Family of priest who was murdered in Offaly over 30 years ago call for new investigation into his unsolved death

Full article from The Irish Sun by Barry Moran



Family of priest who was murdered in Offaly over 30 years ago call for new investigation into his unsolved death

The popular clergyman had been battered, kicked and left to die, with conflicting accounts and unanswered questions

THE family of a murdered priest last night pleaded for help and declared: “There are people still alive that know what happened.”

Fr Niall Molloy was found dead in the bedroom of a high society couple over three decades ago, resulting in an international scandal.

Fr Niall Molloy who was found brutally beaten to death over thirty years ago

Fr Niall Molloy who was found brutally beaten to death over thirty years ago

The popular clergyman had been battered, kicked and left to die, with conflicting accounts and unanswered questions.

An inquest found that he died from a “serious injury to the head” and there are major questions over the Garda investigation to this day.

But 33 years have passed and Father Molloy’s family are no closer to establishing the truth of what happened that night.

His nephew, Bill Maher, is one of a number of relatives who have long campaigned for justice.

In an interview with the Irish Sun, Bill insists he knows what really happened in Kilcoursey House in Clara, Co Offaly.

He said: “What we are asking for is a full independent investigation, separate from An Garda Siochana, to establish what happened.

“That is what we’ve been after since day one. We want someone with the power to compel people to testify.

“An independent commission without the gardai is what we are asking for.”

Fr Molloy’s nephew Bill Molloy

Fr Molloy’s nephew Bill Molloy

Bill told how some family members were critical of the Garda Ombudsman report, which came out last month.

He said: “We were obviously unhappy with the GSOC findings and how long it took to publish them. We were told they were waiting on replies but the report was completed long before we were given access to it.

“A lot of the information about the case that’s out there, we have had to discover it ourselves.

“There is a great support for the campaign among Niall’s parishioners and friends, they feel very strongly that there is a need for justice.

“This has hung over the community for far too long. There are still people who know the truth about Niall’s murder.

“I know what happened and I would warn that the truth will come out some day.

Richard Flynn arriving for the court case in Tullamore, Offaly, Ireland, on the 4th Feb 1986 following the death of Fr Niall Molloy

Richard Flynn arriving for the court case in Tullamore, Offaly, Ireland, on the 4th Feb 1986 following the death of Fr Niall Molloy

“Multiple people who witnessed what happened are in a position to do the right thing and are still out there. We can’t give up and we won’t give up.”

Fr Molloy was found dead in the home of friends Therese Flynn and her husband Richard in July 1985.

The 52-year-old cleric was battered to death shortly after requesting the return of a large sum of money — £11,000 in punts — owed to him after a failed land deal.

Fr Molloy kept several horses in stables at the Flynns’ property.

The attack took place the day after the wedding of their daughter Maureen in the luxury house.

Richard Flynn was later charged with the priest’s manslaughter, but acquitted after the jury was controversially directed by the judge to find the defendant not guilty.

It later emerged that the judge who ordered the acquittal — Frank Roe — was friends with the Flynn family and should not have heard the case.

The family of the slain priest have fought a long battle to restart an investigation into his death.

Bill is looking for justice for his uncle’s brutal murder

Bill is looking for justice for his uncle’s brutal murder

Bill added: “There is an online petition calling for justice and there is great support for Niall from his former parishioners. He was a very popular man.

“People still feel extremely strongly about what happened. It’s been more than three decades and people are still outraged.”

In May 2015, a government review of the mystery backed a decision from the DPP not to have a fresh inquiry into his mysterious passing.

Richard Flynn’s defence lawyers claimed head injuries sustained by the priest could have been the result of a fall following a heart attack.

But the post-mortem examination found his death was due to severe head injuries, and that he would have taken more than six hours to die.

Flynn said in court that a row had broken out, claiming it was when Fr Molloy joined him and his wife for a drink after the wedding.

He alleged that the priest and Therese attacked him in a dispute over who would get the next drink, claiming to have hit him two or three times.

Judge Roe decided Flynn had struck Fr Molloy in self-defence and directed the jury at Dublin’s Circuit Criminal Court to acquit him.

And in a move to quash “unpleasant talk” at the time, he told the jury there was no evidence of impropriety on the part of Fr Molloy and Mrs Flynn, insisting: “It is clear from all the evidence that the relationship was perfectly proper.”

Richard Flynn pictured leaving the court in Dublin with his daughter Maureen Parkes

Richard Flynn pictured leaving the court in Dublin with his daughter Maureen Parkes

But the medical conclusion was strongly contested by experts who found that Fr Molloy had no defensive marks on him.

