Category Archives: Crime

On turning 37

John Updike Pic: George Bush Presidential Library

John Updike
Pic: George Bush Presidential Library

After a decade’s work Gertrude Stein completed The Making of Americans, comparing the finished novel to Ulysses. It went unpublished, in any form, for 13 years.

While working as the head chef at the Grand Hotel in Monte Carlo Georges Auguste Escoffier met Cesar Ritz. The pair later formed a business partnership which commercialised gastronomy for the ordinary man – and led to the birth of the modern restaurant.

John Updike published his first collection of Henry Bech stories, writing that he modelled the character on Norman Mailer, J.D. Salinger and himself.

After spells in Berkeley, Belfast and Wicklow Seamus Heaney moved to Sandymount, Dublin, shortly after the publication of his ‘Troubles collection’, North. He would live there for the rest of his life, but rarely write about the area.

Lou Gehrig died of ALS at his home in New York. Two years earlier he had delivered his “The Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth” address at Yankee Stadium.

Joni Mitchell Pic: Paul C Babin

Joni Mitchell
Pic: Paul C Babin

Joni Mitchell released Shadows and Light, a live recording featuring jazz musicians Jaco Pastorius and Pat Metheny. It was her final album on the Asylum label, run by her Free Man in Paris.

Ten years after quitting his job as a crime reporter David Simon published The Corner, later praised as an “unblinking and agonizingly intimate” account of the urban drug trade on a single street corner in Baltimore.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel, having narrowly avoided death during the construction of the Thames Tunnel, almost choked when he inhaled a coin while performing a trick for his children. The disc was finally jerked free weeks later.

John Coltrane formed his classic quartet, with McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones. After two years the group produce one of the most famous recordings in jazz, A Love Supreme.

Despite years of frustration at a lack of commercial or public interest in his work Edward Hopper continued to paint, working on seascapes during time spent on an island off the coast of Maine.

'Monhegan Houses, Maine' Edward Hopper (1916-1919)

‘Monhegan Houses, Maine’
Edward Hopper (1916-1919)


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Farewell to a detective’s detective

'Browne here'.

‘Browne here’.

“PHONE me. It’s important”.

Every now and then you get the call and you know – particularly if it’s in the early hours – that it’s not good news.

It came in the middle of the night this week – a message from a Herald colleague to tell me that a contributor and friend had passed away.

PJ Browne had worked as a detective in Dublin for more than three decades. After his retirement in 2009 he turned to writing, working as a crime and security analyst for the Herald.

As a writer he covered the areas he had expertise in: serious and organised crime, murder, organising investigations.

He brought readers behind the tape. He recounted the confrontations he’d had with major criminals, with the most evil elements of society.

He was also forthright in criticising the authorities, where he saw fit.

But above all he was a detective’s detective, most at home amongst plainclothesmen.

As an detective superintendent he led his unit from the front.

As an analyst he rarely filed an article without some mention of the battle being fought by his ex-colleagues ‘on the frontline’.

There were plenty of other sides to PJ, the family man, the charity fundraiser, the golfer, the Listowel native, but that was the one I saw, and worked with.

It’s strange to realise that, come the next major crime story, I won’t be dialling his number to be greeted by his standard response, the one he used for everyone from pestering journalists to the Garda Commissioner: “Browne here”.

Alas, no longer. Rest in peace.

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Predator is likely to be freed before appeal

PROPER order.

That will be most people’s reaction to news that the DPP is appealing the sentence handed down to Anthony Lyons.

There was outrage last month when the businessman, who sexually assaulted a woman, had five and half years of a six-year jail term suspended. The public anger at the sentence was also fuelled by the fact that Lyons was ordered to pay €75,000 to the victim, who did not ask for compensation.

The public was entitled to ask whether, if Lyons was not a “man of means”, as the judge said, he would have been treated so leniently?

