A senior investigator for the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) has described the loss of evidence collected during the investigation into the murder of Garda Dick Fallon as “wholly unacceptable”.
Three men subsequently stood trial for the murder, but all were acquitted.
Finian Fallon, who was just four when his father was murdered, is appealing for a public inquiry into his father’s murder. Both he and his brother Richard requested Gsoc to investigate concerns that vital evidence in the case had gone missing.
Following a review, Gsoc has now told the Fallons that the only pieces of evidence located are four bullet casings recovered from the scene of their father’s murder.
The original fingerprint tape lifts cannot be found, although the empty file jacket was located in the Garda archives and “original documentation from the murder investigation was never located”.
In a letter to the family, Gsoc said there had been a flood at the technical bureau and material may have been destroyed as a result. But as there is no record that the fingerprints were destroyed as a result of the flood, it cannot definitively say how they came to be missing.
In the letter, senior investigating officer Jon Leeman said: “It is a wholly unacceptable state of affairs that the material from the original Garda investigation can’t be located. Even though three men were tried and acquitted, although it would not be possible to re-try the three men, the material should have been available to preserve the possibility that other persons who may have been involved. It is not possible to state when the material went missing and responsibility can’t be attributed to any individual.”
The letter also added that “it cannot be definitively said” as to why the original fingerprint tapes can’t be found and why the file jacket in the Garda archives office is empty.
Senior officer Leeman stressed in the letter that standards regarding the investigation of crime, the losing and maintenance of crime files and the storage of exhibits have evolved over time.
“It is not possible to judge by the standards of today. The standards in the Garda investigation must be looked at through the prism of the standards of the time. Nonetheless, in the case of a murder such as this, the evidence in the case should be locatable.”
“Today, all documentation generated or obtained as part of such an investigation would be logged and registered. That was not the practice in 1970, and accordingly it is not possible to supply you with a definitive list of every item that was created and which can no longer be found,” he said.
Mr Fallon said he was extremely disappointed that the only exhibits remaining in his father’s murder investigation are four bullet casings.
Mr Fallon told of how his mother Deirdre, who died at the age of 56 in 1994, was “devastated” by the death of her husband.
“I am not happy with the conclusion. There should be a public inquiry, there are too many questions,”said Mr Fallon.
Disciplinary findings on ‘shredded’ statement appealed
A garda accused of shredding a witness statement in a murder investigation is facing new allegations of interfering with the case.
The garda was accused earlier this year of destroying an important witness statement relating to the murder investigation to protect an informant. While those claims were being investigated, further allegations emerged that related to “perverting the course of justice”, an informed source said.