They also found head injuries that seemed to jar with the “two or three” punches that Richard Flynn admitted to.

The victim’s furious relatives believe there were major flaws in the investigation, including the contamination of vital evidence.

Richard and Therese Flynn had long maintained that they were the only ones home at the time of Fr Molloy’s death. Other people later arrived at the house.

When a local sergeant arrived at the scene at 3.15am on July 8, 1985, he found the cleric dead in the Flynns’ bedroom — and his broken watch stopped at 10.40pm.

Fr Niall Molloy died from severe head injuries

Fr Niall Molloy died from severe head injuries

Richard Flynn was home with his son David and he told gardai he had struck Fr Molloy during a drunken argument. In his report, Sgt Kevin Forde was of the view that Richard appeared “calm, cool and unconcerned”.

He sat drinking coffee, apologised for bringing him out so late and described the death as a “messy old business”.

Richard was subsequently charged with manslaughter and assault occasioning actual bodily harm. But it is the belief of many connected to the case that Richard was not responsible for the fatal attack.

However, a new witness came forward in August 2012 and gave a different account of events. A local man with direct knowledge of events told gardai that Fr Molloy was attacked downstairs in the house — and it was decided “having taken legal advice by telephone, that the considerable amount of people who were present at the time should all leave the premises”.

The witness said that Fr Molloy was then carried upstairs to the Flynns’ bedroom and left to die over a period of hours.

A 2015 report by Dominic McGinn SC concluded that the “precise truth” of the circumstances of Fr Molloy’s death could not be ascertained.

The house where Fr Molloys body was found over thirty years ago

The house where Fr Molloys body was found over thirty years ago

He found there were “extremely unusual, if not unique, features” about the case — but he did not believe a new inquiry was justified.

Mr McGinn said: “It is unlikely given the passage of time, the death of many of the pertinent witnesses and the reluctance of others voluntarily to give evidence, that any further inquiry would have a reasonable prospect of establishing the truth.”

‘Truth out there’ Full article by Maresa Fagan in The Irish Times

Fr Niall Molloy: ‘Truth out there’ as chapter in unsolved death closes

Relatives believe it is not too late to find answers; Man acquitted of 1985 manslaughter dies

Drizzle fell as a stream of cars began to arrive on Monday into Tubberclair, near Athlone a half an hour before the funeral mass began.

Two hundred mourners had come to mark the passing of Richard Flynn, a man acquitted of assault and manslaughter of a priest in a trial that lasted less than a day, 30 years ago, which still remains controversial.

Mr Flynn’s daughter Sandra read William Butler Yeats’s The Lake Isle of Innisfree, while his grandchildren brought gifts at the start of the service, remembering his life.

They included a photograph to show his love of family, a rugby ball marking his passion for sport, an Irish language book for his love of Gaelic and a radio for his abiding interest in current affairs.

Later, the Galway-born native, who had lived into his 80s and died in a nursing home after a long illness, was laid to rest beside his late wife Therese in the cemetery adjacent to the church.


Mr Flynn’s passing closes another chapter in the unsolved killing of Fr Niall Molloy in 1985, though the priest’s relatives believe that the truth is still to be uncovered despite the passage of the years.

It was a case that shocked and fascinated: a priest found dead in the bedroom of a prominent business couple in 1985 was the stuff of popular soap operas, like Dynasty and Dallas, but not life in a rural village in the Irish midlands.

In the words of The Observer, one of many international titles to follow every twist and turn, it offered a “rich mix” of religion, high finance, horse breeding and even politics.

For the Roscommon-born Fr Molloy, July 7th began as usual, with the celebration of Sunday Mass in his parish of Fuerty. Later, however he made his way to Clara in Co Offaly.

There, he went to Kilcoursey House, the home of his friends of three decades, Richard and Theresa Flynn to join in the revelries of a family wedding that had taken place the day before.

He was a frequent visitor to the 23-roomed Tudor-style home. The former Army Chaplain shared an interest in horses and show jumping with the Flynns, who owned and ran a number of businesses in the Midlands.

Within hours, however, the keen horseman was found dead in the house’s master bedroom: the exact time of death remains uncertain, like much else that night, but it was sometime between 10pm and the early hours of Monday.

Emergency Services 

His face was bloodied and bruised. His body showed no defensive marks. A long bloody dragmark on the white bedroom carpet suggested the body was moved. Blood smears and spatters were evident in the room and elsewhere.

