A NEW book about unsolved homicides and abductions attempts to shed new light on the murder of a 79-year-old woman in Kilkenny 25 years ago.
Nancy Smyth, who was strangled to death in her house on the city’s Wolfe Tone Street on September 11, 1987, is among those whose cases are revisited in The Cold Case Files: On the Trail of Ireland’s Undetected Killers, by Barry Cummins.
A chapter in the book outlines the circumstances in which her body was found by the Kilkenny fire brigade after her sofa was set on fire in an attempt to make her death look like an accident.
It recounts witness statements, from a passer-by who saw her arguing with a man outside her front door around 1am, to the publican who had brought her safely home from the pub just after midnight, and even statements from the man who had been arguing with her that night.
The hope is that by shining light on the evidence again, it will help bring her killer to justice, the author says.
It is one of the many cases being reinvestigated by the Garda Cold Case Unit, including new interviews with significant witnesses and new forensic examinations of items taken from the scene during the original investigation.
It also points out that no motive for her killing has been established, whether it was for money, an intended sexual assault, or no clear motive at all.
It is also suspected that, as no suspicious vehicles were seen in the area at the time, the killer likely walked away from her house, Mr Cummins recounts. “Gardaí do not believe the killer lived on Wolfe Tone Street or any of the immediately surrounding streets, but it is felt, however, that the killer had to be from the wider Kilkenny environs,” he writes.
“Gardaí investigating the murder of Nancy Smyth need evidence, they need people to talk,” Mr Cummins writes. “Nancy Smyth’s final resting place is in Kilkenny, and the chilling possibility is that her killer may still walk these streets.”
As he writes in his Prologue: “There are hundreds of unsolved murders, hundreds of families seeking justice, hundreds of killers who have quite literally got away with murder. Every killer has a family, has friends, has a social network, perhaps has work colleagues. The more you look at the scale of Irish cold cases, the more you realise there are potentially thousands of people on this island who have direct information or strong suspicions about the identity of killers who have evaded justice for far too long.”