Kilkenny murder trial: Nancy Smyth suffered a 'callous and violent death'

Closing speeches in Kilkenny cold case murder trial

Eoin Reynolds

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Eoin Reynolds

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Kilkenny murder trial: Nancy Smyth suffered a 'callous and violent death'

John Joe Malone

A 69-year-old woman who lived alone suffered a "callous and violent death", a prosecution barrister told a murder trial.
Sean Gillane SC, gave his closing speech at the Central Criminal Court in the trial of 53-year-old John Joseph Malone who has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Ann ‘Nancy’ Smyth on 11th September 1987 at her home on Wolfe Tone Street in Kilkenny City. She was strangled before her house was set on fire.
Mr Gillane said that at times during the trial it may have been possible to forget what the case was about. He said an elderly woman had died after being strangled with enough force to fracture her thyroid cartilage. She also suffered injuries to her mouth and head that State Pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy said are consistent with blows being struck.
Counsel said that following Ms Smyth's "callous and violent death" the person who beat and strangled her tried to disguise what had happened by setting fire to her home. He said the trial, which was taken after a cold case review by gardai, was about human dignity and ensuring that Ann Smyth's life could not just simply be extinguished. "The passage of time," he said, "does not lessen the importance of her death."
Mr Gillane said the jury can be sure, from the pathologist's evidence, that what happened to Ms Smyth was murder. Their only role is to decide whether the prosecution had proven that John Joseph Malone was responsible. Looking back at the evidence, he said they know from various witnesses and from Mr Malone's interviews with gardai that the accused was in a pub in Kilkenny City until around mid-night on the night Ms Smyth died. She was drinking in O'Gorman's pub, where she was a regular.
Rather than go home after leaving the pub, Mr Malone walked to Ms Smyth's home where two witnesses saw him "in and about the house of Nancy Smyth" at about 12.30am. Those witnesses said he seemed "suspicious" and tried to turn his face away. Mr Gillane said that tied in with the evidence of a third witness who said he saw a man acting in a "very unusual way" and banging on the window of Ms Smyth's house at about 12.30.
Counsel said: "There is undeniable evidence that at around 12.30 John Joseph Malone is at the house of Nancy Smyth having an argument with her and she is soon to be dead." Mr Gillane said that alone would not be enough, but the jury had also heard evidence from Geraldine Brennan who lived a few doors from Ms Smyth. Ms Brennan knew Mr Malone and said she heard him say: "I will fucking get you," and "let me in."
Further evidence, Mr Gillane suggested, is gained when Mr Malone himself said he did it. He said Mr Malone was a member of a church group in Kilkenny City and had confessed to a number of his fellow church members that he killed Nancy Smyth. He said the defence was arguing that the statements of these people were not credible but Mr Gillane asked the jury: "Did they seem like people who were here to pull the wool over your eyes?"
Mr Gillane said the jury should also remember the lies told by John Joseph Malone when he first spoke to gardai, telling them that he just went home on the night, only to later admit that he went to Nancy Smyth's house where he had an argument with her. He denied killing her or setting her home on fire.
Defence counsel Colman Cody SC told the jury that the only reason this trial has gone ahead is because of the claims that John Joseph Malone had confessed to various people that he killed Ms Smyth. Mr Cody told the jury that these people had said they heard these confessions at various times over a number of years but none of them made official statements to gardai until 2012.
He said that from 1987 gardai had become "fixated" and "obsessed" with John Joseph Malone and never considered any other person for the murder of Nancy Smyth.
He said it was "remarkable" that in 2012, following the reopening of the case by cold case detectives, gardai were suddenly able to gather all this "game changing evidence" when a number of people said Mr Malone had confessed to them.
He said these people, many of whom said nothing to gardai for years, started to "seep out" in a few months from October 2012. "Does that not give you pause for thought?" he asked.
Suggesting that the reason their conscience had not caused them to come forward earlier was because the confessions were never made to them. He said that the gardai had an "obsession" with Mr Malone and when all the evidence failed to land them a prosecution they decided that confession evidence would be the key. "This was about getting enough people to say John Joseph Malone had confessed to them," he said.
He suggested that gardai kept repeating this to the point where people even believed themselves that he had confessed to them.
He further pointed out that there was no forensic evidence linking Mr Malone to the scene or the body
Telling the jurors that their job is not to get justice for the family of Nancy Smyth, but to test whether the case was proven beyond reasonable doubt, he said if they have a doubt they must find him not guilty.
Justice Patrick McCarthy will give his charge to the jury of seven men and five women today (Wednesday).