By Ray O’Hanlon
Police in Jamaica have arrested a man suspected of being the shooter in the 1999 murder of a Donegal man in Philadelphia.
Neil Martin McConigley, from Fannad, was gunned down as he chased a gang of four men who had robbed his business partner.
The Jamaican police Fugitive Apprehension Team arrested Marlon Mullings, 24, in the island’s capital of Kingston last Friday.
Police said Mullings had been hiding in Jamaica since the murder of 35-year-old McConigley on Oct. 22, 1999.
The murder of McConigley sent shock waves through the Irish community in Philadelphia, a city with an especially large concentration of immigrants from Donegal and other northwestern counties.
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At one point, concern was being expressed by Irish community leaders at the lack of early arrests in the case. Irish in the city also raised an unprecedented $35,000 as reward money in the case.
The community’s anxiety over the apparent slow pace of the investigation ultimately reached the desk of Philadelphia’s police commissioner at the time, Dublin native John Timoney.
“This shooting was especially sad. Word got to me that there was a view in the Irish community that the investigation was being dragged,” Timoney said this week.
“To address this concern we sent a homicide team to the Irish immigration center to give the community a full presentation of the investigation.”
Timoney said he had been contacted last weekend by a Philadelphia journalist with news of the arrest of Mullings.
“I’m glad to see they got the main suspect,” Timoney said.
While 15 months did pass before the first arrests were made, the investigation was never allowed to lapse, even when it became the responsibility of the Philadelphia homicide division’s cold case squad.
A car license plate turned out to be a critical clue that ultimately led to the arrest of three men, twins Marlon and Alan Pitter, and Cerrone Furman, the first of the three to be detained. He was arrested in January 2001.
All three men were charged with multiple counts, including murder. But the fourth man, Mullings, who investigators believed to be the actual shooter, continued to elude police up until last week.
McConigley, who came to the U.S. in 1987, had established a stucco business with his partner, Sean Clinton.
On the day of the murder, Clinton was confronted by the four men and robbed of $560 in payroll cash at the premises of the company he owned with McConigley, CMAC Construction Inc. on Daggett Street in West Philadelphia. Clinton was tied up but otherwise unharmed.
McConigley drove into the yard outside the office and spotted the robbers as they escaped. He pursued them in his car but at one point in the chase the gang turned on him and fired several shots through the windshield of McConigley’s car, fatally wounding him.
Tom Conaghan, president of the Federation of Irish Societies of the Delaware Valley at the time of the murder, was to the forefront in both the Irish community’s expression of frustration in the early days of the investigation and the raising of reward money.
Conaghan said this week that the apprehension of Mullings was a huge relief to Philadelphia’s Irish community.
“As it turned out, the police never did give up on this case,” he said.
The FBI will initiate extradition proceedings against Mullings in the next few days, according to a report in the Philadelphia Inquirer.