Mr. Richard Barron was found dead on the roadway outside Raphoe, County Donegal, in the early hours of Monday the 14th of October 1996. His death looked like a hit and run incident. It was initially treated that way by investigating Gardai.
As a result of a rumour at Mr. Barron’s wake, the Chief Superintendent of the Donegal Division came to believe that the death was a murder, committed by two local men: Frank McBrearty Junior and his cousin Mark McConnell.
Mr. Barron’s remains were examined by a hospital pathologist and buried. The murder theory was pursued as the cause of Mr. Barron’s death. An incident room was set up.
A ‘Mr. X’ was introduced as a witness who saw the two suspects coming from the scene of the killing. ‘Mr. X’ was revealed on the 29th of November as Robert Noel McBride, a local man of suggestible mind.
Suspects were arrested a week later and an apparent confession statement is said to have been obtained from Frank McBrearty Junior. Further statements from alleged witnesses were added to the equation during the early months of 1997 which purported to show that the two main suspects were behaving very strangely on the night of the death. The investigation team did not properly consider evidence in their favour.
‘Mr. X’, and others also, claimed that Mr. McBrearty Junior and his father were attempting to suborn witness to refuse to give evidence against them. In September of 1997, ‘Mr. X’ admitted that his statements were lies. He admitted that on the night in question, he was not in Raphoe.
The theory that Mr. Barron was murdered was never built on firm foundations. The six incriminating witness statements of ‘Mr. X’ had never been analysed. In particular, his statement of the 29th of November, 1996 which was a catalyst for the subsequent arrests, and which made reference to sightings of various people around the town of Raphoe on the night of Mr. Barron’s death, was not analysed against the existing statements of honest people who had been in Raphoe but none of whom had seen him that night.
As soon as more diligent Gardai challenged him on his account in September 1997, it was found to be false. Other witnesses also changed, or drew back, from evidence against the suspects.
When Mr. Barron’s body was eventually exhumed and examined by a forensic pathologist, for the first time, it was found that death was due to a vehicle/road impact.
[The original information which lead to the belief that Mr. Barron had been murdered came from a criminal in the Raphoe area namely, William Doherty. He was also a Garda informer supposedly. He passed this information on to Garda O’Dowd.
It was the same William Doherty who was one of the main players in other satellite events, such as the alleged information contained in bogus reports sent up to Garda Headquarters by Garda O’Dowd. He was the informer who had provided the information which lead to a fruitless search which was carried out on an innocent farmer’s lands. He was the person who introduced Robert Noel McBride, who was ‘Mr X’, as a witness who could give evidence against Mr. McBrearty Junior and Mr. McConnell. He also attempted to extort money from an innocent person in phone calls made from the home of Garda O’Dowd.]
The report of Justice Morris found over a dozen members of the Gardai in Donegal participated in the frame-up of Frank McBrearty Junior and his cousin Mark McConnell for the murder of Richard Barron, and/or the subsequent cover-up. The following were other criticisms of the Gardai involved.
Chief Supt Denis Fitzpatrick
Guilty of gross negligence
Failed to control his division
Failed to take disciplinary action
Authorised a cover-up in a related extortion case
Supt Kevin Lennon and Garda John O’Dowd
Falsely claimed to have handled an IRA informer for the purposes of personal advancement
Mounted bogus searches for IRA arms dumps
Facilitated and/or covered up an extortion attempt
Supt John Fitzgerald
Failed to summon a pathologist to the scene of Mr Barron’s death.
Failed to contact the Director of Public Prosecutions for instructions
Sgt Martin Moylan, Garda Philip Collins Garda John O’Dowd
Coerced a fraudulent witness statement
Garda Padraig Mulligan
Was drinking in another town when supposed to be on duty