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Saturday 10 December 2016

Serial killer Mark Nash found guilty 20 years after murder and mutilation of women

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Mark Nash
Mark Nash
Gardai and then State pathologist Dr Harbison at the scene

SERIAL killer Mark Nash is unlikely to ever be freed from jail after his conviction for the gruesome double-murder of two vulnerable women.

The families of Sylvia Shiels (59) and Mary Callanan had to wait almost two decades for the  women’s ruthless killer to be found guilty of their murders in Dublin in March 1997.

They were among four people Nash (42) murdered that year. He took the lives of married couple Carl and Catherine Doyle just months later.

Despite the killing spree, gardai are satisfied that the violent criminal is not a suspect in any other murders.

A Central Criminal Court jury yesterday took just over four hours to unanimously find Nash guilty of the murder of Ms Shiels and Ms Callanan in their sheltered accommodation in Grangegorman, Dublin, between March 6 and March 7, 1997.

The victims were stabbed and mutilated by Nash.

Ms Shiels’ niece Suzanne Nolan read a victim-impact statement which was prepared by her mother Stella Nolan, who also knew the other victim Ms Callanan and was present in court throughout the trial.

READ MORE: Drug addict confessed to crime and died before name cleared

“For 18 years, justice has been delayed and justice delayed is justice denied. Not only for me, but for my family.

“Murder does not affect one person only – it affects the whole family. The grief and loss... never goes away,” the statement read.

Ms Sheils’ sister Stella Nolan reacted to the verdict outside court.

“I have now got closure and some little justice for my sister but there is no joy in it for me, just loss,” she said.

Ms Callanan has no known living relatives.

Nash, who has last addresses at Prussia Street and Clonliffe Road in Dublin, had pleaded not guilty to the murder of Ms Sheils and Ms Callanan (61).

It was the prosecution’s case that there were 13 confessions made by Mark Nash to the Grangegorman murders and all were consistent from beginning to end.

In 2009 “a spectacular breakthrough” led to the DNA of the two deceased women being found on a black pin-striped velvet jacket belonging to Nash as part of the cold-case review.

In October 2009, Nash was formally charged with the offences in respect of the double murder at Grangegorman.

Mr Justice Carroll Moran told the 11 jury members that the prosecution’s case was based on three things: the admissions made by the accused, the print of the caterpillar boot found in bedroom number one of Orchard View, and finally the scientific evidence and DNA.

During the trial the court heard details of then-state pathologist John Harbison’s 1997 report on the horrific injuries suffered by Ms Sheils and Ms Callanan. He noted they were “outside” his experience of 26 years.

The trial lasted 48 days and the jury heard from 71 witnesses. 

Mr Justice Carroll Moran thanked the jury for giving a considerable proportion of their life to the trial.

Hugh Hartnett SC, acting for the accused, asked the judge for the sentence to be backdated as there was a delay on the part of the State in bringing the prosecution in 1999.

Mr Justice Carroll Moran denied this and sentenced Nash to a life sentence from yesterday, April 20.

The judge then offered his condolences to the family of Ms Sheils, who he said have all suffered.

“Nothing I say can change it and I’d like to pass on those condolences on behalf of anyone else in the courtroom who has been affected as well,” he said.

Nash has been serving a double life sentence in Arbour Hill Prison since October 1998 for murdering the Doyles in Ballintober, Castlerea, Co Roscommon, on August 16, 1997.

Carl Doyle was found by gardai on a sofa in the living room of his home with five knife wounds to his chest.

His wife Catherine was stabbed 16 times and found on the dining room floor.

Nash’s girlfriend at the time, Sarah Jane Doyle (19), dragged herself to a neighbour’s house to raise the alarm after she too was attacked by the psychopath.

He admitted the killings and the assault, but his defence was that he did not intend his actions.

During the trial, the jury heard from Ms Doyle that she had “no idea” why Nash had attacked her and her sister and brother-in-law at the start of a weekend visit to their home in Co Roscommon.

Nash also told the jury he could not explain his actions, but he said he had “just lost control” after he took a boning knife from Mr Doyle, which he claimed he had been “playfully threatening” him with.

Nash was born in Ballina in Co Mayo in 1973 but grew up in England.

The court heard that he had a number of previous convictions that began in March 1990 in a juvenile court when he assaulted a female and was fined. Other convictions over the years included driving offences and assaults.

In October 1996 Nash was arrested in England but was admitted on bail and travelled to Dublin where he secured temporary rented accommodation in Prussia Street.

Nash then began a relationship with Sarah Jane Doyle and moved to live with her in Clonliffe Road.

Both of his Dublin victims were vulnerable and suffered from mental health issues.

The victim impact statement read in court yesterday described Ms Sheils – a civil servant – as a peace-loving, gentle and sincere person.

“Life is a gift. It can’t be bought, won or earned but Sylvia and Mary’s life was taken from them in a most brutal way and it’s hard to understand how one human being could do that to another,” the statement read.

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