Ronnie Dunbar’s women were all over the media today. Melissa Mahon, who the jury yesterday convicted him of killing, his daughters, Shirley, Samantha and their younger sister, whose testimony helped to convict him. The Herald carried an interview with the girl’s mother, Lisa Conroy, speaking of her life of hell with Ronnie from her home in London. She told the paper that she had met Ronnie when she was a vulnerable 15-year-old who looked to Ronnie as her “knight in shining armour”, ready to sweep her away from the care home she hated…an obviously mirroring of Melissa’s infatuation talked about at length during the trial.
Most of the papers also carried big pictures of Ruth Nooney, who gave evidence during the trial about some of Dunbar’s more bizarre beliefs – that he would become the king of a new world order. She spoke, apparently to anyone who would listen, about her reignited love for Ronnie and her wish to marry him so that they could be a family together with the child she had born him.
The coverage suggested a harem of damaged, vulnerable women, some of whom had survived, others who had remained under his spell. There was no doubt to anyone who sat through the court case that Dunbar is something of a control freak…the constant stream of notes he passed to his defence team were a constant reminder. The parade of women who appeared in the pages of this morning’s papers underline this further.
Dunbar wasn’t the only killer of a young girl to make the news today. Gerald Barry, who was convicted of the murder of Swiss student Manuela Riedo a couple of months ago, today pleaded guilty to the rape of a French student only two months before he took Manuela’s life.
Manuela and Melissa were two very different teenagers. 17-year-old Manuela was the only child of doting parents who had let travel without them for the first time in her life for that ill fated trip to Galway. Melissa, three years her junior, had lived more in her short life than Manuela ever had a chance to. The youngest of ten children, with parents who had a far more detached attitude to child rearing, she was on a rapid downward spiral for the last months of her life.
Yet despite the differences, obvious though they may be, both girls are now dead at the hands of predatory men. Barry is the kind of sex killer little girls are warned about the way children in more innocent times were threatened with the bogey man. Dunbar is a danger of a far more subtle kind. A man who could appear a knight in shining armour but who didn’t limit his relationship to the purely paternal. The jury found him guilty of manslaughter, unable to find the intent necessary for a murder conviction but satisfied he was responsible for Melissa’s death.
In fairly quick succession we have heard the tales of two young deaths. I hope it’s a long time before I have to cover another trial where the victim is so young, with so much life ahead of them.