The Unforgettable Fire

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From top: Irish Press cover the morning after the fire; eight of those who perished in the fire; Irish Examiner cover in May, 2016 in which former Garda Frank Mullen denied any involvement in the House of Horrors and the Howard fire.

On May 3, former garda Frank Mullen gave an interview to Irish Examiner journalist Michael Clifford.

On the following Sunday, May 8, Mr Clifford broadcast an interview with Mr Mullen, and his wife Ellen, on Newstalk.

The subject of both interviews was Cynthia Owen and allegations she has made against Mr Mullen, a founder of the Garda Representative Association and former chairman of Dalkey United football club.

Mrs Owen has alleged that she was prostituted by her parents to a group of local men, including three local gardaí, in the 1970s.

In January of this year, she posted on her Facebook page photographs of the surviving men alleged by her to have been involved in this abuse. These photographs included Mr Mullen.

Mr Mullen strenuously denied the allegations in both interviews.

But Mr Mullen also referred to a fire that took place at 8, Carysfort Avenue in Dalkey in the early hours of Monday, March 11, 1974.

The fire claimed the lives of news vendor Derek (41) and Stella Howard (37), who was pregnant, and 11 of their 13 children – Louise (19), Derek (17), Jackie (15), Margaret (13), Jimmy (11), Collette (9), Marcella (8), Ronald (7), Catherine (3), Victoria (2) and Alan (1).

Three members of the Howard family – Louise, 19; Colm, 14 and Anthony, 12 – initially survived the fire. Louise later died on March 18.

In the Irish Examiner article, Mr Mullen explained that, during a Garda interview in 2014, as part of a review of Ms Owen’s allegations, he was shown a list of allegations against him that “numbered over 100”.

This was the first time, he said, that he learned allegations had been made against him concerning the Howard fire.

Mr Mullen told Mr Clifford:

“I was told a document came into their possession. He [a garda] read it out about the disaster of the Howard family where 13 of them were burned to death in Dalkey. He said there was an allegation that me and others broke into the Howard family home, murdered some of them with a pick-axe handle, and burned the bodies. And that I drove one of those left alive around and tried to kill him.”

In the article, Mr Mullen says he didn’t hear any more as, after being notified of these allegations, he passed out. An ambulance was called, but he recovered without having to go to hospital. Later that year, he suffered a stroke.

In the Newstalk interview, Mr Mullen talked again about the first time he heard there were allegations against him concerning the fire.

Mr Mullen said:

“Out of the blue, they produced an envelope and they said, ‘we’ve one thing here to mention to you. It’s the Howard disaster’. And I didn’t know what they were going to say and they said that myself and others had broken into the Howard house and murdered these people and then set fire to destroy the evidence. I got such a shock that I passed out. I physically passed out that week. I couldn’t believe it and that was the first I’d ever heard about it. And I have heard nothing about it since except that it’s beyond belief that the Garda Siochana would have that sort of information and that I was never told about it. And, what more can I say?”

During the interview, Ellen Howard said this exchange with the gardai took place on July 17, 2014. She also said that Frank Mullen’s father and Derek Howard’s fathers were friends as they worked in the corporation together.

In the Irish Examiner article, Mr Clifford wrote that it was his understanding that the allegations against Mr Mullen in relation to the fire, were made to the gardai via Ms Owen.

Mr Clifford wrote:

“The Irish Examiner understands that the allegation originated with the surviving member of the Howard family, who has died in the last year. It was passed on to Cynthia Owen, who conveyed it to the gardaí.”

But, in contrast, Ms Owen’s solicitor Gerry Dunne told Mr Clifford:

“A number of years ago Anthony Howard made contact with our client through social media and informed her that he had been trying to get the Gardaí to deal with his allegations for some time without success. Extremely serious allegations were made by Mr Howard against Frank Mullen, which up until then our client was unaware of. Our client understands that when Anthony Howard attended a Memorial Mass in Dalkey for his family in 2014 he repeated his allegations to various people.

