. Teams of gardai including Liam Donnelly, John Fahy, and at least one detective implicated in the McBrearty scandal, interrogated him. He was denied any right to remain silent, and given only intermittent access to his solicitor.

After three days gardai emerged and claimed that Colm Murphy had confessed to crucial facts which supplied the missing links of conspiracy. Mr. Murphy was formally charged in court, amidst a blaze of headlines congratulating the gardai for cracking the case.

Colm Murphy immediately and steadfastly proclaimed his innocence and adamantly insisted that he had never said the crucial admissions touted by the gardai . His claims of frame-up were largely ignored. However a number of key facts would at first support and later prove scientifically that Colm Murphy told the truth about the confession being fabricated and that those who put the words over his name had lied.


Four factors would emerge which showed that Mr. Murphy's statements had been forged or fabricated. Firstly the statement contained basic details about Mr. Muphy's family and local geography which were simply wrong. For example, a woman was described as a relative, who is not related to Colm or the Murphy family. Localities were misidentified. Such details were not crucial to the scenario outlined in the statement. However it was inconceivable that Mr. Murphy could make mistakes about family relationships or place names of local areas. John Fahy from Monaghan or Liam Donnelly from Cavan might well make such errors.

The sequence of the alleged admissions during the course of the interrogation was wrong. It is an obvious technique for each team of interrogators to observe or be briefed on information given during each session. Each team then tries to build upon what was admitted to earlier teams of interrogators.

Here the opposite occurred. Mr. Murphy, gardai claimed made damning admissions in some sessions. These alleged admissions disappear in the following session, and Mr. Murphy is questioned as though no breakthrough had been made. Much later the admissions made to earlier teams then re-appear. Such a sequence does not ring true for notes taken during the interrogation. Such a sequence points to fabrication written later and a frame-up.

The third factor was the lack of notes. Mr. Murphy had been questioned for three days. Each question and answer, should have been taken down by hand. No recording was made. Recording equipment was available but inexplicably not used in this top priority case. Only thirty-eight pages of notes were produced. An interrogation so lengthy should have resulted in many more pages. The utter lack, indeed absence of notes pointed to interview pages being discarded or forged to include the alleged admissions, and delete exculpatory statements.


All of this was overshadowed by scientific proof. Mr. Murphy through his family and legal team was able to retain experts who examined the notes of the interrogations using electrostatic document analysis (ESDA). These ESDA tests had broken open miscarriages of justice cases in Britain and now were being used to determine whether the thirty-eight pages had been written during Mr. Murphy's interrogation or were re-written or fabricated afterwards. The tests results were clear. The interrogation notes had indeed been altered. ESDA proved forgery with scientific certainty. Colm Murphy had been framed.


Many legal observers felt that Mr. Murphy's acquittal was now assured. Even the Special Criminal Court would have to exclude the alleged confession when confronted with scientific proof.

Moreover the frame-up and fabrication of the statements seemed to extend to all of the interrogators. Procedures required that original notes of a statement must be secured. It seemed impossible for Fahy and Donnelly to have fabricated notes without the knowledge, involvement and consent of others. It seems inconceivable that Fahy or Donnelly would have forged notes and been prepared to lie about it, if there were any risk of other interrogators doing a Fiona Cooper and giving them up from the witness box. It was expected that all statements would be discredited and the charges based on these statements dismissed.


In a remarkable verdict, the court deemed Fahy and Donnelly discredited witnesses who consistently testified falsely in denying that they had forged or altered notes of the interrogation, but credited the testimony of the other interrogators. It ignored the fact that Fahy and Donnelly could not have fabricated notes without the knowledge, cooperation and backing of all others in the interrogation team.


On appeal the verdict was overturned. Fahy and Donnelly were charged with perjury and forgery of interview notes .Colm Murphy was released from Portlaiose. It seemed as if Colm Murphy's ordeal in the criminal courts would end, although he still faced a civil case financed by the British government. It seemed likely that the trial of Fahy and Donnelly would reveal a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and wrongly jail Colm Murphy. There were gardai involved in Mr. Murphy's interrogation who also worked the McBrearty case, in which false confessions were made up for a crimes never committed. A full litigation of the facts of this case, many believed, would show that the same sort of conspiracy now under investigation by the Morris Tribunal, was part of a pattern of forging confessions to jail people that certain gardai decided should be jailed, and that Colm Murphy had been another victim. A full litigation in which each member of the interrogation team was forced to testify, could well have unearthed garda counterparts to Fiona Cooper, prepared to shield themselves by attesting to the involvement of others in a conspiracy.


The exclusion of the fabricated statements and acquittal on that basis also excluded any risk that the gardai witnesses would be forced to enter the witness box under possible jeopardy for perjury or conspiracy charges. It will be interpreted by many not as justice but as the gardai taking care of their own. Years ago a heavy squad operated, beating confessions out of innocent men like Nicky Kelly and then swearing falsely to cover-up their methods. This case raises questions whether the gardai have been signaled that they may simply dispense with the brutality, forge the confessions and lie about it in court with impunity. If Colm Murphy can be re-tried based on fabricated statements ruled inadmissible against gardai, or worse with some forged notes purged from the case as if they did not taint each of the interrogators, it will raise questions about whether the "guardians of the peace" have become "guardians of perjury".



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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



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Index: Current Articles

30 October 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

Granny Josie
Anthony McIntyre

Guardians of Perjury
Martin Galvin

Writing on the Wall
John Kennedy

The Litmus Test of Republicanism
Charlie Clarke

Monkey Business
Anthony McIntyre

Northern Invasion
Dr John Coulter

Eamon McGuire: The Life of an Undercover IRA Activist
William Hughes

Deal Will Underline Delusions
David Adams

Blood in the Water
Dr John Coulter

Muslims = Terrorists
M. Shahid Alam

Nothing Could Be More Offensive!
Maryam Namazie

25 October 2006

From Up the Ra to Up the Rozzers
Anthony McIntyre

Just Say No
Martin Galvin

Whither Irish Republicanism
Mick Hall

The Three Stooges
John Kennedy

Jockeying For Position
Dr John Coulter

An Irish Agreement
Liam O Comain

Up the Garden Path
John Kennedy

A Gaelic Experiement
Nathan Dowds

Preventing Prejudice
Anthony McIntyre



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