By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — After an unprecedented five days considering the evidence in the Catherine Nevin trial, a jury of six men and six women have found her guilty of murdering her husband, Tom, and of three charges of soliciting men to murder him.
Immediately following the verdict, Mrs. Nevin, who’s 49 and had pleaded not guilty to the murder of Nevin, 54, on March 19, 1996 in their home at Jack White’s Inn, Ballinapark, Co Wicklow, was given the mandatory life sentence for the murder.
The jury verdict that she was guilty of murder was unanimous. There was also a unanimous verdict on one of the soliciting charges and two majority verdicts on the others after the longest jury deliberation in the history of the State.
The dramatic twists and turns of the trial — as about 170 witnesses gave evidence that included claims about sexual affairs involving Mrs. Nevin and IRA hitmen being sought — have received extensive media coverage in Ireland.
A retired Garda inspector, Tom Kennedy, and a District Court judge, Donnchadh O Buachalla, both denied in evidence that they had a sexual relationship with Mrs. Nevin.
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Nevin died after being hit by a shotgun blast in the chest while counting the takings in the pub he ran with his wife.
The prosecution said he was killed during a botched robbery designed to conceal a contract killing carried out at his wife’s behest.
She had also denied the three charges of soliciting different men between 1989 and 1990 to murder her husband.
All three men came forward about six months after Nevin’s murder to voluntarily give statements to gardai and were witnesses for the prosecution.
The trial lasted 42 days. While it was not been the country’s longest, it made judicial history because it marked the longest time a defendant ever had to face charges in a court.
Mrs. Nevin has been in court for 62 days this year. There were two mistrials and three different juries had to be sworn in.
During the final trial, she was found collapsed in her home by police and hospitalized. There were fears another jury might be needed for a fourth trial.
It had been the first time a jury had been sequestered for more two nights in a hotel or that a jury had considered a verdict on a Sunday.
During the final trial, the judge banned newspapers from publishing photographs of Mrs. Nevin or describing her demeanor, reading matter or appearance in court every day.
Some newspapers published blank spaces in pages in protest at the picture ban.
She claimed a loving relationship with her husband and said he had told her he was a member of the IRA. The murdered man’s seven brothers and sisters denied any knowledge of his having republican sympathies.