RTÉ Investigates reveals new evidence into 1985 death of Fr Niall Molloy
11th October 2022
IN A SPECIAL report tonight, RTÉ Investigates will reveal three new documents written by Richard Flynn, who was acquitted of the death of Fr Niall Molloy, a priest who died on his bedroom floor after being badly beaten.
Flynn, the only person charged in relation to the death of Fr Molloy, died in 2017.
The show has obtained documents containing Flynn’s detailed view of events leading up to the incident at his home in Offaly in 1985, which reveal for the first time his own words about the extent of his assault on Fr Molloy and a possible motive for it.
These new documents allegedly include admissions by Flynn that contradict what he told Gardaí – that he struck Fr Molloy in self-defence.
Flynn’s wife Thérèse had been friends with Fr Molloy for decades and the priest had his own bedroom in their large house.
During Flynn’s trial the judge said: “It is perfectly clear from all the evidence that the friendship between Father Molloy and Mrs Flynn was a perfectly proper one… They were great friends for nearly thirty years and there is not an iota of evidence that there was anything improper in their relationship.”
Documents obtained by RTÉ claim to show a 14-page account of their married life written by Flynn.
In the document, which he prepared for a publisher, he wrote that from about 1961, six years after he married, Fr Molloy began to stay regularly at the Flynn family home, and later effectively lived there.
“He would visit us about two or three times a week. Sometimes he would stay overnight and leave early in the morning to be on time for his parochial duties,” Flynn wrote.
“My father, my brothers and sister were very concerned over Thérèse’s developing relationship with Fr Molloy, they went everywhere together; shows, hunting etc so much so that on a visit to our home my father when he saw Fr Molloy in the yard actually told me to ‘kick him out’.”
Another document written by Flynn told of an instance when he saw his wife sneak out of Fr Molloy’s room and an occasion in which he found them in Fr Molloy’s room “both fast asleep in bed in their night attire”.
According to the programme, Flynn told his psychiatrist that he believed “there was nothing physical in his wife’s liaison, but two episodes disturbed him.”
Flynn also stated in the document that he consulted a solicitor about getting a legal separation from his wife in the early 1980s because of her close relationship with Fr Molloy, but he didn’t proceed because of concerns about their children.
Before his death earlier this year, Liam Hanniffy, who was the Chief Psychiatrist at St Fintan’s Hospital in Portlaoise, and who had assessed Flynn, spoke to RTÉ Investigates about this.
He referred to the situation as a “relationship almost akin to marriage inside of another more correct marriage… it was a tough situation to face… . I saw both of them having a problem. She for not seeing she had a problem in trying to sustain a marriage at the same time she was trying to sustain a serious boyfriend”.
Following his assault of Fr Molloy, Flynn said he would make a full statement to the Gardaí, but never did, and what he said in a brief one-page statement that night is all Gardaí and subsequently the courts had available to them.
The only other person in the room that night aside from Fr Molloy was Thérèse Flynn and she said she couldn’t remember what happened.
He told Gardaí: “I hit Fr Molloy at least twice and probably three times in the face with my clenched fists.”
However a written account obtained by RTÉ Investigates, but that was not available to prosecutor’s during the trial, includes Flynn describing how he “butted him [Fr Molloy] into the face several times with my head…”
“At this stage, I had another lapse of memory. Then I remember hitting him one punch on the left side of the jaw. Then I had another black-out and the next thing was I saw him lying on the floor.”
A senior law lecturer at South East Technological University, Niamh Maguire told the show that: “if the psychiatric assessment was available to the prosecution, I think it would’ve been a completely different outcome.”
“I think it definitely would’ve grounded a conviction. And I think there would’ve been enough evidence in that to potentially go to the jury and leave it to the jury as to whether to convict.”
Tonight’s report is by RTÉ Investigates journalist Paul Murphy and producer Doireann O’Hara. It will be broadcast on Prime Time at 9.35pm.