Defence council tells court that forensic evidence supports the innocence of his client

Mark Nash
Mark Nash

The defence counsel in the trial of a man accused of murdering two women eighteen years ago has told a murder trial jury that the forensic evidence found at the scene supports the innocence of his client.

Mark Nash (42), who has last addresses at Prussia Street and Clonliffe Road in Dublin, has pleaded not guilty at the Central Criminal Court to the murder of Sylvia Shields (60) and Mary Callanan (61) between March 6 and March 7, 1997.

The trial has heard the two women were living in sheltered accommodation in a house attached to St Brendan’s Psychiatric Hospital in Grangegorman at the time.

Counsel for the accused Mr Hugh Hartnett SC yesterday told the jury of six men and five women that he would bring them to parts of the evidence that had been "ignored" by the prosecution as it has "a devastating effect on this case".

Today Mr Hartnett said he intended to deal with the "scientific facts" in this case and not "good luck or bad luck."

Mr Hartnett then added that if the defence hadn't been in the court room to ask the questions, the jury would be "lacking a very significant amount of relevant information."

The court heard previously how Dean Lyons, now deceased was the first person who made an independent admission to the murder of Sylvia Shields and Mary Callanan and he was charged with the murder of Mary Callanan in sheltered accommodation in Grangegorman on July 27 1997.

Mr Hartnett put it to the jury that the DPP "saw fit to charge" Dean Lyons with the murder.

"They were of the view there was a a case and a significant case against Dean Lyons," said Mr Hartnett.

The evidence in relation to the admissions by Dean Lyons was "steered clear of you by the prosecution" said Mr Hartnett.

Mr Hartnett put it to the jury that Dean Lyons statement corroborated "to a very large stance."

"There was never an explanation given to you concerning how Dean Lyons knew the circumstances of the Grangegorman killings. It was only on day 24 of the trial when former Assistant Commissioner of An Garda Siochana James McHugh eventually agreed to address the corroboration of Dean Lyon's statement. We would be trying the case in blinkers if we didn't bring this to you," said Mr Hartnett.

Mr Hartnett pointed out the accuracies in Dean Lyon's statements concerning breaking into the house at Orchard View which included his accurate recount in relation to entry through the window, the manner of entry, the finding of a miraculous medal in the kitchen as well as saying the knives were kept in a drawer in the kitchen.

"He referred to the use of a fork in the murders, how did he know this if he hadn't been there. He said he left by the front door and the safety chain was off it and this is correct. He demonstrated how he had taken bits of glass out of the window and piled it up outside the window. That’s a very specific action, how did he know about it unless he had done it," said the defence counsel.

Mr Hartnett put it to the jury that when Dean Lyons was interviewed in prison he was never asked how he knew about the tear in the carpet or never asked how he knew about the pile of glass.

"A basic enquiry I submit to you," added Mr Hartnett.

"He said he found money in a tear in the carpet, gardai had never noticed this and when they went back to that tear, there it was. This was ignored by the prosecution, these were the facts supporting these admissions. You can’t say gardai suggested this to Dean Lyons as gardai didn't know about it until they went back to the house a week later," put Mr Hartnett to the jury.

“Even friends said he was acting unusually prior to his confession and he had something on his mind. The description Dean Lyons gave of the victims were consistent with their physiques and the description of the injuries was consistent with the actual injuries on these unfortunate women. Only the killer would have known about the
mutilations," added Mr Hartnett.

"He described the knives in a very particular way and he said he turned on a light downstairs and blood was found on the light downstairs,” said Mr Hartnett.

“I ask you do you consider these matters to be of relevance, if Dean Lyons knew about these things, he could only have known about them if he had been there. If Dean Lyons was there, Mark Nash was not there. I have given you twenty specific points which could only be known by someone at the scene," said Mr Hartnett.

Mr Hartnett also said to the jury that gardai were not told that the accused Mark Nash was a fantasist.

"Mark Nash said there was a man across from Orchard View on the night of March 6 1997 in a gateway which was open. That gateway was closed on the night and it is always closed so that is untrue," said Mr Hartnett.

He continued: "There is a danger of acting on statements of admissions unless they can be corroborated in some way, as people do say things that are untrue and admit to crimes that they have not committed."

Mr Hartnett outlined the incorrect parts of Mark Nash's statements including how he entered Orchard View through the right hand pane of the window which the jury were told was incorrect.

"He said there was a worktop which he got onto, there was no worktop. There was no sock or knife at the end of the stairs. He said he turned left at the staircase that is incorrect. He said there was a bed side lamp, there was none. H said he had to turn the lock anti clockwise, this is an entirely different lock, absolutely wrong. And Asst Comm McHugh admitted this was of significance. Why would all of these extraordinary differences have occurred in his statements if he was there. The difference is because he wasn't there" summed up Mr Hartnett.

The jury previously heard that Mark Nash said that a confession made by him in Mill Street garda station in Galway in August 1997 in relation to the killings was "produced" by Gardai.

"Mark Nash said he was promoted and there is a lot of garda speak in there (the statements). Do you believe people (guards) went into that interview room in Galway without the vaguest detail of what Grangegorman was about,” asked Mr Hartnett.

The defence counsel then spoke about the examination of the scene at Orchard View days following the "awful murders."

"Forensics found no hair from Mark Nash and no DNA from him on the premises.The black fibres found on the window came from somebody else’s clothing. What is all this forensic evidence indicating, that Mark Nash wasn't present," said Mr Hartnett.

The jury previously heard evidence that a criminal and suspect by the name of Martin Stafford was questioned about the 1997 double murder.

“Martin Stafford had a history of violence, he is serving a life sentence for murder, he hijacked a car and attacked a woman doing business on Benburb Street that night and the car was found very close to Orchard View and it was spotted between 12-1am in the vicinity by someone delivering take away," put Mr Hartnett to the jury.

Mr Hartnett summed this up by saying an acute suspect "who had told a blatant lie about his presence in the area was eliminated from the case."

"The forensic evidence found at the scene supports the innocence of Mark Nash as nothing was found. For twelve years the DPP did not see fit to bring a prosecution against Mark Nash, was this because it was clear his statement were totally flawed. For twelve years nothing happened," added Mr Hartnett.

Mr Harnett concluded how the findings that the jacket belonging to the accused and heavily blood stained clothing and bedding found at the scene being examined in the same room at a laboratory six weeks apart were "consistent with contamination."

"If Mark Nash was wearing this jacket when he carried out these murders, one would expect to find considerable amounts of blood andthat wasn't there. No remains of dry cleaned stains could be found on the jacket or of washed out stains."

“It is impossible I submit to you in the description of the people who carried out the murders that there would not have been significantlyinundated with blood on their clothing.”

"Having looked at all of evidence that there is more than doubt inthis case. It is not sufficient to say possibly he did it or probablyhe did it , you must be satisfied that beyond any reasonable doubt that Mark Nash is guilty and I submit the evidence falls well below that. I would ask you to acquit Mark Nash," concluded Mr Hartnett.

Mr Justice Carroll Moran will continue charging the jury on the law and legal principles that apply to the case in the morning.