By John Kelly
It was Ireland’s mirror image of the O.J. Simpson case. Tom Nevin, the son of a County Galway farmer, was big in physique and a hard worker all of his life. He was working even as he died on March 19, after the busy St. Patrick’s weekend.
Sipping a pint of beer as the counted the takings in the kitchen of the deserted hotel and pub, bought by him and his wife on foot of property mortgages, he was blasted by a shotgun shell through his side at point-blank range.
His chest was torn apart, shattering his heart. Within 30 seconds, the pathologist estimated, he lost consciousness. In four minutes, he was dead.
Apart from his murderer, possibly murderers, there was only one other person in Jack White’s public house and hotel in County Wicklow that fatal night.
That other person was his wife, Catherine, nee Scully, of Kilboggan, Co. Kildare. She told the court that she was upstairs in bed when Nevin, described by his first wife as a "Gentle Giant," was dispatched to another world.
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Tom Nevin’s first marriage to June O’Flanagan was annulled in 1979. The couple had met in Ireland. Both worked in England before they returned to Dublin.
After the marriage broke up, Tom Nevin met Catherine in a center city hotel, where she worked as a receptionist. He was a barman whose ambition was to own his own public house. She was an attractive young woman who shared many of his ambitions — and was more ruthless in pursuing them.
After the shooting, she waited for almost two hours before she rang the alarm button at the front door of Jack White’s to alert gardai from nearby Arklow.
During this time that the assassin and she disturbed the house to make it seem as though the killing had been the result of a bungled robbery. Drawers were pulled out on the floor. Jewelry was scattered, but carefully enough. Police reckoned that it all seemed much too tidy.
Catherine Nevin was trussed up with a pair of tights. When the police arrived, they were told that she had been gagged with a pair of her own black panties.
Not surprisingly, she had also been scantily clad. After all, she had also wanted to make it seem as though she had been in bed when the shooting occurred.
Sex. clothing and the lack of it, featured prominently in this murder trial. Many allegations were made against Catherine Nevin.
As it transpires, it is not over yet. A guilty verdict has been handed down. But the scandal, involving a district judge, hurtles relentlessly on. Reputations have already been destroyed. More will follow.
One married man admitted that he had indulged in an affair with her for 18 months. She had also told him many times during that particularly torrid relationship that she wanted her husband dead.
Most sensationally, it was also alleged that she had been spotted in flagrante delicto by a staff member. She was in bed with a former police inspector. The young girl who had worked in the hotel told the court that she had seen Tom Kennedy in bed with Catherine. He was not wearing a shirt.
Also unsurprisingly, the former inspector, who claimed he was very happily married, vehemently denied it in court.
But Bill McClean, the man who admitted having an 18-month relationship with her, testified that he had been in bed with her one day in her separate bedroom. Tom Nevin walked into the room and casually asked her if she could tell him where she left keys that he had mislaid.
That their marriage was in tatters seems to have been an open secret to staff. Although Catherine Nevin assured the jury that she loved her murdered husband, that she had never been unfaithful to him, and that, despite living in separate bedrooms, they had enjoyed an active sexual relationship, none of the 28 witnesses in the record 42-day trial supported her evidence.
The jury, six men and six women, ably orchestrated by another woman, Judge Melia Carroll, didn’t believe any of Catherine Nevin’s fanciful story, especially her allegation that her husband had been a member of the IRA for many years.
The jury decided she was guilty on all three charges of soliciting people to kill her husband and finally, his murder.
It was, in every respect, a sensational trial. It wiped everything off the front pages. The Saville inquiry into Bloody Sunday in Derry, the Moriarty and Flood tribunals, played second fiddle in the colorful league of headlines.
Despite the continually glamorous appearance of the impeccably groomed Catherine Nevin, little could hide her tight mouth or stubborn chin, along with a seeming determination to appear matronly, rather than sexy.
Her very appearance was in itself part of the incredible tissue of lies that she had built up to protect herself.
When it seemed that it was all over, after Judge Carroll told Nevin in ringing tones that not only had she plotted the assassination of her late husband but the assassination of his character as well, there was yet more to come.
The last bets had already been paid in thousands of meeting places all over the country when a new scandal came to light. It emerged from the murder trial.
It concerned, and will continue to concern, a District Judge called Donnchadh O Buachalla, who was named as a close friend of Nevin during the trial, so close that she often gave him the keys to the premises, an allegation he denied.
He was also questioned about the intimacy of their relationship. He denied there was any.
So now, we have one former inspector who said that he didn’t go to bed with her. And we also have a present serving officer who claims that there was no objection to oppose her taking the license of the public house exclusively, although she was even then under investigation of her husband’s murder.
The man who gave her the license in private chambers was Judge Donnchadh O’Buachalla.
Potentially, this is one of the greatest scandals to hit the already scandal-inflicted Republic of Ireland. It brings into question the entire administration and management of justice.
Maybe, it requires the final tribunal of all, without the exorbitant legal fees.
Or, perhaps, it requires a government that is really capable of government.