A Garda broke and changed his story. Up until now John White has denied mistreating two women while they were in custody. He has withdrawn his denial. This follows John Dooley’s breaking last week. If White lied about this, did he also lie about the McBreartys? He is also blaming his superiors for the way suspects were treated. White did not admit to all the claims made by the two women.
It is also alleged, amongst other things, that Detective Sargeant White paid a man £200 to stay in a McBrearty’s bar late in order for the Gardai to prosecute.
A senior Co Donegal garda has dramatically changed his evidence to the Morris tribunal by admitting for the first time that he mistreated suspects during interviews.
In an unexpected turn of events, Det Sgt John White faxed a new statement to the tribunal last Saturday in which he reversed earlier denials that he mistreated two women interviewees, Ra³isan McConnell and Katrina Brolly, in December 1996.
Ms McConnell and Ms Brolly, who were interrogated at Letterkenny Garda station during the Garda investigation into the death of cattle-dealer Richie Barron, allege that they were abused and assaulted.
Sgt White denied the allegations when investigated by the Garda Complaints Board in 1998 and he had continued to reject them in his contact with the tribunal until now.
Sgt White’s new statement emerged at yesterday’s sitting of the tribunal. Paul McDermott SC, for the tribunal, said it was an important development which had enormous significance for the evidence the tribunal was about to hear.
The women allege:
Katrina Brolly said she had her hair pulled out and was subjected to crude sexual references during her 12-hour detention at Letterkenny Garda station in December 1996. Ms Brolly broke down in the witness-box at one point as she recalled how gardaa threatened to put her children into care.
The tribunal yesterday began hearings into the detention of 12 people, starting with Ms Brolly, who were detained during the investigation of Mr Barron’s death. Gardaa at the time treated the death as a murder investigation, while the tribunal has since determined that he probably died in a hit-and-run accident.
Ms Brolly told the tribunal that Garda John Dooley and Det Sgt John White both called her a “lying bastard” and used a lot of bad language. However, she agreed that none of the interviewing gardaa had subjected her to pushing or shoving or to any other physical contact.
She was arrested after travelling to Letterkenny to visit her sister, Ra³isan McConnell, who had been arrested earlier. Between about 8pm and 8am, she was interrogated by a number of gardaa in separate interviews. At one point, her husband, Eunan, came to visit her, but she said Det Sgt White told him “that lying bastard is getting no visitors”. At various times, different gardaa told her she would spend seven or 14 years in jail unless she confessed, while another garda said she would be minding Ms McConnell’s children when she was jailed.
She said Garda Joan Gallagher gave her hair “a good sharp pull” on two occasions. Ms Brolly said she believed her hair had been pulled out, but she acknowledged that she did not see any hair on the floor. Garda Gallagher was behind her and the lights had been dimmed.
She was told “Richie Barron will be back to haunt you tonight”, to which Ms Brolly replied: “I wish to God he would and he’d tell us what happened.”
At one point, Garda Dooley told her she was too comfortable and ordered her to stand up. Her seat was pushed away and photos of Mr Barron’s body were thrust in her face. She said the photos showed wounds on Mr Barron’s face and hand, but she blanked them out.
Garda Dooley took a slip of paper from his back pocket and asked if she knew the name of the person named on it. When she said she did, he replied: “Did you know that Mark McConnell [her brother-in-law] is riding her?”
Ms Brolly said she told the gardaa she did not believe what they were telling her. She said she was totally shocked at what happened. She had stood up for herself on the night but said after she got out “I totally went to bits”.
Asked if she had considered making a false confession to end the ordeal, she said: “I was always brought up to tell the truth. There was no way I was going to tell lies just to save myself.”
Because of the nature of the Tribunal process, we are unlikely to see any criminal prosecutions relating to this.