In the aftermath of the sentence it was clear that many people, not least the victim’s family, felt that justice was not served in the case. “A disgrace” was the simple, accurate, description offered by relatives.

It’s hard to disagree. Lyons rugby tackled the woman to ground in a tree-lined, darkened area on Griffith Avenue as she was walking home and sexually assaulted her.

Lyons’ sentence is so short that, farcically, it is likely that he will be freed before the Court of Criminal Appeal hears the DPP’s appeal. In order for justice to be seen to be done, this case must be expedited through the court lists.

Sentencing Lyons, Judge Desmond Hogan ruled that he was “hitherto of good character, is well regarded and is unlikely to reoffend.”

The Court of Criminal Appeal judges may have a different opinion.

This post first appeared in the Evening Herald, August 15, 2012

Waiting until an innocent person is killed

Another day, another report of a violent and unprovoked attack on our streets.
On this occasion a 25-year-old photographer was badly beaten up as he walked home in Celbridge, Co Kildare.
Kieran Broderick was approached by three men who struck him with a bottle without provocation, leaving him with stomach-churning injuries.
Such was the violence of the attack that his injuries could have been much, much worse.
The same gang are also suspected of earlier mugging a 19-year-old man in the area.
Kieran Broderick’s story is one that has become increasingly common in recent years.
Random, unprovoked acts of violence, often fuelled by drink or drugs, are now a regular occurrence, often with fatal results.
One shocking incident was the death of Polish fish worker Lukasz Rzeszu in Coolock, who was kicked to death by three men “for a buzz”.
Violent anti-social behaviour hit the headlines in the mayhem at the recent Swedish House Mafia show in the Phoenix Park.
But it can also been seen daily in the open drug-dealing and assaults that take place on Dublin’s main thoroughfare, O’Connell Street.
What happens there is replicated, albeit to a lesser degree, in cities and towns around the country.
Despite pledges from our politicians, and meetings between the Justice Minister and sorely under-resourced gardai, nothing seems to change.
Is it a case of waiting until the next unfortunate innocent is killed?

This post first appeared in the Evening Herald, July 27, 2012

The Five Lamps? More like The Five Points…

The aftermath of violence near the GPO in Dublin this week. Pic: Evening Herald

I REMEMBER THAT summer in Dublin, when the Liffey it stank like hell.

And the young people brawled on O’Connell Street, and at The Forty Forty four were felled…

Apologies to Bagatelle, but they’ll have to rewrite their ode to the capital if the events of this week are anything to go by.

On Monday the sun came out to play. By Thursday evening we had hospitals treating victims for knife and hurley injuries, gardai carrying out two major investigations and the Tourism Minister scrambling to assure visitors that the Five Lamps isn’t the Five Points.

We witnessed the first outbreak of violence last Tuesday night at the GPO. The area has a history of bloodshed, but what occurred last Tuesday night would have made the State’s founding fathers turn red – with anger.

More than a dozen people were involved in a mass brawl, with some participants reportedly taking hurleys from children to use them on the other side. Tracksuited men and women were involved in the melee, played out in full vew of tourists on our country’s main street.

Fast forward a couple of days to the Forty Foot, the city’s best known bathing spot.

Usually a venue for portly retired southsiders to enjoy a wrinkly, sedate dip last night it morphed into a full on battlezone. Once more, over a dozen people staged a fracas which resulted in four people, three men and a woman, being treated for knife injuries.

Apparently the two sides had spent the day drinking in the sun before staging the violent public falling out.

Cue a raft of garda vans and ambulances driving in one direction and terrified locals fleeing in another.

You can rest assured that, like the Forty Foot violence, the melee at the GPO was alcohol fuelled.

It might now be quite as bad as LA riots in the 90s or the Bronx in the 1970s, but there was a tangible air of menance and Dublin’s sunshine this week.

It’s almost inevitable when a rare outburst of good weather is mixed with beer-slab boozing.

It seems all biggest cliches are true. Irish people can’t handle the sun, or the drink. Mix the two and you end up with headlines like those we’ve seen this week.