“Our client has also been informed by Gardaí in recent times that they were seeking to speak with Anthony Howard who had made it clear that he wanted some progress made on his allegations. Unfortunately, Anthony Howard has now died and our client does not know whether Gardaí are continuing to follow up on any of Mr Howard’s allegations.”

Mr Clifford’s article also summarised the cause of the fire as follows:

“The cause of the fire has always been regarded as accidental… The fire in March 1974 was regarded at the time as a tragic accident. Mr Howard was a newspaper vendor and one of the rooms of the house was understood to be full of newspapers. An oil heater in the house was believed to have been the source of the fire.”

The Howard family home at 8, Carysfort Avenue was a two-storey semi-detached house. On the ground floor were four rooms. There was a sitting room, at the front of the house, while the following three rooms were at the back of the house: a kitchen, a toilet and a separate bathroom.

The front room (sitting room) was separated from the other rooms by a hallway and, at one end of the hallway, was a short stairway. It also contained a three-piece PVC-covered suite which included a couch, upon which Louise slept.

The entrance to the house was through the hall door which was situated at the side of the house. The rear entrance, which originally led from the rear garden into the kitchen, had been closed off by cement concrete blocks in the doorway.

On the second floor were three bedrooms. The main bedroom had a double bed and a single bed; the second bedroom had a cot and bunk beds; while the third bedroom had two sets of bunk beds and one single bed. There was also a clothes press on the upstairs landing.

The four-sided sitting room downstairs had windows on two sides and walls on the other two sides. One of the walls had a fireplace while the other wall had a doorway which led to the hallway.

Following the fire at the home, Detective Garda Michael J Niland visited the house with Detective Garda Erril Meagher, who was an official photographer attached to the photographic section at Garda Technical Bureau.

Inquest papers into the Howard family deaths include a statement from Det Gda Niland in which he explained the following fire damage to the property.

He recorded:

Hall and hall door: There was some burning of the woodwork and blistering of the paintwork on the upper outside of the door. The wood of the inside of door was burned as was also the skirting boards and wood panels of the hallway. There was smoke blackening of the walls and ceiling, the ceiling plaster had cracked and fallen away in places. The front door lock, Yale type and the lock receiver were both still attached to the door and frame respectively. There was a key in the keyway of the lock but this key did not operate the lock.

Toilet, bathroom and kitchen: In these three rooms, fire damage was similar but slightly greater in the kitchen than the toilet and bathroom. It consisted mainly of smoke blackening on the walls and ceiling and some slight burning on the upper portion of the doors. In the kitchen, on the floor near the door, there was the body of a dead dog which bore no burning with the exception of slight singeing of the hair on the upper frontal portion of the head and muzzle.

Front room: In this room there was considerable fire damage. The door was burned away and only a small portion of it remained. The door frame was badly burned with a greater intensity of burning on the upper portion. The ceiling, plaster was completely detached from the ceiling and there was burning of the underside of the joists and floor boards of the room. This burning covered the greater portion of the ceiling area and was more intense in area over the centre of the room. At no point did the burning penetrate through the room above.

The window glass was shattered in both the large front window and small side window, and the greater portion of the aluminium of the front window was missing. The plaster of the walls was damaged by fire and in one area around the doorway, it had become completely detached and exposed the underlying concrete and brickwork. The floor was completely covered by a large amount of fire debris which included the remains of what appeared to be a bed settee. After clearing the debris from the floor I found that the floor boards had been burned through in an area under the remains of the bed settee and in approx. centre of the room. There was no electrical equipment in this area.

Stairs and landing: There was some burning on the stairs and on the landing. The banisters were badly burned.

Bedrooms on first floor: Fire damage was confined to smoke blackening of walls and ceiling and some burning and blistering of doors and door frames. It would appear that the fire started in the front room on the ground floor, at or near floor level in the area where the bed settee was situated. There was nothing present to indicate the cause of the fire or whether it was malicious or accidental.

