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murder Ex-garda tells tribunal Baiba Saulite ‘repeatedly expressed serious concerns for her safety’

The mother-of-two was shot dead on November 19, 2006

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Baiba Saulite was shot dead outside her rented home in Swords by a suspected contract killer in 2006

Baiba Saulite was shot dead outside her rented home in Swords by a suspected contract killer in 2006

Baiba Saulite was shot dead outside her rented home in Swords by a suspected contract killer in 2006

A retired garda sergeant has said that Baiba Saulite repeatedly expressed serious concerns for her safety up to four years before her murder.

William Hughes has also told the Disclosures Tribunal he was informed that garda management had rejected an application to provide the mother-of-two with protection before she was shot dead on November 19, 2006.

All allegations are denied by An Garda Síochána.

The Tribunal is examining complaints made by Mr Hughes who claims he was "scapegoated" after raising alleged systems failures that he says led to the murder.

Mr Hughes has said that separate investigations and issues connected to Ms Saulite (28) should have been pooled together and may have prevented the fatal shooting.

This included him investigating Ms Saulite's husband abducting their children, an arson attack on her solicitor John Hennessey, and her husband's known criminal links being made known to relevant gardaí.

The Tribunal has heard that five days before the murder Baiba Saulite handed William Hughes a victim impact statement relating to the child abduction case to which her husband had pleaded guilty.

In the 12-page handwritten letter the Latvian woman expressed concerns for her safety and fears of her husband, who can only be named as 'Mr A'.

Mr Hughes accepted that in the days after the murder it was indicated to him that he had nothing to worry about in relation to the concerns expressed in the statement. The Tribunal heard he had not read the full document and only became aware of the concerns after the murder.

He told Diarmaid McGuinness SC, for the Tribunal, that he was relieved to hear from garda management that there was no longer a focus on the victim impact report.

The Tribunal was told that Mr Hughes was contacted on the morning of November 22, 2006, and informed that he had to hand over the original document and that, if he didn't do so immediately, management had ordered for his locker to be burst open.

The witness said he went into Swords garda station and gave the victim impact statement along with other files to his then Inspector.

That same day, garda headquarters issued a press release about the murder inquiry which confirmed an examination into the contents of the victim impact report.

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Mr Hughes said he had concerns that there was a refocus on that document and was later investigated but cleared of any wrongdoing.

The press release also denied that gardaí were aware of a specific threat to Ms Saulite, adding that gardaí had learned during the murder inquiry that she expressed safety concerns to friends and neighbours.

Mr Hughes described this as "vague" and said it suggested Ms Saulite had only recently expressed concerns when she had done so on numerous occasions previously.

"The press release doesn't reflect the fact she was making consistent serious complaints to gardaí about her safety in the two years prior to her death, and before from 2002 onwards," he said.

He had previously told the Tribunal that he was informed by a superior that he "need not worry" about the victim impact report and that an application for protection for Ms Saulite and her solicitor had been refused by garda management before the murder.

This has been denied by the superior officer.

Mr Hughes also told the Tribunal that he felt isolated because the murder investigation team had not contacted him directly to speak about his prior dealings with Ms Saulite.

He said there were systems failures in the lead up to the murder that were not being discussed by garda management.

The Tribunal also heard that he was alarmed and concerned about an article that appeared in the Irish Sun newspaper on November 23, 2006, which stated that 'the killer of Baiba Saulite has vowed to execute the cop who helped reunite the mum with her children'.

It was put to the witness that a superior spoke to him about the article and noted that Mr Hughes wanted to know why the journalists weren't arrested after they refused to divulge their source.

Mr Hughes said he could not recall the exact conversation but did remember saying that he wasn't happy with the feedback he was getting from management about the article.

The Tribunal is examining if, after raising a number of concerns and making a protected disclosure, he was discredited by senior gardaí.

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