Writer and Author

Category: Murder (Page 3 of 3)

Justice Is Served

Gerald Barry was found guilty of the murder of Manuela Riedo today.  The Swiss student was found semi-naked throttled to death in October 2007.  Barry has denied her her murder throughout, saying that it was the accidental outcome of a casual sexual encounter.

Manuela’s parents had to sit in court and listen to him on the stand describing fondling their daughter’s breasts and vagina – something that simply didn’t happen, at least, not while she was conscious.

She had been heading into Galway City to meet friends the night she died, only three days after she had arrived in Ireland for a two week language course.  It was the first time she had been away without her parents, she was only 17.

In an incredibly powerful victim impact statement her father Hans-Peter told the court that he and his wife had always been protective of their only child.  “As her father, I often drove out with the car at night to pick her up so that she would arrive safely back home.  No way was too long for me to bring her back.”

The courtroom was emotionally charged as he talked about his beautiful and special little girl, the girl who only wanted to help others, who had made particular efforts to include a classmate with a physical handicap in all her activities.  He described a Manuela who loved to dance, a girl who “had a special place in the hearts of many people.” She was the centre of her parent’s life, their “sunshine”.

As he read out the statement in German, translated by their garda liaison, Manuela’s mother Arlette clutched a set of rosary beads and wept.  There were many in the court who wept as well.

Passing his sentence the trial judge, Mr Justice Barry White was unusually strong.  He told Barry he agreed absolutely with the jury’s verdict as would anyone who had read about the case during the trial.

He told Barry that he trusted he had not been “unmoved by the evidence given by Mr Riedo of the devastating impact of his criminal behaviour.”  “One often loses sight when somebody loses one’s life violently; that person is somebody’s son or daughter, somebody’s brother or sister, somebody’s grandparent, or somebody’s child.”

It’s unusual to see a trial judge speak so personally after a verdict but this a been a trial that everyone involved, except perhaps Barry himself, has found this a traumatic trial to follow.  Judge White also said that the Courts Service had been receiving mail for the Riedos throughout the trial offering messages of sympathy and support.  This doesn’t usually happen.

Speaking outside the courtroom in the usual media scrum Hans-Peter and Arlette Riedo thanks the Swiss and Irish authorities and the people who had supported them through what can only have been a horrendously difficult time.  Asked how she was coping Manuela’s mother said a little better than she had been but she always had the support of “her man, her husband.”

Throughout the trial they’ve presented an extremely close picture.  I’ve sat across from them, in the seat we press shared with the accused and watched Arlette take her husband’s coat from him  as they arrived in court after a particularly hard day’s evidence, folding it tenderly and placing it behind him as a cushion.  At the more traumatic pieces of evidence they would sit with hands clasped.  It’s not often you see a couple that close. It seems all the more unfair that they should lose their only child.

Barry was a tragedy like this waiting to happen we were told today.  He grew up in a severely dysfunctional family, and when I say dysfunctional I mean potentially Fritzl level dysfunction.  Superintendent P.J Durkan, who gave evidence of Barry’s more serious previous convictions, which I’ll get to in a moment, agreed with defence counsel Martin Giblin that if the social service had got involved with the Barry family when Barry was young we might not have been sitting where we were today.

You hear sob stories every sentence hearing.  It’s hardly a surprise that a lot of people up on criminal charges come from less than ideal homes. But ultimately it can only be so much of a defence.  Barry had a string of convictions that took quite some time to go through.  The most serious three gave an indication of someone with little or no respect for human life.

In 1996 Colm Phelan, was attacked on Eyres Square in Galway.  He died from his injuries.  Barry was one of five people who were charged with “violent disorder” and the only who didn’t plead guilty.

Two years later he broke into the house of an elderly man who only had sight in one eye.  After Barry had finished with him he was blind.

Then in 2006 he was given six months for a sexual assault on his then partner.  An accident waiting to happen or a loose cannon?  Barry was definitely heading for a bad end.

