John Joe Malone
A witness has told a cold-case murder trial that she saw the accused banging on the door of a widowed pensioner while cursing at her, hours before her strangled body was found in her burning house. She said she hadn’t told gardai at the time because her mother told her not to get involved.
Geraldine Brennan was giving evidence to the Central Criminal Court yesterday (Monday) in the trial of a 53-year-old man accused of murdering her neighbour 30 years ago.
John Joseph Malone is charged with murdering 69-year-old Ann ‘Nancy’ Smyth on 11th September 1987 at her home on Wolfe Tone Street in Kilkenny City.
Mr Malone of Newpark in Kilkenny City has pleaded not guilty.
Ms Brennan testified that she was living with her baby and parents at the time, three doors down from Ms Smyth. Her parents have since passed away.
She said she went to bed after midnight on September 10th and heard shouting on the street some time after that. She said there was just one voice, a male voice, and that she and her parents went out onto the street.
“He was banging on the window and banging on the door, saying: ‘Let me into the f***ing house. I just want to f***ing talk to you’,” she said.
“‘I’ll fuckin get you’ he said at one stage,” she added.
“We went out on the street,” she said. “I saw John Joe Malone. We saw him at the door (of) Nancy Smyth’s house.”
She said that this banging and shouting went on for about half an hour.
“He kicked the door a few times and was banging on the window,” she continued. “He came out and slammed the gate once or twice.”
She was asked about his demeanour, and she said he was ‘angry and agitated’.
“We stood on the street and then we went back into the house,” she said. “The noise was still going on for a few minutes after that. Then it just went quiet.”
She said they presumed he had gone.
“Next thing we heard then was someone shouting on the street that there was a house on fire,” she said.” We went outside again and saw that it was Nancy’s house.”
She was asked if she had seen Mr Malone on that street before and she said she had seen him at Ms Smyth’s house.
Under cross examination by Colman Cody SC, defending, she agreed that what she told gardai in 1987 was very different from what she told them in 2012. She had not told gardai that she had gone out onto the street in her first statement.
“When we did find out that Nancy had been murdered, we thought it would be solved in months,” she recalled. “My mother said to me: ‘You needn’t tell them you saw anything, needn’t get involved, we’ve given statements’.”
She explained that her mother had been ‘a strong woman’.
“Even though I was 32, I was still the child in the house,” she said. “When we found out Nancy was murdered, we wondered when was someone going to be arrested for it.”
She agreed that she knew Mr Malone had been arrested.
“Yes, but it came to nothing,” she said.
She said that she felt she should make another statement after a television reconstruction was produced. She said the gardai came around to the houses on the street too.
She remembered appeals for people to come forward over the years.
Mr Cody put it to her that her parents had passed away and asked had it ever occurred to her that she should go back and give information.
“Well maybe it did occur to me but I never did go back,” she replied.
“What was I supposed to do with it?” she asked later. “There was nothing happening about the case,” she said.
“Back then you didn’t get involved,” she continued. “That’s what my mother was like.
Maybe it was her way of protecting me, that I had a son.”
“You claim that the person you saw shouting and roaring was John Joseph Malone. How did you know him?” she was asked.
“I knew who the family were,” she replied, mentioning that she knew his father and some of his brothers, including Barney Malone. “I knew them to see them, I would have known that they were Malones.”
She was asked later if she had ever seen Barney Malone at the Smyth house.
“No,” she replied.
Mr Cody suggested that the reason she didn’t come forward before 2012 was because she didn’t have the information, that what she had said in her first statement was true.
She denied this.
She was re-examined by the prosecutor, who asked if she had any doubt about the identity of the person she saw, of what she heard or of what she saw him doing.
“No, no doubt whatsoever,” she replied. “It’s just my my mother’s way of protecting me: Don’t get involved. It will be solved.”
The trial continues before Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy and a jury of five women and seven men.