Margot's suicidal killer suffered from drug-induced mental health problems
Howard Kelly walked into Rathmines garda station on July 22 last year to confess to a murder that gardai never knew had happened.
The death of Margot Seery (48) twenty years earlier had not been treated as suspicious at the time, but the testimony of Kelly proved to be true in the end and he was convicted of choking her to death.
But who is Howard Kelly, and how could someone who had not come to the attention of gardai for any serious crime before be capable of killing and then hand himself in two decades later when gardai were not even investigating a murder?
Today Independent.ie can reveal that Kelly, who was born on February 3 1973 and adopted by a loving family in Kimmage in Dublin, was a troubled man with his own personal demons - yet largely able to function normally in society and hold down an executive job with the HSE.
On the quiet and mature Shelton Gardens in Kimmage, a suburb of bungalows on the outskirts of south Dublin city, neighbours are in shock as they only learn now that the quiet, polite Kelly could be capable of murder.
They describe Howard, his sister, and his parents as lovely people, perfect neighbours and a great family.
“His parents gave Howard and his sister all the love they could hope for, and the two kids adored them in return. They were all very supportive of each other,” one local said.
“Howard would do the gardening, and sometimes drive his mother to shopping after his father died. The house was always spotless and they were a welcoming family. We are shocked that it was Howard involved in this. It will break his poor mother’s and sister’s hearts,” they added.
Howard attended school locally and by all accounts was a bright student.
He studied economics in UCD, graduating in May 1994 - the summer before he killed Margot.
He had decided to do a Masters course, and was studying for that when he committed the murder.
However, he didn’t complete the Masters and dropped out and decided to try and get a job.
He was employed in a few menial jobs before becoming an employment administrator with the HSE in its Corporate Budget Section.
He has two children from a previous relationship, who are now in their mid 20s, but the relationship with his former partner didn’t last and they went their separate ways.
What has emerged since he confessed to Margot’s murder is that Kelly has had a history of drug use, psychosis, hearing voices in his head, and suicidal ideation.
He was a cannabis user before he killed Margot, but it is understood that on the night he committed the murder he had been on a pub crawl with a friend and that the only drug he consumed was alcohol.
“He had a feed of pints that night, nothing else it seems,” said a source.
But as a young adult there were signs that all was not well with Howard’s mental health.
Suffering from drug induced psychosis from smoking marijuana he attended St Loman’s psychiatric hospital in March 1997 after being referred by a counsellor who reported that Kelly was having suicidal thoughts.
This was less than three years after he had killed Margot.
Howard discharged himself on March 22 1997, but was admitted again in 1998 when he started hearing voices in his head from using psychotropic substances.
By this stage Howard was using amphetamines and cannabis, but he never came to the attention of gardai apart from one minor traffic offence - his only recorded offence before he walked into Rathmines garda station last year.
“When he went to the station he was a normal, rational fella, a quiet fella, but he was very determined to tell the truth about what had happened to Margot,” the source said.
Howard was assessed to determine if he was fit to give a statement, and it was deemed he was.
After his first interview with gardai he was released while gardai corroborated the information he had given them.
When gardai went to interview him a second time they found he had admitted himself voluntarily into the psychiatric unit of Naas Hospital.
He gave staff there permission to allow the gardai interview him and answered all their questions to be best of his knowledge considering the passage of time.
“He was always as honest as he could be, volunteering information and answering questions,” said the source.
On the third meeting with gardai, in March this year, Kelly was arrested at his family home in Kimmage where he had moved back to after living in an apartment in Naas, and when being interviewed later in garda custody went through the entire sequence of how he had been out drinking when he and his friend met Margot Seery and her friend on the street near Kenilworth Square.
He told how Margot made him a cup of coffee to help sober him up, but when he asked if her younger friend - the woman he was most interested in - would be coming, she said ‘No’.
“This was the response that triggered him. It is not known if he felt duped, or betrayed, or made a fool of, but he lost control,” said the source.
“He then told senior detectives exactly how he killed her. Taking off his shirt, pushing her to the floor, sitting on her stomach while kneeling on her arms, pressing on her throat with both his hands until she was dead.
“He is one of the most unique individuals that gardai have dealt with. The man did the right thing to come forward and admit what he had done. It’s hard to tell if mental health issues caused him to kill, or if the guilt of the killing exacerbated his mental health,” the source said.