As Manuela’s parents told the press outside the Four Courts after the verdict, Ireland is a safer place tonight.  Irish children, Irish women are safer.

A Tragic Accident Not A Murder

“I told her I thought she was beautiful and I leaned in and kissed her.”

So Gerald Barry described how a chance meeting developed into a sexual encounter.  The 29-year-old is accused of the murder of Swiss teenager Manuela Riedo.  Today, speaking in his own defence he told the court that the sex was consensual and her death a tragic accident.

Manuela’s mother broke down in tears as he described meeting her 17-year-old daughter near a shop in Renmore.  He said they struck up a conversation then after around 20 minutes had sex in a grassy spot near Lough Atalia in Galway.

Afterwards, he told the court, she got up to go and meet her friends in Galway City but he pulled her back down to spend more time with him.  It was then he said, as he hooked his arm around her neck to pull her down, that he accidentally throttled her.

He said that Manuela had been walking in the wrong direction from town so he showed her the right route to the shortcut she had used several times in the couple of days she had spent in Galway, there for a two week language class with her classmates.

They started talking after she had asked him for the time although didn’t say much as they walked towards “The Line”, a walkway that ran alongside the railway tracks.

Barry said he showed her how to get up to the path then sat down on a telegraph pole and skinned up a joint.  After a couple of minutes she came back and sat beside him.  She asked him why he was smoking.  “I told her I liked the buzz.  It relaxes me.”

Moments later he said he told her she was beautiful and they started kissing and “fondling”.  They put their coats on the ground and lay down on them and had sex.

He said it was afterwards when they were lying together she sat up and talked about leaving.  He had asked her was she cold but she replied it was far colder in Switzerland.  He said he hadn’t thought he used any force when he pulled her back down but she just “slid down” and he realised she wasn’t breathing.

It was then, he said that he dragged her body into the bushes and put her jacket over her “out of respect”.

He could not explain why a button that matched the ones on her coat was found on the upper path or why long blond hairs were found snagged on the bushes from that path down to the spot her body was found.  He told the prosecution barrister Una Kennedy that he had no idea how she got an injury to the back of her head or how a piece of skin two inches by three had come to be cut from her pubic area.

He said that he had not thrown a condom into bushes nearby the body in the hope that it would be taken away by the tidal lough nearby or that he had urinated it it in an attempt to dilute any DNA evidence.  He had urinated because he was scared he said, no other reason.

Barry said he had lied to gardai because he was hoping that if he continued to deny everything it would just go away.

It’s been another hard day’s evidence for Manuela’s parents but they will get a day’s break tomorrow.  The trial will resume on Friday when it is expected to finish.  It will have been a long couple of weeks.

The Crowd

With any murder trial there are the gawkers.  Members of the public who arrive on a Monday when the trials are doled out and work out which is the juiciest case to sit into.  They’re not allowed into rape trials (under the In Camera rule only bona fide members of the press and interested parties are allowed into these) but if there is a murder you can bet they’ll come out from under their stones as soon as the jury take their seats.

Ray Bradbury wrote a short story called The Crowd.  It’s about the people who come and stare at traffic accidents.  He casts them, not as simple ghouls, but as force of nature with power of life and death.  These are the people who raise of lower the thumb to decide if the victim lives or dies.  It’s one of his most disturbing stories.

When you see the same faces sitting in the back of the court, trial after trial after trial it’s hard not to think of the Bradbury crowd.  They come in every morning, pick a prime spot, usually in the middle of the extended family of victim or accused and settle in.  The more gruesome the evidence the closer they lean.  Well I suppose it beats daytime TV.

Now before you say it, I know I do the same thing.  I sit through a trial day after day and have been known to grade trials according to their degree of interest.  But there’s a difference.  A big one.  I’m paid to sit there and as a freelance, if the trial’s not interesting enough I’m not going to earn much money.  I don’t do it for entertainment.

