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Swords gun murder 'Gangland Ireland' killed Baiba Saulite and State allowed it to 'get out of control', Tribunal told

Ms Saulite, a mother-of-two, was shot dead at her home in Swords, Co Dublin, in November 2006

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Baiba Saulite was shot dead outside her rented home in Swords in 2006

Baiba Saulite was shot dead outside her rented home in Swords in 2006

Baiba Saulite was shot dead outside her rented home in Swords in 2006

A solicitor who represented murder victim Baiba Saulite has condemned a disciplinary inquiry taken against a garda whistleblower as “ridiculous” and “grossly unfair”.

John Hennessy was giving evidence at the Disclosures Tribunal, which is investigating whether retired Sergeant William Hughes was victimised after he alleged systems failures in the run-up to the murder.

Ms Saulite, a mother-of-two, was shot dead at her home in Swords, Co Dublin, in November 2006.

The tribunal has heard how Mr Hughes was subject to a two-year disciplinary process, focusing on a draft Victim Impact Statement Ms Saulite had given him days before her murder expressing fears for her life.

Mr Hennessy described the disciplinary action as “ridiculous” and a “trumped-up internal quasi manslaughter charge”, motivated he said by a “knee-jerk reaction of the then senior garda to satisfy the lust of the media, to find someone responsible, apart from the murderers, immediately following the murder”.

“I was annoyed at the apparent panic within garda ranks about the draft Victim Impact Statement, because it seemed to target, or shine a light on Sgt Hughes in the days before the murder, which frankly was nonsense…and a gross distortion of what really happened,” Mr Hennessy told the tribunal.

He said he felt desperately sorry for Mr Hughes when he visited him to say he had been served with a disciplinary process.

“I still cannot believe it, that they would do such a thing. If there was to be any investigation, it should have been in relation to the entire investigation,” Mr Hennessy told counsel for the tribunal.

He added: “Gangland Ireland killed that woman, that’s my view. The State allowed Gangland Ireland to get out of control.”

The tribunal heard how Mr Hughes and Mr Hennessy had worked together in the years before the murder on the case of the abduction of Ms Saulite’s two children.

After the children had been successfully returned to their mother, Mr Hennessy wrote to the Department of Foreign Affairs and also to a garda superintendent, praising the work of Mr Hughes.

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“The way he performed his duty was exemplary, the way he followed up every line of enquiry, getting the children returned, getting the agencies involved, supporting Baiba Saulite – make no mistake, but for the actions of Mr Hughes, Baiba would never have seen her children again,” said Mr Hennessy.

Mr Hennessy also told counsel for the tribunal, Diarmaid McGuinness SC, that an article published in the Star newspaper two years after the murder was completely unfair and should never have been printed.

He said he got a phonecall from the Star’s crime correspondent Michael O’Toole asking him for a comment about the fact that the draft Victim Impact Statement had not been acted on.

He said Mr O’Toole told him he had been informed by “high-ranking gardaí” that Mr Hughes was being disciplined over the draft Victim Impact Statement.

“I asked Mr O’Toole, as a favour, not to go with the story as I believed it was incorrect. It would cause huge upset to this man and he doesn’t deserve it, and the wrong perception would be given to the public. Mr O’Toole printed it because it was sensational and, for want of a better word, sexy, but that kind of story destroys people’s lives. It sends an incorrect message to the public that Mr Hughes’ actions led to her death. That was the wrong thing to do,” said Mr Hennessy.

Giving evidence to the tribunal, Mr O’Toole said he would be “finished as a journalist” if he revealed the source who told him of the disciplinary process, but confirmed that the officer was “not above the rank of inspector”.

Mr O’Toole said news of the disciplinary inquiry had not been proactively leaked to him by a garda but that he had stumbled across it as part of a general conversation.

“Every day I shake the trees and hope that a few acorns will fall down,” he said.

Mr O’Toole said he was disappointed when he saw the headline and strapline written by a sub-editor, which focused on the draft Victim Impact Statement, as he said his original top line had been about the disciplinary process against Mr Hughes.

“I thought it should have been on the front page. I thought there was a public interest in this,” he said.

An Garda Síochána denies all of Sgt Hughes’ allegations.

The tribunal continues on Tuesday.

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