News

State apologises for execution of farm labourer in the 1940s

NewsBy Sunday World
Harry Gleeson was hanged for a crime he didn't commit
Harry Gleeson was hanged for a crime he didn't commit

The Government has apologised for the state execution of a farm labourer almost three-quarters of a century after he was wrongly convicted of murdering a woman.

Harry Gleeson was sentenced to death and hanged for the November 1940 killing of single mother-of-seven Moll McCarthy, whose body he discovered in a field in Marlhill, Co Tipperary, where she had been shot twice in the face.

A Government-ordered review of the case, after pressure from justice campaigners, has found the Gardai and prosecutors withheld crucial evidence from his trial.

After the report concluded Mr Gleeson was convicted and executed on the basis of unconvincing circumstantial evidence, he will become the first person to receive a posthumous pardon from the Irish state.

In a statement, the Government said it "deeply regrets" the miscarriage of justice.

"All that can be done now by way of remedy is to clear his name of the conviction, which this pardon will do, in the hope that this will be a proper tribute to his memory," it said. "Equally the government regrets that this decision leaves unresolved the brutal murder of Ms McCarthy, whose children were deprived of their mother in terrible circumstances.

"The government wishes to express its sympathy with both families and with all those affected by this crime and the subsequent conviction."

The cold case review by barrister Shane Murphy found prosecutors failed in their duty to ensure a fair trial by not calling as witnesses Mr Gleeson's uncle and aunt, John and Brigid Ceasar, with whom he lived.

A Garda statement suggesting the force staged a confrontation between Mr Gleeson and Ms McCarthy's children was apparently withheld from the court and jury during the case, it was found.

There were also inconsistencies in medical evidence in the trial, while the prosecution didn't reveal to the jury ammunition evidence from a shotgun register which further cast doubt on Mr Gleeson's alleged guilt, the report states.

President Michael D Higgins will now be advised to exercise his never-before-used right of pardon.

Mr Gleeson, who had strongly protested his innocence right up to his execution, was refused an appeal.

A mercy plea to save his life was turned down by the then government, under Taoiseach Eamon de Valera.

He was executed by British hangman Albert Pierrepoint on April 23, 1941.

His case was championed by the Irish Innocence Project and the Justice for Harry Gleeson group.

Kevin Gleeson, grandnephew of Harry Gleeson, said confirmation of the pardon was wonderful yet emotional for the Gleeson family.

"It's a day of happiness and sadness because an innocent life was taken but the good name and character of Harry Gleeson is finally restored and the question of his innocence is no longer an issue," he said.

"It's also a great day for all the members of the Justice for Harry Gleeson group and the Irish Innocence Project."

Prof Diarmuid Hegarty, President of Griffith College, where the Irish Innocence Project is based, described the miscarriage of justice as tragic.

"We can only hope that his posthumous Presidential pardon will bring some form of closure to the case for the family and friends of Mr Gleeson," he added.

"Today is a moment of great pride for the team at the Irish Innocence Project at Griffith College who worked tirelessly on this case and who continue to do outstanding work for the cause of justice in Ireland."