The hard core of the rubber neckers will get quite militant about their right to attend open trials if, in a packed courtroom they are urged to move to the upstairs gallery available for the public.  They will treat the journalists with contempt, as if we are a corrupt filter attempting to stop them from accessing their god given constitutional right.  They intend to exercise this constitutional right…in the Joe O’Reilly trial they brought sandwiches.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m in favour of the public having access to the courts.  I think everyone should sit through a trial, to understand what goes on and see how everything works.  Not to mention that justice should absolutely happen in public (the reason for our attendance in rape trials – as the eyes, so to speak.)

The thing I have a problem with are the people who come again and again and again and watch with such relish.  In a case like the current one, in which a 17-year-old girl was found strangled and semi naked on wasteground, these watchers seem particularly inappropriate.

This isn’t entertainment.  It shouldn’t be viewed as such.  But the same faces in the Crowd will always come back for more.  This won’t be the last trial they come to and nothing I say will put them off.  They are a fact of public justice.  But like Bradbury’s preternatural chorus the Dublin contingent creep me out.

Probabilities and Positives

Arlette Riedo took the stand today.  Her purpose was to confirm that the mobile phone and digital camera Gerald Barry admits stealing had belonged to her daughter.  Speaking through an interpreter she answered quietly but directly to every question.  “Correct.”

She explained that the black Sony Ericsson W810i had been bought by the 17-year-old only a week before she travelled to Ireland.  The same phone Barry sold to his sister’s boyfriend a couple of weeks after Manuela’s death and then travelled around County Galway as it was passed from one hand to another.

The silver Olympus digital camera had been a present from Manuela’s uncle.  When it was found under the mattress of the bed Barry slept in, it still held the batteries her father had marked “2007” for the sake of efficiency.

Arlette Riedo was on the stand for only a few minutes but the proximity to the man accused of murdering her daughter in such a violent manner took it’s toll.  When she took her seat she bent down, hiding her face from the watchful press who fill the benches beside the accused.

In any trial of this kind there is forensic evidence.  Frequently that evidence will include a DNA analysis of certain items, to find a concrete link with either the accused or the deceased.  Today we heard such evidence.  Stripped down to statistical formula it is mercifully sterile, coming, as it does after a grim litany of swabs and samples that dissect a loved one even more completely than the post mortem evidence.

When a deceased person undergoes a post mortem the purpose is to gather as much evidence as possible.  To find a cause of death, the state of the life that person once lived.  Forensic samples are different.  Sterile tubes holding over sized cotton buds and labelled with blunt anatomical terms.  This can seem more brutal than any internal investigation the pathologist might do.  There is an absolute distance from the person that once lived and breathed, a whiff of formaldehyde and disinfectant.

But while the post mortem can rarely speak in absolutes these swabs and glass jars can at least come close.  Their results might still come in statistical long shots that duck an absolute definite but the shots are so long definite they may as well be.

The big test in this trial is the condom found hanging from a branch on a bush near Manuela’s body.  Containing a substantial amount of a yellow liquid, which may or may not have been urine, it also contained semen.

Swabs were taken and tests were done.  The results were definite as far as a 1 in 100,000,000 long shot.  The semen belonged to Gerald Barry.  Separate tests were done on the outside of the condom.

This yielded a mixed profile, one male, the other female.  Once again it was a mere statistical equivocation.  All the elements of the DNA that the scientists tick off for a match were there for both Barry and Manuela.  There were no elements found that didn’t fit.  Once again a figure almost bigger than comprehending 1 in 100,000,000.

That’s as definite as the scientists tend to go.  It’s not exactly a litmus test – either red or blue depending on acid or alkali.  But then the possibilities in this are so much greater.

The prosecution case is drawing to a close.  But for now a break to allow for the festivities of Patricks Weekend.

Religion and Mobile Phones

“Do you believe in God?” the gardai asked Gerald Barry when they interviewed him on suspicion of killing Swiss teenager Manuela Riedo.

