Was Veronica Guerin suspect allowed to escape because he knew too much?
GARDAI have refused to dismiss a sensational new claim that they were involved in a top-level cover-up in the case of murdered priest Fr Niall Molloy.
The allegation has been read by thousands of people who bought the Christmas bestseller Badfellas by crime writer Paul Williams.
In it, he says that notorious Dublin criminal John Traynor returned a stolen Garda file on the Molloy case in return for a promise that charges against him would be dropped.
Williams says: "The file contained notes and statements that certain people in power did not want in the public domain."
John Traynor is the prime suspect in the murder of Sunday Independent journalist Veronica Guerin. He was the crime reporter's main underworld source, and prior to her murder was seeking an injunction to prevent her writing about his connections with organised crime.
He fled the country after her death in 1996 yet gardai have always claimed they did not have sufficient evidence to link him to her murder.
A nephew of Fr Molloy, Bill Maher told me: "If this extraordinary claim is untrue, why won't the gardai come straight out and deny it?
"The country's top crime reporter is effectively saying the police acted corruptly in this case. Either he is right or he is wrong. Why this silence from the gardai?
In a letter delivered to Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan this week, Mr Maher asks: "Does Williams' theory explain why, almost 27 years on, the gardai have failed to bring those responsible for our uncle's brutal murder to justice?
"This case refuses to go away and for good reason. We, and most importantly, our beloved uncle Niall who was brutally beaten to death, have been utterly failed by the Irish criminal justice system," he wrote.
"On behalf of my entire family and my late uncle, I am now calling on you to answer these charges against the Garda Siochana," Mr Maher stated.
His uncle, Fr Niall Molloy, was beaten to death in July 1985 after a lavish society wedding in the home of his close friends Theresa and Richard Flynn in Clara, Co Offaly.
Among the guests was Brian Lenihan senior, then deputy leader of Fianna Fail.
A post mortem found that the 52-year-old Roscommon curate died as a result of numerous blows to the head. The bride's father, Richard Flynn, was charged with manslaughter one year later. But in a bizarre development, the trial judge directed that Mr Flynn be acquitted on the grounds that Fr Molloy may have died of a heart attack.
At the inquest one month later, a jury ruled out the possibility of heart failure and decided unanimously that the priest had died as a result of acute brain haemorrhage consistent with severe injuries to the head.
It later emerged that Justice Roe was an acquaintance of the Flynns and had written to then DPP Eamonn Barnes in advance of the trial. These letters were contained in the garda file, which was stolen from the DPP's office by Martin 'The General' Cahill in 1987. Cahill broke into the office after hearing that the file contained information that would embarrass the authorities.
In October 2010, the vital new evidence emerged that other people were present in the Clara mansion on the night of the murder, including a county surgeon with close connections to Fianna Fail. Six months after Fr Molloy's death, this doctor died suddenly.
This and other critical information, including new witness statements, was given to the gardai and former commissioner Fachtna Murphy called for a review of the case by the Cold Case Unit, which has been ongoing now for more than a year.
But Bill Maher has written to the current commissioner: "We also wish to express our utter dissatisfaction at the 'examination' of this case by the Serious Crime Review Unit."
Last month, the Molloy family expressed their 'utter disillusionment' at the pace of the new Garda review. "From the very start, we have been so disturbed and frustrated by the gardai's handling of the case," said Mr Maher.
"The initial investigation was grossly incompetent. Vital evidence, including Niall's broken watch, was handed back to us hours after his murder, and to this day, with all the modern technology available, blood found in the house has still not been identified."
Two gardai involved in the case have also expressed disbelief at the State's failure to deliver justice. The first officer at the scene of the crime, retired Sergeant Kevin Forde, says he is bewildered that the killers are still at large.
Former detective inspector and Herald columnist Gerry O'Carroll, who initiated his own investigation into the case following personal concerns of a cover-up, described the revelations regarding John Traynor as "disturbing in the extreme".
"The allegation that he may have escaped all these years because he handed over the Fr Molloy file is utterly shocking and merits an immediate independent judicial inquiry, given all the new evidence pointing to a State cover-up."
Traynor (63) is currently in jail in Britain for handling stolen bearer bonds.