 This post first appeared in the Evening Herald, May 25, 2012

‘A type of sadistic killer all but impossible to rehabilitate’

BRUTAL, depraved and sordid. Michael Bambrick’s killings have assured him a unique place in the annals of Irish murder.

His crimes must rank as among the most grisly – and at times amateurish – ever seen here. Few killers have strangled their victims, dismembered their bodies and concealed the evidence, only to use a bicycle and a wheelbarrow to dispose of the remains. And cross dress to try to put people off the scent.

But Bambrick was far more than just a blundering sadist who went too far in a sex game.

The manner in which he killed his two victims, in September 1991 and July 1992, led Judge Paul Carney to warn that he was likely to reoffend.

Both Patricia McGauley and Mary Cummins were strangled with tights after – Bambrick claimed  – engaging in bondage sessions.

Jailing him for 18 years, Carney, now the most esteemed criminal judge in the country, starkly warned that he had “a propensity to reoffend.”

“The probability is that he will have a pent-up appetite for his form of bondage,” the judge stated.

Bambrick had a propensity for cross-dressing, bondage and violence.

He was born in 1952 in the UK  but later came to live in Dublin, with his family, and at the time of the killings resided at St Ronan’s Park in Clondalkin.

This property, which he shared with his common law wife Patricia McGauley, later became known as the House of Horrors after details of the killings emerged.

His first killing took place on September 12, 1991 when Bambrick suffocated his common law wife Patricia McGauley following a bondage session. He had been drinking heavily beforehand.

In a surreal twist, Bambrick then put on Patricia’s clothes, lipstick and heels and strolled around St Ronan’s Park. He was spotted by suspicious neighbours – but they weren’t aware of what he had just done.

Bambrick, who had locked his wife’s body in a box room at their small home, took their daughter to school the next day before returning to cut up the remains.

The killer then used a knife and a hacksaw to dismember Patricia’s body, removing her head, arms and legs. He then cycled, with the remains in a bag, to an illegal dump at Balgaddy, Lucan, and buried the body parts. A day later he made a second bike trip to the dump, this time with Patricia’s torso.

As Patricia remained a missing person, Bambrick remained at large.

On July 23, 1992 he went drinking on Francis Street in the south inner city, where he met Mary Cummins. He plied her with alcohol as their children played together in the bar. Hours later, again during a bondage session, he strangled her using a pair of tights, which he’d stuffed in her mouth.

Once again he stashed the body in the boxroom of the house. The following day he used a hacksaw to cut off Cummins’s legs and put  them into a refuse bag. This time he used a wheelbarrow to transport the dismembered pieces to a large field close to Balgaddy school. Three months later, Bambrick was quizzed over the disappearance of the woman, but he denied involvement.

More than two years then passed before Bambrick was again arrested, this time after an allegation of physical abuse of a child. In the months afterwards, gardai dug up his back garden and, in a search of the St Ronan’s Park house, found blood on floorboards there.

In June 1995, he was arrested for an unrelated firearms offence and, after questioning, broke down and admitted his role in the murders. He showed gardai where he concealed the woman’s remains.

He was charged with two counts of murder but the charge was reduced at this trial, in July 1996. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter instead and was jailed for 18 years.

Judge Carney said he wanted to jail Bambrick for life but could not do so because of existing case law. The killer was freed in April, 2009.

Writing in the Herald yesterday ex-detective superintendent PJ Browne warned that Bambrick could attack again.

“In my professional experience, Michael Bambrick represents a type of sadistic killer who is all but impossible to rehabilitate,” he stated, echoing the remarks of Judge Carney more than 15 years ago.

Since his release Bambrick has lived a quiet life. Instead he has lived under the raidar, in west Dublin. One of the country’s most sadistic killers, he has not come to garda attention, and remains a free man.

This post first appeared in the Evening Herald, February 28, 2012.