“I do believe in God”, he answered them.  “I believe there is something there.”  Barry, with an address at Rosan Glas, Renmore in Galway, denies killing Manuela on wasteground near Lough Atalia, Galway in early October 2007. It’s a strange question to hear read out in court, one that jars with the meticulous logic of the proceedings.  But this is a case that has inflamed emotions so perhaps not so surprising after all.

Manuela Riedo’s semi naked body was found in bushes a short distance from a well known shortcut between Renmore and Galway city.  A used condom was found hanging on a bush beside her and her clothes were scattered around the clearing where her body lay.

Barry was being interviewed after his arrest some ten days after the death.  Gardai had arrived at the flat he shared with his sister and arrested him early that morning.  A search of the place discovered Manuela’s digital camera under the mattress of a bed in a room that Barry admitted using.  At the start of the trial he pleaded guilty to stealing both the camera and a mobile phone belonging to the Swiss girl.  When he spoke to gardai that day in October 2007 he told them he had never seen the camera before or any like it.  He had only ever known disposable cameras, he said.

He told gardai that the room where the camera was found was used by the many different people, the flat was often filled with visitors some of whom he didn’t even know.  On the day of the killing he said he remembered a red haired man and a dark haired man, neither of whom he knew.  The red haired man was from Spiddal, he thought.  The other was probably a traveller, “he had that way about him.”

Barry told gardai that he had spent most of  October 8th, the day Manuela disappeared, in bed.  He had got up in the late afternoon and spent several hours driving around with his brother-in-law and his brother.  He hadn’t been near Galway city at all, he told gardai.  He didn’t know any Swiss girl and he hadn’t been near Lough Atalia since the last time he visited his mother in Mervue, three weeks previously.

They eventually went back to his brother-in-law’s house and watched TV.  “Banged Up Abroad” was on, a fact agreed by both brother and brother-in-law when they took the stand today.  Their account of the night was somewhat different though.

Dennis Ward, the brother-in-law, explained that he had been driving around with Kevin Barry, Gerald’s brother, when they received a phonecall from Gerald.  He asked to be picked up in town, at the Supermacs in Shop Street.  They drove to the appointed place and waited.  Barry arrived soon after, wearing a red jacket and carrying a plastic bag.  It was raining and the jacket was wet.

The red jacket and plastic bag made several appearances today.  First grainy CCTV stills shown on the courtroom’s twin screens show a figure walking towards Shop Street, wearing what was identified as a three quarter length red coat and a black baseball cap.  In his right hand was a white blob which may have been a white plastic bag.  The time was 8.27p.m. on October 8th.

Mobile phone records showed a call from Barry’s Meteor phone to Dennis Ward at 8.20.  The call was routed through the mobile phone cell at Lough Atalia, an hour previously another call had been routed through the same cell, this one to the mother of one of his children.  She told the court today that she couldn’t remember receiving a call, her phone had been ringing but she hadn’t picked up.

Barry tried to reach her several more times that evening, sending her texts at 10.10 and again at 11.

The trial will be continuing tomorrow.

Post Mortem

The court listened quietly as the Chief State Pathologist Marie Cassidy ran through her findings.  What emerged was a disturbing picture of Manuela Riedo’s last hours or minutes.

The 17-year-old’s mud stained, semi-naked body was found dumped in bushes near a desolate shortcut into Galway City from Renmore where she was staying for the two weeks she was to be in Ireland.  She had died from asphyxiation, most probably from an arm pressed against her throat, so hard it had left an impression of the thin gold chain she wore with it’s two small crosses.

Martin Tierney, her host for her brief stay, told the court he had warned her not to take the short cut into town.  It cut through waste ground near the railway tracks and even in daylight was a desolate place.  It was safe enough to walk through in a group but it was wiser not to walk there alone, especially not at night.