A statement given by Det Gda Erill Meagher, the photographer, said:

“I took a number of photographs of the exterior and interior. I developed my negatives and made photographic enlargements which I placed in albums… I have the negatives in my possession and will produce them if required. I removed a box of burnt notes (currency) which I have in my possession.”

The inquest into the Howard family deaths heard that Mrs Howard had purchased a three-piece suite the previous September and that it was covered in PVC covering.

The couch of the three-piece suite was positioned under one of the windows in the sitting room and this was where Louise slept.

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The inquest papers include statements from Louise’s boyfriend Spencer Simmons and several neighbours who were present on the night of the fire.

These statements are as follows:

Mr Simmons told Sgt Edward Lynch that on Sunday, March 10, Louise called to his home on Castle Street, Dalkey at around 1.30pm. He said she had had a paper round to do and he helped her out.

Later that day, from around 3.15pm until 11.30pm, they watched television at his house but went out for about 10 minutes, at around 8pm, to call to Cash Stores On Patrick’s Road – to buy ice cream, orange and cigarettes.

He explained that, after Louise decided to go home at around 11.30pm:

“I accompanied her down by the Town Hall, through White’s Villas and parted with her opposite her home on Carysfort Road. We talked for a few minutes there on Carysfort Road and I parted company with her at 11.45pm. I noticed that her house was in complete darkness, like always that time of night. I know that the key was always left in the door for Derek and Louise.

“I returned to my house, got some ‘yogart’ in the kitchen and brought it to the bedroom. I looked at the clock in my bedroom and it was 11.59 exactly. At about 12.55am on 11th March 1974 my mother came into the bedroom and turned off the radio. I had dozed off but woke up while she was in the room.

“About two minutes after that I heard the door bell ringing, it was Patrick Taylor and Mrs Healy from St Patrick’s Road. Patrick Taylor enquired as to whether Louise was there but I told him that she had gone home an hour ago. He then told me that there was a fire at the Howards’ house.

“I got dressed and went down with my mother to the Howards’ house. When I got there I tried to enter the house but was held back by Tony Taylor. I remained in the vicinity of the fire for about half an hour and then went to St Michael’s Hospital with Tony Taylor. I learned from the matron that Louse was in St Michael’s Hospital and she was still alive. I remained in the hospital for about twenty minutes and returned to Dalkey and to the fire at Howards, whereupon I met Patrick Taylor and I went back to his house for tea. That is all I have to say. I don’t smoke but Louise smokes and the cigarettes purchased were for Louise.”

Another witness, Anita Harper, of 6, Carysfort Road, Dalkey, also gave a statement to Sgt Lynch. She explained that she had gone to bed at around midnight on March 10, 1974 and that, at 12.40am, she heard glass breaking and thought it was the windscreen of her mother’s car.

She said she had looked at her watch and that it was exactly 12.40am.

Ms Harper explained:

“I jumped out of bed and ran to my brother’s room which is at the front of the house. I pulled back the blinds and looked out on the road.”

“I saw flames reflected in the windscreen of a car and I instinctively knew it was Howards. I immediately ran into my fathers room and shouted to him and he jumped out of bed and shouted to me to ring the firebrigade quickly. I dialled 999 and gave them my telephone number and address and told them that there was a fire at No. 8 Carysfort Road and to come quickly as there were thirteen children in the house. At this stage everyone in our house had left. I went upstairs and put on some clothes and came down and went out on to the road.”

“My mother sent me in for my father’s glasses. I got them and gave them to Mammy. My sister Xavies was coming into the house so I brought her into the kitchen. My father returned them and he said that the firebrigade had not arrived and he asked me did I say Carysfort Road, Dalkey and I kept saying I did. I rang again and I was told that they were on their way.”

I kept asking him how long ago, but the phone just went dead. I had dialled 999 ten to fifteen minutes previously to this and I had expected them to arrive well within that time. I was in and out of the house all the time helping the neighbours. Before the breaking of the glass there was no sound of voices in the area. That is all I have to say.”

Anita’s father, William Harper, also gave a statement to Sgt Lynch in which he explained that he had gone to bed at 11.30pm when he was later woken up by his daughter Anita.

