Read The Cold Case Files Online
Authors: Barry Cummins
Chapter 1: The Unsolved Murder of Lorcan O’Byrne
Chapter 2: The Unsolved Murder of Nancy Smyth
Chapter 3: The Unsolved Murder of Inga-Maria Hauser
Chapter 4: The Unsolved Murder of Brooke Pickard
Chapter 5: The Unsolved Murder of Grace Livingstone
Chapter 6: The Unsolved Murder of Stephen Hughes Connors
By retired Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy
A Sunday night in October 1981, and an impromptu engagement party is being held in Dublin. As family and friends celebrate with the happy couple, two
armed and masked raiders suddenly burst in, shooting the newly engaged man dead. In a matter of seconds a robbery had gone wrong, and an innocent life was taken. I was the Detective Inspector in
the District. The phone in my home rang at 11.50 p.m. that night and I remember going out immediately to The Anglers Rest pub in Knockmaroon, the home of the murdered man, Lorcan O’Byrne.
Along with a team of detectives, I met with Lorcan’s shock-stricken and devastated family and friends. The scene was preserved immediately. Amid their grief, Lorcan’s loved ones found
the strength to answer all our questions, giving important witness statements. Two men wearing balaclavas, one of whom was armed with a shotgun, had burst in the door of the O’Byrne home,
which was above their family-run pub. The raiders were looking for the pub takings, but just moments after entering the O’Byrne home the two-man gang had fled empty-handed, having fired one
shotgun blast, fatally wounding Lorcan. The gunman had entered a room where close to twenty people were celebrating the engagement of Lorcan and his fiancée Olive. Witnesses described the
gunman and his accomplice, and also their distinctive getaway car. In the following hours and days back at Cabra Garda station myself and fellow officers held many case conferences. Descriptions of
the suspects were circulated and the suspect transport described—a green Hillman Hunter. Information gleaned from enquiries suggested the suspects were originally from Dublin West.
Within the next few days the sawn-off shotgun used in the murder was recovered. It had been hidden in undergrowth approximately five miles from the scene of the crime. The burnt-out shell of the
Hillman Hunter was recovered on the banks of the canal near Monasterevin and the engine found in the canal. One of the culprits was soon charged, and later served a sentence for Lorcan’s
killing. However, the man who actually fired the shotgun was not brought to justice, despite our very best efforts. Thirty years later he is the reason that this particular cold case has now been
Barry Cummins has researched this case and many other cases of homicide and abduction spanning the past five decades, which he recounts in great detail in this superb book. He brings to the fore
the suffering and pain of those left behind, the pain of parents, of siblings, of partners, children and friends of the victims. He highlights that cold-case reviews can bear fruit, particularly
where readers of this book may have fragments of information and might now be willing to divulge this information to the right people.
He begins the book with the case of Brian McGrath, aged 43, who disappeared from his home in Westmeath in 1987. After six and a half years a body was found in the garden of his home. Because of
the limits of forensics at the time, the body was not identifiable then as that of Brian McGrath, but subsequently in 2008 this body was exhumed and a
profile of the
body identified it to be that of the missing man. Charges of murder followed and justice was finally brought to bear. Through his description of this harrowing case, Barry Cummins shows us that
cold cases re-visited can, and do, bring closure.
Similarly, we remember the case of Kildare woman Phyllis Murphy, who disappeared in Newbridge in December 1979. Her body was found 23 days later in the Wicklow Mountains. Many suspects were
interviewed then, including the person eventually charged in 1999 and who was finally convicted in 2002 of Phyllis’s murder. Again Barry shows a cold case revisited with success due to
profiling, which was not available in 1979. I personally believe a
database for our country to support investigations of this kind would be
of enormous benefit.
Barry Cummins includes in this book many unsolved murder cases in Northern Ireland. One chapter examines how a full
profile found at the scene of the murder of German
student Inga-Maria Hauser is now available to police, which was not the case in 1988 when she was murdered. The
is constantly encouraging anyone with any snippet of
information regarding the case to phone, even with what may appear to the caller to be irrelevant information. A phone call could solve this case.
Barry sensitively shows us in this book some of the cases solved and the many others unsolved north and south of the border. One solved case is that of the murder of Lily Smith, strangled in her
apartment in Belfast in 1988. It was 23 years later that the culprit was identified due to
from bloodstains which had been retained from the time of the murder. Barry
outlines the value of re-opening murder cases because of modern forensic science developments.
Barry draws to our attention in this well-researched book the sadness encountered when children are murdered and when children are missing and not found or their bodies are not recovered.
He remembers the missing and murdered in all of Ireland, north and south of the border, during the years of the Troubles. He includes detail of the murders of Gardaí,
, Prison and Army personnel in the book.