Tragically Manuela didn’t take his advice.  The last time he saw her was when she stuck her head round the door of the living room, where he was watching television with his sons, to say she was heading out to meet friends in the King’s Head Pub in Galway city. That was the last time she was seen alive.

Her friend Azaria Maurer broke down into tears as she told the court she had been due to meet Manuela at the pub instead of meeting by the barracks that marked the beginning of the shortcut.  They had met here every time they had headed into town after learning about the short cut on their second day in Galway, the day before Manuela’s death.

Photographs taken from Manuela’s digital camera, which was found under the mattress of the accused’s bed, show the two girls smiling outside a traditional Irish pub.  The last photograph, taken on the day of her disappearance was of the classroom where she was supposed to be learning English.

She had spent that Monday in lessons before meeting up in the King’s Head with friends scattered around Galway’s other language schools.  She arrived home and had dinner at the Tierney house before making her fatal decision to take the short cut back into town.

The post mortem report always follows a set pattern, systematic and thorough.  It examines from the outside in and from the top of the head down to the soles of the feet.  Everything is looked at and all minor injuries and imperfections are noted.  It can be a bewildering litany of the scrapes and bumps we encounter as we move through the world  somewhere in the middle of which hide the grimmer facts of the case.

Manuela Riedo had a lot of superficial injuries.  Her body was covered in fresh bruises and scrapes, possibly caused as her body was dragged through the sharp undergrowth to the place her body was found.  Scenes of crimes officers described strands of dark blond hair snagged in the bushes from the upper path she would have taken down into the bushes.

There were four separate injuries to her head, consistent with slaps or punches.  Her father Hans-Peter wept, held tightly by her mother Arlette, as Professor Cassidy turned to the sexual injuries his daughter had received, scrapes to the vaginal area and the horrific “unusual injury” that lead to much cross-examination and reexamination.

This injury was the one that led to gruesome discussions of the relative features of animal bite marks and the work of a human wielding a knife.  When Manuela’s body was found a piece of skin 5 centimetres by seven was missing from her groin area.  It had been removed after she had died.  The top of the wound was perfectly smooth and inconsistent with the work of wild animals.  We were told in some detail about the difficulty of removing skin from an area with a natural crease.  It’s one of those things I really would rather be unaware of.

Her clothes had been discarded on the way to the clearing where her body was found.  Her outer clothing and her distinctive cherry covered bag were found closer to the pathway while her shoes and socks were placed near the body.  In the bushes nearby gardai found her underwear and a used condom snagged on a branch…it’s contents secured by a knot.

I’m not seeking to be sensational here.  I’m not being gratuitous.  These were the injuries she suffered and that her parents listened to as the post mortem evidence unfolded.  The details of a violent death are never pleasant.

A Hectic Few Weeks Ahead

It looks like I’ll be taking up residence in the Four Courts again from tomorrow.  The jury for the trial of Gerald Barry, accused of the murder of Swiss language student Manuela Riedo, is due to be sworn in tomorrow.

17-year-old Manuela’s body was found on waste ground close to the railway line at Lough Atalia in October 2007.  She had only been in Ireland for three days, here to take part in a two week intensive English language course.

27-year-old Gerald Barry with an address at Rosan Glas, Rahoon denies the murder.  He also denies the theft of a mobile phone and a camera.

The trial is expected to last around two and a half weeks and it’s one of those trials that will get a lot of attention. Manuela’s parents Hans-Peter and Arlette have travelled, along with her aunt, two of her teachers and a school friend, to attend the trial.

The six men and six women in the jury will begin hearing evidence tomorrow.

And Back to Jail he Goes

The papers today are screaming about the failure of Joe O’Reilly’s appeal.  O’Reilly, for any non Irish readers, is a notorious wife murderer.  He was the first of the recent batch of high profile cases of this kind and ticked all the sex and violence boxes necessary for a media frenzy.  O’Reilly also had an unusual level of arrogance which led him to chat happily to various media outlets and even appear on the Late Late Show, Ireland’s foremost chat show.

