Justice at last for the forgotten victims of sectarian murder in Dundalk
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The Argus, (Dundalk), 12 July 2006:
Barron Report on Dundalk bombing
Sharp differences over fingermarks evidence
One of the most interesting maters unearthed by the Inquiry into the Kay's Tavern bombing was the sharp difference between the Gardai and the RUC over the quality of finger-marks found on the clock used as a timing device in the Crowe Street bombing.
In addition to the difference of opinion among the experts over the quality of the fingermarks there was also some debate over whether the RUC, who were given copies of the fingermarks after the bombing, had made sufficient efforts to match the fingermarks to their own records.
Three days after the bombing in Dundalk station a clock, Westclock make, 'Baby Ben' Model, with the glass missing, was handed over to the forensic team. Black adhesive tape surrounded a portion of the clock. Underneath a portion of the tape identifiable fingermarks were made by the person who placed the tape round the clock.
On December 30th photographs of the fingermarks were handed to an officer from the Fingerprint Department RUC headquarters.
Early in 1976 there were newspaper reports that the RUC were refusing to co-operate with the Gardai in their attempts to identify the Dundalk bombers and that "if the RUC had co-operated the identity of the bombers might have been proven".
The lack of co-operation was clearly referring to attempts to try and identify the fingermarks, but the head of the RUC fingerprint section denied at the time that they were unwilling to co-operate.
The problem was, according to the RUC, that they had no records of the fingerprints of some of the suspects linked with the Dundalk bombing, but it also emerged that as a result of a request by the Inquiry in August 2000 a further examination of the fingermarks found at the scene was conducted north and south through A.F.I.S (Automated Fingerprint Identification System) which was not available in 1975. The results were negative, and the conclusion was that the marks lacked any real quality of ridge detail, making identification extremely difficult.
But the Inquiry pointed out "this contrasts with the evidence of Det. Inspector William Byrne, the head of the Garda Fingerprint Section at the time of the bombing who described them as "identifiable fingermarks".
The Inquiry then decided to take the matter up with the PSNI in April, 2002 asking if they were able to furnish the Inquiry with replies and requests by the Gardai for information on a number of matters including the fingermarks found on the 'Baby Ben' clock.
The PSNI replied that "they were unable to locate any files relating to the incidents and dates requested".
The Inquiry then spoke to one of the Garda detectives who formed part of the investigation team, Det. Tom Monaghan and he said there was a feeling amongst the team at the time that the fingermarks should have resulted in someone being identified and that "there was much speculation as to why this had not happened".
In May, 2005 the Inquiry sought information generally concerning the fingermarks and in particular whether Supt. John Courtney had received sufficient co-operation and as a result a meeting was held in the Garda Technical Bureau in order to discuss the matter of the fingermarks fully. That meeting reviewed the situation and since technology had advanced considerably in recent years with regard to identification of fingerprints, further searches were undertaken for comparisons but again the results were negative.
Significantly the Inquiry reveals "the existing file at the Technical Bureau contains only scientific reports and copies of the two fingermarks taken at the bomb scene. It appears that any other documentation was retained by the officer dealing with the particular case. As far as the Dundalk bombing is concerned, such documentation appears to be lost".
Finally, in October last year two of the officers from the Garda Technical Bureau travelled to the PSNI Fingerprint Section in Belfast. They were shown a file which contained documents, photographs f the fingermarks and negatives relating to the Dundalk bombing. The file had a handwritten record confirming the negative result of a search for a comparative fingermark carried out in September, 2000.