Mr Harper said:

“She said to me, ‘I think Howards’ house is on fire’. I asked her was she sure and she said she was. I looked out the window and saw the glow on the road. At this stage my other daughter Xavier had already gone down to Howards.”

“I got up and slipped on my trousers and cardigan and jacket and ran down. When I got there the flames were coming out the front window on the ground floor. I went around the side of the house to the front door. It was closed and locked.”

“I picked up a bale of briquettes and threw them at the door and tried to smash the top panel but without success. There was a Mr Farrell there from White’s Villas and together we succeeded in bursting in the door. As I looked in, the hallway was an inferno with smoke and flames so intense that it was impossible to get in.”

I shouted and shouted to arouse the residents but did not hear anything but the sound of burning. I came around to the side of the house and looked up at the bedroom windows to see if I could anyone but there was nobody near the windows.”

“As the firebrigade had not arrived at this stage I returned to my house and got my daughter to ring again. As I came back out again the firebrigade arrived.”

In her statement to Sgt Lynch, Anita’s sister Xavier told how Anita woke her up saying she heard glass breaking and thought there was someone trying to break into their car.

She said:

“I got up and dressed myself and went down to Howards house. When I got out to the road I met a neighbour Mrs [Florrie] Kelly of White’s Villas, and she asked me to ring for the firebrigade. I told her that my sister was on the phone. When I got down to the house I saw flames leaping from the ground floor window, the glass of which had broken at this stage.”

“I ran to the hall door and found it closed. I tried to push it in but it would not move. I put my first through one of the small panes of glass with the object of opening the catch on the door. Having broken a small pane of glass in the door I looked into the hallway and saw that it was completely engulfed in flames.”

“I could not find the catch, I did not know whether it was up or down. I ran out again and called my father to come. He came running into the front door and tried to break it down by banging a crate off it, but it just bounced off it. I looked up at the top windows from the footpath outside the front garden, and although the flames were not reaching up to them, they were all black and it was impossible to see anything.”

I did not hear any shouts or screens from inside. The house looked as if there was no sign of life in it. I just stood outside the house and shouted that if there was anyone there to jump out and we would help. At the same time my father was at the door, and with the help of another man they broke down the door.

“When they opened the door the flames came out to meet them, the flames seemed to come out of the sitting room and go up the stairs. The flames started to come out the window at the side of the house, which is part of the front bedroom. Very soon the flames reached the two front bedroom windows. That is all I have to say.”

In a statement to Detective Garda Francis Mullen, Mrs Florrie Kelly, of 1, Whites Villas, explained that she had gone to bed at 12.25am and was having a cigarette and cup of tea in bed at around 12.30am when she heard glass breaking. She got up, pulled back the curtains and could see the Howard family home was on fire.

She said:

“I heard glass breaking and I got up and pulled back the curtains. As I did this the entire room lit up. I saw that Howard’s house across the road was on fire.

When I say this I mean that there was a fire in the centre of the ground floor room. I put a jumper and skirt on and ran out of my house. I went across to Howards’ gate and Mrs Jacob who lives next door to Howards’ was standing at Howards’ gate. She asked me if anyone phoned for the fire brigade. I said no and ran to Harper’s. I met young [Anita] Harper in her own garden and she said: ‘I have already rang for the brigade.’

I ran back to Howards and as I was going in the footpath I heard Mrs Howard shouting: ‘Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Somebody help me’. There was a bang and the front window on the ground floor blew out and flames shot up to the top of the house. I then heard one choked moan and then there was silence. Mrs Jacob and I kept shouting: ‘Stella throw out the children’, but there was no response. Paddy Farrell then ran past us and said: ‘Is the children in there?’

“I said, ‘the small ones probably are’. Paddy then burst in the door but smoke and flames shot out on top of him and he vanished from our sight in the smoke, but a couple of seconds later he emerged coughing and I saw there was no hope of getting in.