Anyway, the appeal was heard back in December and the judgement delivered yesterday.  To read today’s front pages you would think that O’Reilly was the devil incarnate.  The Sun even goes so far as to call him “Devil Joe”.  Yesterday’s Evening Herald went into an orgy of satisfied gloating with eight pages of “analysis”.  It’s all standard tabloid hyperbole but the judgement was hardly much of a surprise.

When the grounds for appeal were announced last year the general consensus in the Media Room at the Four Courts was that it was all a bit lacklustre.  The defence had even applied to have the verdict over turned on the grounds that O2 Ireland, which was O’Reilly’s mobile phone provider and supplier of some of the most damning evidence, might not have been a legally licenced company at the time.  It really wasn’t the most inspiring set of grounds to appeal.

The thing was that before the details of the appeal were announced speculation was rife that there would be some strong grounds to appeal on the use of mobile phone evidence to position him in frame for the murder or the seizing of emails from his work.

With the grounds that finally did go forward I doubt there were many surprised, except apparently O’Reilly himself, that the appeal was unsuccessful.

The murder of Rachel O’Reilly was a particularly nasty and brutal one.  It’s hard to understand how any husband could do that to their wife but these things happen and they happen with alarming regularity.  Personally I don’t think that makes him evil though, and certainly not demonic.  Joe O’Reilly is arrogant and obviously thinks he is a little bit cleverer than anyone else.

The facts of the case prove otherwise.  He may be a sociopath but to call him evil or demonic elevates him to somewhere he shouldn’t be.  He’s simply an Irish man who killed his wife rather than go through a marriage breakup.  He’s not the only one and he certainly isn’t anywhere near being the last.  He’s no different from Brian Kearney or Anton Mulder, nasty cheap little men all.  But as the first he’ll always be beloved of the tabloids…well at least there’s no retrial on the cards!

Back to the Courts…

Kathleen Mulhall, the mother of the notorious “Scissor Sisters” Linda and Charlotte, today pleaded guilty to helping to clean up the scene where her daughters had hacked her Kenyan boyfriend to death.

Farah Swaleh Noor’s torso and limbs were recovered from the Royal Canal, his head and penis were never recovered.  It was a trial that seriously captured the public’s attention when it ran over several weeks in the Autumn of 2006.

The papers were full of detailed descriptions of how the two sisters had cut up the body in the bathroom of their mother’s house in Ballybough…an operation that took around five hours.  They had killed Noor after a day drinking with him and their mother over the Patrick’s Day weekend in 2005.

In court today Kathleen Mulhall stood quietly as the charge was read out to her.  She was dressed in black trousers with a white shirt and black jacket, her hair pushed up under a black cap, her eyebrows drawn on rather than grown…her signature look.

The gathered press – and there were many to witness this addendum to such a gruesome case – leaned forward to peer round the packed bodies in Court 1 in the hope of seeing a remorseful tear.  After all, the man her daughters had killed was the man she had left her husband for in 2001.  Today though she looked straight forward and lean how you may the tears were not much in evidence.  Although as the single charge was read out to her she could be seen swallowing nervously.

It was all over in a little more than a minute.  The charge of obstructing an investigation by helping to clean up her home after the murder was read out and she quietly admitted her guilt.  She will not be remanded in custody to await her sentence on May 5th.

There have been a rush of guilty pleas lately.  For some reason things tend to work like that in the courts.  You might have a succession of acquittals or a flurry of not guilty by reason of insanity’s (actually there appears to be such a flurry ongoing at the moment).  I’ve never worked out whether it’s because the Director of Public Prosecution’s office tend to deal with similar cases in a bunch or whether it’s some weird cosmic thing.  I’d place money that it’s something completely prosaic though.

