MYSTERY DEATH |
Louth great gran found dead in her home was robbed to pay off feud gang, family claim
Family say robbery suspect paid off feud gang just days after their mum died and her handbag was stolen
13th October 2022
The family of a great-grandmother whose naked body was found in her home after she was robbed were told the prime suspect paid off a drug debt to a gang involved in the Drogheda feud days after her death.
Margaret Bracken (68) was found dead in the hallway of her home in Blackwater Court, Dundalk, Co Louth, on Monday December 16, 2019.
Gardai who arrived at the scene did not seal off the premises as they believed it was a sudden death, and a post-mortem later revealed Margaret died of a heart attack.
However, it later emerged that a handbag which was believed to have contained thousands of euro was missing and a CCTV control box had been taken from the house.
Margaret’s family believe she suffered the heart attack after confronting the person who took her handbag.
A man was later arrested in relation to the theft but the DPP decided not to prosecute due to a lack of evidence, and the victim’s family believe vital evidence was lost because gardai did not seal off the scene.
They have been campaigning for justice since her death and at the end of September they spoke to Taoiseach Micheal Martin about Margaret’s death.
In an interview with the Sunday World, the family have told how Margaret’s 33-year-old daughter, Amy, recently died of a heart attack and they believe it was brought on by the stress of her mother’s death.
Another daughter, Susan McAreavey, along with other family members called to their mother’s home on December 16, 2019, after they were not able to reach her by phone.
“My key wouldn’t open the door,” Susan said. “We knew there was something wrong so we rang the guards. Two young guards came down and kicked in the front door.”
The door slammed back closed on the guards after they opened it. “We weren’t aware at that stage that mammy was behind the door. My husband shouted ‘stay back girls’ because when the guards kicked in the door [the first time] he seen her.”
Margaret’s naked body was behind the door and two senior gardai were called to the scene.
The officers who arrived decided nothing was untoward and did not seal off the scene.
“They stayed seven minutes and came over to us, said ‘sorry for your loss – it’s a sudden death’. There was no doctor there, nothing. We never experienced anything like this before,” said Susan.
A doctor then arrived at the scene before undertakers took Margaret’s body away. It was only after this that the family went into the house and realised something was wrong.
“We entered the house. We could see her clothes – where her body was. Her false teeth were by her bedroom door. All her plugs were unplugged, the telephone in the hallway was unplugged. We knew something was wrong.”
The family say Margaret would never have gone around the house naked. There was also a handprint on the wall in the hall.
The skylight in her bathroom was open and her family say Margaret wasn’t capable of opening it. They say there was also a footprint of a large boot on the toilet seat which was directly under the skylight, and they believe this is how a thief got into the house in an area not covered by CCTV.
There were two opened vodka bottles in the house but Margaret didn’t drink vodka and a post-mortem later revealed there was no alcohol in her system.
Someone had also removed a device used to control CCTV from the downstairs of the house.
Margaret’s handbag, which the family believed contained thousands of euro, was also missing.
The family explained that Margaret won €350,000 on the Lotto a few years previous and would always have a large amount of cash with her.
Gardai subsequently got a warrant to access Margaret’s bank records, which confirmed that more than €4,900 had been withdrawn two weeks before her death, as well as other withdrawals earlier in the year.
Her family say Margaret’s body was returned to them the next day.
“When she came back to us, she had a mark on left side of her head. Her left hand was black and blue. She had finger marks on her legs and arms. None of these were ever documented,” claimed Susan.
The family kept contacting gardai about the situation but say it was only in April 2020 – four months after her death – that officers confirmed they were investigating the theft of her handbag.
However, because the scene was never sealed off, gardai said they couldn’t examine the house as other people had been there and the scene was contaminated.
Gardai were able to identify a suspect in relation to the handbag theft and they arrested him, but the DPP decided not to prosecute due to lack of evidence.
The man is suspected of being involved in drugs and the family say he was targeted by gang members before Margaret’s death.
The family said they were told that he owed thousands of euro to associates of the Maguire gang – which was heavily involved in the Drogheda feud at the time – and that he paid back the debt to the gang just two days after Margaret’s body was discovered.
The same man offered comfort to the family in the days after the great-grandmother’s death and was present at her funeral.
Margaret’s family say they directly accused the man suspected of stealing Margaret’s handbag to his face.
Her daughter Eve said: “We offered him a lie detector test. His wife said he would do it, but he never did it.”
Margaret’s daughter Amy died of a heart attack in her bed at her home in Dundalk in July at the age of 33.
Her sister Susan, who found Amy’s body, said she believes she died of a broken heart from the strain of the death of her mother.
“The more Amy found out about it, the more her heart was breaking,” Susan said. “She was crying morning, noon and night and took a heart attack in her bed.”
She said their mother’s death has taken a toll on everyone in the family.
“I watched my family lose weight; they’re drained. We’re fighting to survive,” she said.
Susan’s husband Gary McAreavey was convicted last year over burning a getaway car used by hitman Caolan Smyth in the attempted murder of James ‘Mago’ Gately as part of the Hutch-Kinahan feud.
The court heard he was not a member of the Kinahan gang and there was insufficient evidence to conclude that he knew Caolan Smyth had committed the specific offence of attempted murder.