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The Cannibal Murders

In March 1997, two mentally-ill women living in “sheltered housing” in Dublin were murdered in a savage attack during which the killer ritually mutilated their bodies. The crime, which came to be known as the Cannibal Murders, was plainly committed by a madman, and a forensic psychologist working on the case warned that the killer was likely to strike again.

The Gardai swung into action and in July they arrested Dean Lyons, a homeless heroin addict with psychiatric problems. They grilled him intensively and eventually he cracked. Lyons signed a confession containing such minute and excruciating detail that its author must have been present at the scene of the crime. The DPP duly charged him and Lyons went to prison on remand.

A month later, in Roscommon, a young couple were murdered in an identical manner. Their killing was attended by the same ritualistic mutilations as that of the two women in Dublin. The Gardai in Galway were quick to solve the case and soon had a man in custody for the killings. In addition to admitting the killings of the Roscommon couple, Mark Nash, from England, made a statement confessing to the Dublin murders, and he described in detail the interior of the Dublin house and the manner of the killing, including the sadistic details of what had been done to the women’s bodies.

Despite this confession, Dean Lyons was kept in prison for another seven months before the charges against him were finally dropped. He’s dead now. He died in prison in England after a conviction for shop-lifting to feed his habit.

Now. Here was a man with a vulnerable and highly suggestible personality. With an extreme fear of authority figures such as policemen. A heroin addict. A weak mentality. Some would say a scumbag. But not a murderer. And yet, he came to sign a confession while in police custody. A confession that described in microscopic detail what had happened in a house he had never entered, and in the course of a crime he had not witnessed.

So how on earth did he come by this information?

Was he psychic?

If you were a senior policeman, wouldn’t you be wondering how he came to sign such a confession? Wouldn’t you be wondering how your subordinates allowed him to remain in prison for months after they knew the real killer had been caught? Well, apparently not. The Gardai carried out an internal investigation, the results of which were never published. Nobody was ever disciplined and nobody was charged with the murders of the two women, despite Mark Nash’s having confessed to them.

Good, good, good. That’s the way the cops are in Ireland, it seems.

Finally, eight years later, in 2005, the government appointed a senior barrister, George Birmingham, to chair a commission of inquiry into the case. He finished his report last year and though it was supposed to be published in September last year it wasn’t released to the public. Somebody within the investigation team was obviously worried, because a journalist, Mick McCaffrey, came into possession of certain details in the report. He revealed among other things, that some investigating officers were unhappy with the charging of Dean Lyons, but were overruled by their superiors.

What was the outcome of all this? After all, here we had a disgraceful situation. A vulnerable man who confessed to a crime he never committed. Nobody charged with the crime, in spite of a credible confession from a known murderer. The results of an internal investigation suppressed. The official inquiry’s report gathering dust and never released to the public. An absolute disgrace crying out for action.

Well, at long last the authorities have acted. Yesterday, they arrested the journalist.

That’s Ireland for you. Watch out soon for mass arrests of the dogs in the street.


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