As the prosecution nears it’s end the evidence tends to get rather bitty and difficult to categorise. This is the stage of the trial where all the loose ends are tied up and witness’s appear to show the continuity of the case or to back up previous bits of evidence.
We’ve had a day of quite a lot of that. But apart from that we heard the last of the interviews Ronnie Dunbar had with gardai. When I say we heard the interview, that’s not absolutely accurate. We hear the transcript or that interview that has been agreed between the prosecution and defence and cleared of all the extraneous material that can crop up in these kinds of interviews. The sort of stuff that has no relevance to the matter in hand.
This is why an interview we are told took three hours only takes moments to read. Apart from anything else a garda interview is a tedious thing to watch. It does happen. Every interview is recorded on video and the courts have screens where the video can be played. It’s only when you’ve sat through one of these interviews that you realise how long the process is in real life. Gardai, as we’re frequently reminded during the course of a trial, are not stenographers. Even so, one of them will have to take a written note of the interview. This slows things down considerably. The person being interviewed will be asked to repeat themselves, the interview will stop altogether to catch up with the cramping hand of the garda taking the note.
When the transcript is read in court however, it’s not the gardai that get the hand cramp, it’s the press. No matter how good your shorthand it’s never quite good enough for the speeds reached during this particular bit of evidence. Anyway, for the second day we heard the interviews Ronnie Dunbar had with gardai. Once again the defence focused on the fact that he had strenuously denied all the allegations. Once again the spectre of trial by media reared into view.
Detective Sergeant Paul Casey told defence counsel Brendan Grehan very firmly that he had other concerns when he was investigating a murder than what the press were writing. When he interviewed Dunbar, in April 2008, he asked him why he had given an interview to a local paper, The Sligo Weekender. Dunbar told him it was to put his side of the story. He said consistently through his questioning that he felt he had been made a scapegoat by gardai and by the national media.
“They named me as a prime suspect. They wanted to down me.” Det Sgt Kenny denied that the gardai had waited ten weeks to charge Dunbar to allow the media to break him. Mr Grehan put it to him that the gardai had hoped “he would top himself or that somebody else would top him or that the gardai were hoping he would just come in an admit it.” Det Sgt Kenny agreed that Dunbar had a “major grievance” but said this had not been gardai’s first concern as they were investigating the murder of a 14-year-old girl.
Ronnie Dunbar, also known as Ronald McManus denies the murder of Melissa Mahon and also threatening to kill his daughter Samantha on an unknown date in September 2006 in Sligo County.
Detective Inspector John O’Reilly denied that gardai had tipped off media about when Dunbar would be led across the street. He told Mr Grehan that the angry crowd of members of the public had not been anywhere near 100 strong but that he had considered the situation volatile enough to bring Dunbar the short journey by car rather than on foot. He said that there had been no gardai tip off to the press. They had simply known when Dunbar was arrested and what time the gardai would have had to arrest or charge him…something they would have found out from the Gardai Press Office not the detectives working on the case.
Tomorrow the prosecution case is expected to come a close. What happens next is anybody’s guess. We’ll just have to wait and see. But one thing is clear. This story is finally near to drawing to a close. By the end of next week we may have a conclusion.