Guilty pleas are the worst though because from a reporting point of view it means that the case never gets a run.  While a summary of the evidence will be given at the sentencing you don’t here the details and the different view points that a full trial will give. I’m sure there are plenty out there that could come up with multiple reasons why the guilty plea is preferable but what can I say…I’m a writer.

So it looks like the rest of this week will be taken up with editing of the novel and various meetings that must be attended. Such is the life of a freelance!

Some are More Equal than Others

On Wednesday Sharon Collins and Essam Eid, the Clare housewife who tried to hire a hitman over the Internet and the Las Vegas poker dealer who conned her out of her money, were in court again to find out when they would face sentence.  As usual the photographers were out in force looking for a shot for the next day’s papers and as usual they came away empty handed.

There are always photographers down at the courts.  Along with those of us who write up the trials for the newspapers and broadcast media there are two agencies who cover the photographs on a daily basis.  Every person accused of a crime and every major witness will have their photo taken from outside the Court gates so that the many column inches will have their illustrations.

There’s a agreed procedure.  The snappers take up their positions outside the gates, photography not being allowed within the grounds of the court buildings.  Anyone taking the stand runs the gauntlet every morning and evening as well as coming too and from lunch time.  It’s not a pretty job.  People accused of a crime are not usually in the mood to have their picture taken but it’s the way of it and so it continues on the daily basis.

Unless it’s a high profile trial and there’s been a verdict.  While those whose case was not deemed interesting enough to hit the headlines are always photographed being led away in handcuffs, the same is not true of those whose trial and subsequent conviction has caused a press frenzy.

The likes of Joe O’Reilly, Brian Kearney or Sharon Collins are unlikely to appear on the front page being led across the judge’s yard at the back of the building with their hands shackled in front of them.

When a high profile felon appears before the judge they suddenly gain secret agent-like levels of stealth.  Instead of being led across the yard to the prison van in full view of the side gate of the Four Courts the prison services start a game of cat and mouse with the increasingly frustrated snappers.  There is an uncharacteristic ducking and diving and the prison van will draw up in a shielded corner beside the courts’ canteen away from any prying but excluded lens.

Now when I say high profile trials I mean those that cover the kind of violent middle class crime we have seen several examples of over the past year or so.  We’re talking the kind of conviction where the tabloids take great interest in what the guilty party’s first meal in gaol was or whether their lover visited them or not.  The kind of conviction where the accused’s state of mind when the prison door clangs shut behind them is of lip licking importance.

These are the cases where the prisoner suddenly has a right to privacy as they are led away to their cell.  Unless the snappers can grab a hurried shot of them through the window of the prison van the photo used on the front page will be file.

OK these prisoners are special cases simply because the public appetite has already been whetted by screeds and screeds of purple prose; the one’s that the likes of me write books about as the dust is settling.  But the photographs I’m talking about are the standard shots from a criminal trial.

Surely all prisoners have the same rights by law?  Either none should have their moment of shame snapped for posterity or all should be led past for their deserved close up.  Isn’t it just pandering to the celebrity status by avoiding this simple shot?

Sharon Collins is unlikely to be snapped in handcuffs, if he’s lucky her often ignored co-accused will receive the same treatment.  But the Las Vegas poker dealer never really had the requisite glamour for the Irish press so it’ll be interesting to see if he’s allowed to join this hallowed group.

It would be easy to think that to get the full consideration of your privacy, you must be convicted of killing, or plotting to kill, your nearest and dearest, preferably while living a comfortable life and taking an attractive family photograph.

The people who are given this special treatment have usually been convicted of horrendous, calculated crimes.  They are often arrogant to begin with and convinced of their own ability to evade the law.  Yet when a jury finds them guilty the same law they have shown so much contempt from protects them like celebrity bodyguards outside a glitzy nightclub, from being shown being led away to pay for their crime.

Someone who lives to regret killing in a moment of rage, or as the almost inevitable climax to a marginalised life, or because their mental illness made them take an unimaginable step are not given the same respect.  It really does seem that some are more equal than others.

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