“I want to say that all of this happened within a few minutes. The most time that could have elapsed between the time of my arrival and the time Paddy Farrell tried to get in the front door was 2 to 3 minutes. This statement has been read over to me and it is correct. I want to say that there was no delay in the arrival of the fire brigade.”

“It came within a few minutes of me arriving on the scene. I don’t know how long before that young Harper rang up. That is all I have to say.”

Marie Farrell, of 5, Whites Villas, Dalkey, Co. Dublin also gave a statement to Detective Garda Francis Mullen in which she said:

“I went to bed about half twelve last night. I was only in bed a couple of minutes when I heard glass breaking. I got up and looked out and saw flames shooting up from the lower front of Howard’s house. I called my husband, Paddy. We threw on a few clothes and ran over. Paddy tried to get in the front door but the flames were all over the house. He went in through the hall door, but the flames and smoke drove him back. There was absolutely nothing anyone could do then. This statement has been read over to me. It is correct, except to say that I did not hear any screams.”

Patrick Boylan, with an address at ‘Ashlem’, Convent Road only moved to Dalkey the previous November and did not know the Howards. He gave the following statement to Sergeant P McHugh, of Dalkey Garda Station:

“On Sunday, 10th March 1974, I went to 20, White’s Villas, Dalkey, where my mother-in-law Mrs Bryan resides. My wife and child were there before I arrived. We remained with my mother-in-law from until approximately 12.00am to 00.35am on 11th March 1974 when we left to go home.

“We walked from White’s Villas in the direction of Carysfort Road. When we came to about 50 yards from Carysfort Road I saw flames coming from the ground floor of No 8 Carysfort Road. There was a woman standing in White’s Villas and I asked her if there was anyone in the house and she replied ‘I think there are children inside’.

I asked her if anyone had entered the house and she said ‘they could not get in’. I ran towards the house and as I approached the gate leading to the house I saw three men outside it. I asked them if they had been inside the house and not having received a satisfactory reply I went around to the back of the house.

“I turned a bin and I climbed up on to a ledge over where the back door was originally. I kicked in the upstairs bedroom window on left hand side of the house standing from the rear. Having succeeded in breaking the window I climbed into the bedroom. There was a single bed directly beneath the window sill. I stood on this bed and I felt a bare mattress with my hands. There was no one in the bed and it was not burning.

“While standing on the bed I felt with my hands as far as I could reach and I felt two bunk beds on either side of the window. The beds were not on fire and there was no one in the beds. The room was thick with smoke, I had to keep my eyes closed and I could not see anything.

“After about one minute I became overcome by the smoke and I had to climb back on to the ledge. I then started shouting into the house if there was anyone inside but I received no reply of any kind. There was no signs of flames out of the rear of the house at this time.

“All the windows except the one which I broke, appeared to be closed tight and this was the only one from which smoke was coming.

Two to three minutes later I had come out of the house a Garda Sergeant came into the back garden as I could see his strips. I told him about the two bunk beds and the single bed which was empty. A fireman then came up a ladder beside the ledge where I was standing. He tried to enter the bedroom window but he could not due to smoke.

“A second fireman came up wearing a gasmask and he went inside. I got a lamp from the Sergeant [in the back garden] by this time and I shone it into the room and I saw that the beds were empty. The first fireman to come on the scene had a spray gun and he was spraying into the room at this time.

Having first felt the beds and then having put the lamp on the beds I got the impression that there was no one in the house and as the fire brigade were attending to the fire I decided to return to my wife who had got hysterical so I had to take her home.

“My hands were all black from climbing in and feeling the beds but my hands were not burned.

When I first entered the upstairs bedroom there was no intense heat, no sign of flames or sparks and therefore it is my opinion that the fire had not reached this room at the time I left, which would be about three minutes after the fireman had entered it.

“When I first approached the front of the house the window of the room at the front on the ground floor had flames coming out through it. This window was obviously broken at this time, I cannot remember having seen any signs of a fire coming from the upstairs windows at the front or rear.

