Category: Archive

Ward gets life sentence for role in Guerin’s murder

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — “We could never win. We lost on the 26 June,” said Graham Turley, husband of murdered crime reporter Veronica Guerin, after the first man to be convicted for her killing was sentenced to life in prison by the Special Criminal Court.

After hearing 31 days of evidence, the three judges found Paul “Hippo” Ward, 34, of Walkinstown, Dublin, was an accessory to the murder of the 36-year-old journalist at the Naas Road, Clondalkin, in June 1996.

The verdict by the non-jury court was based on the uncorroborated testimony of a so-called supergrass and criminal accomplice of Ward — the judges threw out the main Garda evidence and were highly critical of their interrogation methods.

While Ward was not present when Guerin was shot six times in her car, the judges said he disposed of the gun and motorcycle used in the murder and so was guilty of the murder.

The verdict is almost certain to be appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeal and the lengthy judgment will lead to a searching post-mortem of questioning procedures by police chiefs.

Never miss an issue of The Irish Echo

Subscribe to one of our great value packages.

The verdict comes after the biggest criminal investigation in the history of the state. Public anger and shock at Guerin’s cold-blooded murder led to the recall of the Dail to bring in a wide-ranging anti-crime package in an effort to break the stranglehold of crime and drugs barons.

At least two further murder trials will follow involving other members of the gang. They are believed to have imported about _20 million worth of marijuana between 1994 and 1996.

Another alleged gang member, Brian Meehan, 31, is in custody after his extradition from Holland. Gardai suspect he drove the motorbike.

Another man, John Gilligan, is being held in London while he fights extradition warrant for murder against him.

Patrick “Dutchy” Holland, 59, is serving 12 years for drug offenses. Gardai testified at his trial that they believe he carried out the shooting and was the pillion passenger on the motorbike.

Two other members of the gang are still on the run, believed to be living on the Continent.

Central to the conviction of Ward was the evidence of a former Irish army Corporal, Charles Bowden, 33, of Navan Road, a self-confessed drug dealer and gang member. He was jailed for six years last year after he pleaded guilty to a range of drug and firearms charges.

He is being held under tight security in prison as part of a special state witness program and his family is also under round-the-clock protection. A second man who turned state’s evidence, Russell Warren, is expected to testify in future trials.

Evidence was given that Bowden was the armorer for the drug-dealing gang. He had loaded the .357 Magnum used in the killing with six bullets and left it on a table with another six rounds. He claimed he had not known Guerin would be killed.

Bowden claimed he had agreed to cooperate because he felt remorse and revulsion about the killing of Guerin — who had a young son Cathal — after he was shown photos of the murdered journalist. He was granted immunity from prosecution.

The motorbike used in the killing was later recovered from the Liffey, but the murder weapon has never been recovered.

The judges ruled that all admissions allegedly made by Ward when he was in police custody for 48 hours were not admissible and their criticisms of his interrogation has led to calls for an investigation by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties.

The verdict questioned if Ward was assaulted while in custody, suggested there was a possibility his claimed verbal admissions were planted by police, and described as “extraordinary” that significant documents were now “alleged to be unaccountably missing” from Lucan Garda station.

Extreme psychological pressure had been applied and there had been “deliberate gross violations” of Ward’s fundamental rights.

The judges were equally scathing of Bowden. His conversion to state’s evidence had nothing to do with remorse but resulted from a “cold, dispassionate assessment of his grievous situation.”

They found Bowden was self-serving, deeply avaricious, a liar and potentially vicious.

However, they said his evidence to the court had “a strong ring of truth about it” and they had no reason to doubt it was in his interests to tell the truth about the murder.

Bowden had told the court the gang leader had been charged with assaulting Guerin after an encounter in January 1996 and this was the motive for the killing as the charge would be dropped if the main witness were dead.

“This enraged him because on foot of a likely jail sentence grave harm would be done to his cannabis empire because he would be prevented from purchasing supplies and arranging for the importation of the product into Ireland,” the judges said.

“It is also probable that he perceived himself as being hugely important in the criminal world and it would be a source of great annoyance and humiliation to be sent to jail as a petty criminal.”

The verdict was welcomed by Guerin’s brother Jimmy, and her husband said the day of the verdict was more tense than the day his wife was shot dead.

Turley paid tribute to the huge amount of work put into the investigation by gardai.

“It’s a start,” he said. “Please God it will work out for everybody at the end of the day. I know that Veronica won’t rest until everybody is behind bars — the people who are meant to be behind bars are behind bars.”

Other Articles You Might Like

Sign up to our Daily Newsletter

Click to access the login or register cheese