herald

Friday 13 December 2019

Man being quizzed over choke death of inmate 'in jail for the first time'

  • Gardai search for answers over prisoner’s violent death

  • No known link between victim and arrested man

Mark Lawlor
Mark Lawlor

A man being questioned last night over the alleged murder of a fellow inmate in Cloverhill at the weekend was in prison for the first time, it is believed.

Gardai are looking into the history of the victim, Ballymun man Mark Lawlor (37), and the man who is currently being questioned over his death as they try to establish what led to the killing.

However, a source said records do not indicate the arrested man served any previous prison terms, and there was no indication he had the potential for such violence.

"It's not clear if there was history between the two men, but it seems unlikely," the source added.

Trivial

"It could be a very recent row or argument that sparked this. It could be something very trivial."

Lawlor had only been in the west Dublin remand prison for a little over a week when he was choked in his cell.

Gardai launched a murder inquiry after a post-mortem revealed he had met a violent death.

He had been sharing a cell with one other person, and the alarm was raised shortly in the very early hours of Saturday by other prisoners on the same landing who had heard a disturbance.

Prison staff found Lawlor unresponsive and paramedics were called.

Efforts to resuscitate him failed and he was later pronounced dead at the scene.

Mark Lawlor had been on remand at Cloverhill Prison on theft charges for just over a week
Mark Lawlor had been on remand at Cloverhill Prison on theft charges for just over a week

A man in his early 50s has been arrested and was being questioned last night at Clondalkin Garda Station.

A post-mortem was carried out by state pathologist Dr Margot Bolster on Saturday, and gardai have said the precise results will not be released for operational reasons.

However, they confirmed that the arrested man was detained on suspicion of murder.

It is understood he was detained in Cloverhill on charges of alleged criminal damage before the incident early on Saturday.

Lawlor was on remand on theft charges.

Ten years ago, he was sentenced to four years with one suspended after pleading guilty to harassment of a garda because she told him there was not enough evidence to prosecute over his claims that he had been sexually abused as a child.

He had repeatedly tried to contact Sgt Noleen McKenna and threatened her by quoting the names of well-known criminals.

On one occasion, he said he would shoot her if he had a gun, his trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard.

Lawlor, who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar depression, had 49 previous convictions at that point.

The harassment took place between August 18 and October 6, 2008, when he would call into garda stations around Dublin and demand to see Sgt McKenna.

When he was told she was not stationed there, he would refuse to leave or become violent.

He would also try to gain entry to the Harcourt Square Station where Sgt McKenna was stationed with the Community Relations Unit.

Her victim impact report stated that she was very afraid for herself and her unborn child.

She said she had to change her working hours, her phone number and her home security because of the harassment.

Sgt Francis Byrne told the court that Lawlor had made an accusation of sexual abuse, which he says he suffered when he was eight-years-old at the hands of an older boy.

Gardai investigated and a file was sent to the DPP, who decided there was not enough evidence to bring a case.

In 2006, he went to Ballymun Garda Station, where he met Sgt McKenna.

He told her he had new information, but she judged there was not enough evidence to start a new investigation.

Two years later, he began contacting her by phone. He would call into garda stations and ask for her, sometimes becoming violent and abusive when turned away.

Sgt McKenna and a colleague travelled to Balbriggan Garda Station, where they explained to Lawlor they could do no more on his case, but he refused to accept it and continued to call to Harcourt Square.

He rang the officer and made threats referring to well-known criminals and said: "I'll be back for you, you tramp."

On another occasion, he rang Harcourt Square and told them to get Sgt McKenna to meet him in Balbriggan, saying "there would be murder" when his mother saw her.

He was arrested and interviewed but refused to co-operate.

Sgt Byrne said he had previous convictions for robbery, possession of a knife, assault and burglary.

Lawlor's legal team said he had little family support and had abused alcohol and drugs from an early age.

On Saturday, gardai launched an investigation into Lawlor's death at Cloverhill Prison.

"Shortly after midnight, gardai and emergency services were called by prison authorities following an incident involving two male prisoners in custody at the prison," a statement said.

Measures

"A man in his late 30s was treated by emergency services but was pronounced dead at the scene a short time later."

The IPS said that all practic- able measures were taken by management and staff to ensure the safety of those in custody.

However, it added that no prison system could be entirely free of violence, and assaults between prisoners did happen.

Fatal attacks in the Irish prison system are rare, with three such killings in recent years.

One of the most high-profile killings was that of Gary Douche, who was beaten to death by cellmate, Stephen Egan, in 2006.

Another was David Byrne, who died in 2009 after being hit over the head in a dispute over a TV remote, while Graham Johnson was stabbed in 2015.

Promoted articles

Entertainment News