Thursday 12 December 2019

PJ Browne: Gardai face tough task over 1982 murder trail

AN old murder case, that of RTE set designer Charles Self, is the latest to be reopened by the garda cold case unit.

Mr Self was a Glaswegian who worked for the national broadcaster and was killed in his home in the Monkstown area of Dublin on January 21, 1982.

While I served in the then Murder Squad at the time, I was not detailed on the specific case, but it was very high profile and I recall a major investigation.

The dead man was gay, and homosexuality was not publicly accepted at the time, due to Catholic Church teaching and the conservative nature of society then.

Mr Self probably had some close closet friends. On the night before his death, he drank in some pubs in Duke Street and South Anne Street area, off Dublin's Grafton Street.


He was to meet a female friend, who had planned to move into his house within a short time. But because of work commitments she could not make it.

The murder occurred, of course, before the days of mobile phones, CCTV and modern technology like DNA evidence. The garda cold case unit, of whom I know many dedicated members, is facing a tough task, but they will try their best.

Their first job will be to analyse each statement that was made, read all the tasking books that would have been given out by the detective superintendent in charge and ascertain if the proper answers came back.

In other words they're second guessing what was in the mind of the gardai involved in the investigation 29 years ago. A taxi driver came forward and said a man fitting the description of Mr Self and another male got into his taxi on the then Eden Quay rank and he dropped them close to Mr Self's house.

He couldn't, unfortunately, give a description of the other man.

Gardai combed the streets, public toilets, and a public house to speak to known gay men. Nothing really came of it.

Nowadays, with a more open acceptance of all orientations, maybe the gay community would delve into their distant minds and help the gardai.

A number of years ago I, with my team of detectives, investigated an unrelated murder of a gay man on Pembroke Road and we could not have got more help from the gay community.

I also hope that the different exhibits recovered at the time are still available to try for DNA testing.

A finger mark was found at an exit point at the scene, maybe it can now be identified. Here's wishing you well, boys.

PJ Browne is a former detective superintendent, with over 35 years' experience of policing serious crime

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