| 12.7°C Dublin

Brutal killing Ex-garda pays tribute to murdered Phyllis Murphy in new TG4 documentary Marú inár Measc

The 23-year-old Kildare woman was raped, beaten and strangled days before Christmas in December 1979 in a case that horrified the nation

Close

John Crerar was jailed for the rape and murder of Phyllis Murphy more than 20 years after her body was found

John Crerar was jailed for the rape and murder of Phyllis Murphy more than 20 years after her body was found

John Crerar was jailed for the rape and murder of Phyllis Murphy more than 20 years after her body was found

A retired garda still lays wreaths at the spot where Phyllis Murphy was murdered, more than 40 years after her brutal killing.

The 23-year-old Kildare woman was raped, beaten and strangled days before Christmas in December 1979 in a case that horrified the nation.

Her family had to wait nearly 23 years for justice until improved DNA techniques led to the conviction and life imprisonment of former soldier John Crerar in November 2002.

In moving TG4 documentary Marú inár Measc, retired garda Finbar McPaul visits the remote wood near the Sally Gap in the Wicklow mountains where Phyllis's body was found nearly a month after her murder.

Close

Phyllis was raped and killed

Phyllis was raped and killed

Phyllis was raped and killed

He leaves a wreath at the spot, which is marked by a simple stone memorial, a poignant act of remembrance he carries out every year.

And he recalled the infamous freezing winter which handicapped the search for Phyllis back in 1979, but which eventually worked in their favour.

"We were lucky in the sense that when Phyllis was found, it was so cold up in the mountains that she was protected," said Finbar. "Had it been warmer, there would have been no soft tissue and no evidence. And that would have been it."

The samples taken from Phyllis's naked body would later lead to her killer's conviction.

Phyllis, a factory worker at Curragh Knitwear, was staying in digs in Rathangan, Co. Kildare, at the time of her death. She had just spent the afternoon Christmas shopping in Newbridge when she went missing from a bus stop outside the Keadeen Hotel shortly after 6.25pm.

Her sister Barbra Turner tells the documentary she was the "quietest" of ten children and was on a high after getting a new hairdo for Christmas. They knew immediately something was wrong when she failed to come home.

"Those were the worst days of our lives, when she was missing," said Barbara.

Sunday World Newsletter

Sign up for the latest news and updates

This field is required This field is required

"I think the worst day of all was when I seen the results of the inquest. That was horrendous, all the injuries and what she went through. That had an awful effect on us."

It was a huge relief for the family when Crerar was eventually arrested after gardaí took a new look at the case following advances in DNA technology.

"It was good to know after that length of time who did it and that closed that side of it," said Barbara.

"We all just cried when we heard the verdict. Everyone cried, all the guards cried, the bus driver cried, everybody cried. It was a great feeling to have it over with."

Crerar, a father-of-five of Woodside Park, Kildare, was 54 when he was convicted. He had left the Army in August 1979 and was working as a security guard when he carried out the murder.

A colleague originally gave Crerar an alibi, claiming he was at work when Phyllis disappeared, but he told the trial he had lied to gardai in 1980 and the killer arrived at work late.

  • Marú inár Measc airs on TG4 on Wednesday at 9.30pm.

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices


Privacy