Emergency services were never called. Medical evidence later suggested the priest may have been alive for several hours after the assault. Richard Flynn telephoned a now-deceased local priest at 1am to come and be prepared for an anointment.

It was after 3am before local gardai were alerted. By this time the family doctor, who like many others in the story is now dead, was at the house, as were other members of the Flynn family; Therese Flynn had been taken to hospital.

When questioned, Richard Flynn admitted he was the culprit. Charged subsequently with the manslaughter and assault of Fr Molloy the 47-year-old businessman was acquitted of all charges a year later.

In a trial that lasted less than four hours, Justice Frank Roe, then President of the Circuit Court, directed the jury to acquit. The medical evidence, Judge Roe said, was inconclusive and it would be improper to convict on Mr Flynn’s statement alone.

“It is a little bit unusual but not improper of me to say that no one intended any injury to be caused,” Judge Roe remarked. The acquittal came despite Garda concerns over monies owed to Fr Molloy after a land deal fell through.

A month later, a jury in an inquest decided, however, that that Fr Molloy had, in fact, died from head injuries, which prompted a public outcry and calls in political circles for the case to be re-examined.

Medical Evidence

In 1988 even more questions were raised when new medical evidence suggested that Fr Molloy had survived for a number of hours after the assault. In the years that followed there were a succession of yet more extraordinary twists and turns.

Files on the case were among a batch stolen from the offices of the Director of Public Prosecutions in August 1987 – in a theft carried out, it is believed, by criminal, Martin Cahill, otherwise known as The General.

In 1988 Therese Flynn was linked to a fraudulent life insurance claim on Fr Molloy’s life but denied any wrongdoing or knowledge of the policy, which was eventually paid out to the Molloy family.

In 1994 there were claims that Judge Roe was known to both the Flynns and Fr Molloy and should not have heard the court case.

The case refused to go away. New medical evidence was brought to light in 1988 but nothing came of it at that time.

On a rare occasion, after the trial and inquest, when Mr Flynn spoke to one national newspaper, the Sunday Independent where he said his “conscience was clear” and that he had “never lost a moment’s sleep”.

Other features in the case begged questions about the Garda investigation, the criminal trial and, over two decades later, allegations of a ‘cover-up involving several arms of the state’.


In response to these allegations and new witnesses coming forward, the Garda Serious Crime Review Team (SCRT) embarked on a review of the case in 2010 and spent two and a half years re-interviewing witnesses and reconsidering evidence. The inquiry, however, did not result in any new prosecutions.

And in March 2015 the Government ruled out the prospect of a public inquiry. A senior barrister appointed to review the SCRT findings concluded that an inquiry was unlikely to establish the truth.

“It is unlikely given the passage of time, the death of many of the pertinent witnesses and the reluctance of others voluntarily to give evidence, that any further inquiry would have a reasonable prospect of establishing the truth,” senior counsel, Dominic McGinn said.

‘Disturbing’ features

Acknowledging that there were many “disturbing” features and matters of public concern, McGinn’s inquiry also pointed to serious failings by gardaí in their investigation.

Despite Richard Flynn’s passing, the Molloy family continues to pursue a full commission of investigation: “We don’t believe it’s too late, the truth is still out there. Individuals with vital information relating to Fr Niall’s death are still alive and there is still new evidence emerging,” Bill Maher, a nephew of Fr Molloy’s said.

“As far as the family is concerned the case is far from over. There are too many shortcomings and glaring inconsistencies to ignore and we will continue to push for a full independent investigation,” he added

However, the McGinn report did put to bed some of the theories that abounded since the death. Frank Roe’s directed acquittal was “extraordinary”, but it was within the law.

The 109-page report also found no documentary evidence to substantiate claims that the judge, a popular figure in racing circles who passed away in 2003, was known to the Flynns, or to Fr Molloy.

Numerous questions

Nevertheless, the outstanding questions are numerous. Why did gardaí not interview guests who attended the Flynn wedding on July 6th? Why were no door-to-door enquiries carried out?

Why was a break-in at Fr Molloy’s house not investigated? Why was Fr Molloy’s broken watch returned to his family without being investigated? Why was a medical report that could have placed “a different complexion” on the case not sought?

Why was a statement from Fr Molloy’s solicitor in relation to a land deal with the Flynn’s not included in the investigation? Thirty one years have passed, and the Molloys are closer to answers.

In July 2015, relatives of Fr Molloy met with Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald to raise their concerns over the McGinn-identified shortcomings, where they shared graphic photographic evidence of injuries suffered by Fr Molloy.