Barry Cummins undertook an onerous task when he began the immense research which has resulted in this work. The aim of the book is to highlight the plight of many suffering people and also to
highlight these heinous crimes. Among the cases which are profiled in detail, the victims include a man looking forward to being married, an elderly widow, a teenage backpacker, a mother of two, a
father of four and a 12-year-old boy. Each unsolved murder has left a grieving family still seeking justice. Barry’s work may prompt people who have knowledge that could solve or help to
solve these cases to come forward or it may indeed prick the consciences of those responsible to come forward. Some of these criminals are older and possibly wiser now, and may be ridden with
guilt. This book may stir them to at least help families and the authorities get answers. Barry outlines the several ways in which this can be done.
The recently revisited cold cases which Barry delves into disturb us. These cases whet our appetites for further information and he renews our interest in new developments. Barry shakes us. He
stirs us. He believes that the dead, their living relatives, and the murderers, must not be forgotten. He ensures that these people and the cases connected with them will not be forgotten until
their cases are solved. He shows us that nowadays, with new resources for investigation, there is hope that these cold cases will finally be put to rest.
My congratulations and best wishes to Barry Cummins for this important work.
Noel Conroy was a member of An Garda Síochána for 44 years, from 1963 until 2007. He was Garda Commissioner from 2003 until November 2007. One of his last acts
as Commissioner was to oversee the establishment of the Garda Serious Crime Review Team, more commonly known as the Cold Case Unit.
The exhumation began at first light. Members of the Garda Cold Case Unit and local detectives from Westmeath stood silently as Brian McGrath’s
body was removed from Whitehall Cemetery. It was just after 6 a.m. on Monday 19 May 2008. A small digger began the task of removing topsoil from the plot, which was sited close to a wall. When the
digger finished its work, Gardaí completed the task of removing the coffin from the ground. The exhumation was done in dignified silence; it was a momentous moment in terms of a fresh murder
investigation, but it was also a time for reflection on what Brian McGrath had suffered all those years before. Those present knew that it couldn’t yet be said beyond all mathematical
certainty that the body was indeed the father of four last seen alive 21 years ago. That was the whole point of the exhumation—to establish once and for all the identity of the man whose
bones had been found hidden beneath the soil near Brian McGrath’s home at Coole in 1993. People might have long believed the body was Brian’s, but now as part of a cold-case
investigation it had to be proven beyond all doubt that the body was Brian’s. The evidence had to stand up in court.
By the time they came to stand at the graveside in Whitehall that morning, cold-case detectives had worked for months re-investigating the suspected murder of 42-year-old Brian McGrath. They had
built up a picture of how it was believed Brian had been beaten to death, secretly buried, dug up and burned, and then secretly buried again. It was a most distressing crime, but one which seemed
very solvable to the newly established Garda Serious Crime Review Team, or Cold Case Unit as it would become known.
When Gardaí had initially found Brian’s remains near his home in 1993 the body had been secretly resting there since 1987. Forensic science in the early 1990s was nowhere near as
advanced as it is today, and the bones recovered in 1993 could not be identified as Brian’s to a mathematical certainty. Gardaí in 1993 had a great deal of information to go on, in
what was a major murder enquiry. They only found the body because they were specifically looking for Brian and believed he had been murdered and buried on his land. They had arrested the two
suspects, but in the absence of an absolute identification of the human remains, the
would not permit charges to be brought. The suspects were released and the body was
later buried in 1993 without being formally identified. It was a most complicated, bizarre and violent murder which seemed destined to remain unsolved. Over time the case began to gather dust. And
then in late 2007 the Garda Cold Case Unit was formed.
It was a retired detective who alerted cold-case detectives to the unsolved murder of Brian McGrath. John Maunsell had been a detective in the Dublin suburb of Tallaght, and in 1993 had received
crucial information about the murder in Westmeath. Maunsell had been involved in a separate successful investigation into the murder of a woman in Dublin, and it was through publicity surrounding
his role in that case which led someone to contact him about the murder of Brian McGrath. John Maunsell agreed to meet the person in a pub in Dublin, and they outlined how Brian McGrath had been
missing from Westmeath since 1987, and that Brian’s daughter Veronica was very distressed and wanted to tell what she knew.
Veronica met with John Maunsell and his colleague Kevin Tunney and outlined how she had seen her then fiancé Colin Pinder and her own mother beat her father to death. She had seen her
mother Vera goad her future son-in-law into attacking Brian without warning sometime in March or April 1987. Veronica had seen her father being beaten with various implements and had seen him being
struck by both Colin Pinder and Vera McGrath. Veronica had witnessed the subsequent secret burial of her father in the back garden, she had also seen the body being subsequently placed on a large
fire after it had been dug up, and she knew her father’s body had been reburied on land just beside the family home. Detectives Maunsell and Tunney spoke with Gardaí in Westmeath, who
carried out a search of the McGrath land and they soon found a body where Veronica said it would be. Colin Pinder had by now returned to his native Liverpool while Veronica’s mother Vera
still lived at the family home in Westmeath. Both were interviewed by detectives and a file was sent to the
, but word eventually came back that it was impossible to
positively identify the body and in those circumstances the
was unwilling to press charges.