Politics and violence | 

Crimes of Malcolm MacArthur uncovered in new crime podcast from Line of Duty’s Adrian Dunbar

The BBC podcast dives into the murders, manhunt and political scandal of the 1980s crime.

Malcolm MacArthur

Maeve McTaggartSunday World

The events of the summer of 1982 were “grotesque, unbelievable, bizarre and unprecedented,” according to Taoiseach Charlie Haughey. Now, the story is told by Line of Duty star Adrian Dunbar in a new podcast.

It is the story of two murders and the mass manhunt to find the suspect, ‘Obscene: The Dublin Scandal’ covers the true crime tale of Malcolm MacArthur.

The Meath man allegedly killed two people and was ultimately found by Gardaí hiding in the home of the Attorney General, a revelation that shocked the entire nation.

In 1982, MacArthur landed in Ireland completely broke after a stint in Tenerife. He had previously been a member of Dublin high society, mingling with high profile public figures and politicians. Unemployed and back from Spain, MacArthur had fallen a long way from those days.

He decided the only way to get rich was to commit a robbery, so hatched a scheme to find a getaway vehicle and a gun.

On 22 July, he wandered around Phoenix Park to track down a car and found his first victim, Bridie Gargan, sunbathing.

Bridie Gargan. Photo: Collins Agency

MacArthur pointed a fake gun at the 27-year-old nurse and demanded she give him her silver Renault car.

In a sudden frenzied moment, he bludgeoned the nurse to death with a hammer when she began to panic.

She died in hospital 4 days later while MacArthur continued with his horrifying plan.

He then set off to Offaly on the trail of a newspaper ad for a shotgun, meeting the unfortunate farmer Donal Dunne on July 25.

MacArthur couldn’t pay the €1,100 asking price, so allegedly shot and killed Dunne with the weapon he was trying to sell.

The killer fled in Dunne’s car as news of the murders rocked the nation and an all-island manhunt got underway.

MacArthur made it to the Killiney home of diplomat Harry Beiling, who the killer held hostage for hours before Beiling escaped.

MacArthur fabricated a meaningful connection to an old acquaintance in an attempt to find a hiding spot and evade Gardaí, who MacArthur assumed Beiling had quickly called.

Back in Dublin, he lay low at the house of Patrick Connolly, the Attorney General.

A tip-off to the Gardaí and their own investigations led them right to MacArthur who confessed to the murders.

The news that a murderer was hiding in the home of a top political figure shocked the country as rumours grew of a cover-up or other conspiracies.

The drama almost toppled the government.

Detective Inspector Noel Conroy (right) and Detective Sergeant Dennis Donegan, with Detective Sergeant Tony Hickey out in front, take Malcolm MacArthur from the Bridewell following his first District Court appearance for the murder of Bridie Gargan. Photo: Art O’Callaghan (Part of the Independent Newspapers Ireland/NLI Collection)

His trial allegedly lasted just seven minutes but MacArthur was only convicted of the murder of Bridie Gargan. MacArthur served a 30 year sentence and was realised from prison in 2012.

He is now 74.

Actor Adrian Dunbar brings the story to life this month in a seven-part podcast series for the BBC.

“The so called GUBU affair was a watershed moment in Irish life,” Dunbar says. The initials stand for how the then-Taoiseach described the events: “grotesque, unbelievable, bizarre and unprecedented.”

“Prior to doing this podcast I had really only known of how it had changed people's perception of politics and those at the top,” Dunbar says.

"The story of Malcolm MacArthur and how the Irish police on a murder hunt tracked him to the Attorney General’s home is truly bizarre and still has the power to shock many years later. It was a real pleasure piecing together along with the wonderful contributions this uniquely dark and unbelievable story.”

A number of guests join Dunbar to narrate the shocking moment in Irish history include novelist Colm Toibín, journalist Fintan O’Toole and broadcaster Olivia O’Leary.


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