The family have since taken a case against the police force for ‘neglect of duty’ in the 1985 investigation. The complaint is currently being investigated by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.

“The McGinn report and the Serious Crime Review Team identified numerous breaches of procedures in the original investigation, where many basic enquiries or checks were not carried out,” Mr Maher, a nephew of Fr Molloy’s said.

“There are still too many unanswered questions. We want a full investigation into all aspects of Fr Niall’s death, from day one onwards, including the Garda investigation or lack thereof and we will continue to push for that,” he added.

Finally a response on behalf of the Minister ( after 14 months )

Friday afternoon this is an email My cousin Henry and myself were sent from the Department of Justice. We had a meeting with the Minister last year and she promised to get back to us after the summer break. We heard nothing and both of us wrote to the Minister and got not reply. On the 8th of August a letter was sent to the  Ombudsman complaining about the Minister’s non response to our meeting and letters. As a result of which the following was received by email. Interesting to see if hard copies will follow



Minister’s Reference: 0718095057

26  August, 2016

Dear Mr. McCourt,

I  have  been  asked by the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality,
Ms.  Frances Fitzgerald T.D., to refer to her meeting with you and Mr. Bill
Maher  on 1 July 2015, the matters outlined in the documents which you gave
to her at the meeting and in your subsequent correspondence.

In  the  first instance, I should say that it is a matter of regret that it
did  not  prove  possible  to  issue  a definitive response until now.   Of
course,  the  papers  submitted  by  you  had  to  be fully reviewed by the
Tánaiste  since  originally  submitted and she wanted to take the time that
was  necessary to fully consider all of the matters raised in light of your
strong  concerns.   Moreover,  you  will  appreciate  that  in the interim,
events, relating to other pressing matters, placed very significant demands
on the Tánaiste’s time.

The  Tánaiste  would  like,  once  again,  to  acknowledge the very sincere
support  which many people have conveyed to you and your family in relation
to the death of your uncle, Fr. Molloy, and the extent of the efforts which
have  been  made over many years to obtain answers to the various questions
which have been raised about the case.

The  Tánaiste has reflected on the issues discussed with you at the meeting
and  as referred to in the documentation supplied and sympathises with you.
However,  the  detailed  examination by the SCRT of the case, together with
Mr.  McGinn’s  subsequent  report,  lead  her  to conclude that there is no
reasonable  prospect  that  a  further  inquiry  would  give  rise  to more
conclusive  results.   The  objective  expressed  in  Mr. McGinn’s terms of
reference  was to obtain definitive independent advice on the question of a
further inquiry and having received such advice, it would be highly unusual
for the Tánaiste not to take it on board.

The  Tánaiste  has also considered your comments on the shortcomings of the
original  Garda  investigation but as you note in your documentation, these
have  been  highlighted  by  the  SCRT  and  were  outlined  and  carefully
considered  by Mr. McGinn in arriving at his recommendations concerning any
further  inquiry. While the Tánaiste fully appreciates your dissatisfaction
with these aspects of the original investigation, she does not believe that
a  further  inquiry  to  examine  these specific matters would be viable or
warranted  at  this  remove.  As  stated  in  previous  correspondence, the
Tánaiste  is of the view that a further inquiry would most likely come to a
similar assessment in relation to the original Garda investigation and such
an  assessment  is  already  available  and in the public domain.  In these
circumstances,  and  given  the  passage  of  time  and  the  evolution  of
investigatory  practice  since then, the establishment of a further inquiry
into these matters would not be of material public benefit.

The  Tánaiste  is  very much aware that unanswered questions in relation to
the  case  remain and are of course a cause of concern for the family.  She
sympathises  with your desire to see further steps taken in relation to the
investigation  but, as you know, the case has been considered by the DPP on
foot  of  the  SCRT  report  and  a  direction received that there not be a
further  prosecution.   The  Tánaiste  has  no role in that process, but by
publishing  Mr.  McGinn’s report has taken exceptional measures to put into
the public domain as much information as possible in relation to a criminal
investigation,  and  in  relation  to the steps taken to examine the issues
which have been raised concerning the case over many years.

Having carefully considered the points which you raised at the meeting, and
in  your correspondence, the Tánaiste remains of the view that there are no
further avenues open to her in relation to this matter, and that she is not
in a position to accede to your request to establish a further inquiry into
the case.

Yours sincerely,

Niall Colgan
Private Secretary to the
Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality

CC Mr. Bill Maher