As I was leaving I saw that there were firemen and I think a Garda trying to get in through the main entrance door which is at the rightside of the house. There was no person taken from the house during the time I was there. I did not know what family lived in the house as I only came to reside in Dalkey on 3rd November 1973. I have heard the above statement read over. It is correct and I have nothing to add to it.”

On March 20, William Kennedy, second officer of Dun Laoghaire Fire Brigade, gave the following statement:

“In response to a telephone call from Miss Anita Harper, at 12.41am on Monday 11th March 1974, the fire brigade was notified of a fire at 8, Carysfort Road, Dalkey. Two sections responded at 12.42am and arrived on the scene at 12.47am.

On arrival it was noted that the fire had got a firm hold on the building, the front window on the ground floor had blown out and flames were coming from this window and also from the windows of the main bedroom on the top floor.

“Residents in the area were of the opinion that the Howard family were in the house. Rescue and fire fighting operations were immediately commenced. Ladders were erected to the rear windows (bedroom and landing). The entire top section of the house was smoke logged with thick black smoke and the heat intense.

“Firemen wearing breathing apparatus, assisted by other firemen entered the rear back bedroom where on search, they found four children together in a corner behind a double bunk bed, and a young girl lying on the floor beside a bed.

“A search of the small front bedroom found an adult girl lying on the top section of a double bunk bed. She was unconscious. All six were removed to open air.

“Artificial respiration commenced and they were removed to St Michael Hospital where on admittance, three were found to be alive.

In searching the main bedroom nine bodies were found. Five children on various parts of the floor, a youth near a divan bed which was behind the door and a child on the window board. Mr and Mrs Howard both badly burned were found lying in the bed.

“I was present when the bodies were removed from the house, both to St Michael’s Hospital and St Vincent’s Hospital. There was an oil heater in the main bedroom, this had no effect on the issue. The fire originated in the front ground floor sitting room and spread rapidly throughout the building.”

On March 28, 1974, Superintendent MJ Hynes wrote a three-page letter to Dublin County Coroner Dr Bartley Sheehan in which he summarised the statements mentioned above – except that of Marie Farrell – and, in addition to those, that of Patrick Taylor (more below).

As well as those summaries, Supt Hynes wrote what Sgt Edward Lynch would say about the fire and also about where the members of the Howard family slept.

Readers will note that Supt Hynes’ summation doesn’t include details of where Derek Howard (17) and Colm Howard (14) were believed to have slept.

In the letter, Supt Hynes wrote:

“Sergeant [Edward] Lynch will also say that he arrived at the scene of the outbreak at 12.50am 11.3.1973 [sic] and saw flames coming from the ground floor window and rising to the roof of the house. He assisted in removing one of the children from a rear upstairs window. In his view the largest concentration of fire was in the front sitting room on ground floor. He will also describe the lay out of the house 8, Carysfort Rd.”

“So far as can be ascertained the Howard family slept as follows:

UPSTAIRS:

Back bedroom – bunk bed – Anthony (survivor) (11 yrs) [sic]

– Jimmy (deceased)

bunk bed – Ronald (deceased)

– Jackie (deceased)

Middle bedroom – Derek (Snr); Mrs Howard and baby Alan.

Front bedroom – Colette, Marcella, Catherine, Margaret and Victoria

Louise slept on a bedsetee in the sittingroom downstairs.

“Louise Howard (19) years was taken from the house and removed to St Michael’s Hospital on 11.3.1973 [sic] and on 13.3.1974 was transferred to Dr Steeven’s Hospital, Dublin where she died on 18.3.1974.”

“The body of Louise was identified at Dr Steevans Hospital on 19.3.1974 by D/Garda Francis Mullen, Dun Laoghaire, who knew her personall [sic] and he in turn identified the remains to Dr Nicholas Jaswan of Dr Steevan’s Hospital.”

“The house 8, Carysfort Rd, was technically examined by members form Garda Technical Bureau and a report from Department is attached.”

“So far as can be ascertained it is believed that the fire originated in the sitting-room on ground floor and spread to the hallway and from there to the upper portion of the house. When the windows on ground floor burst the flames shot out and upwards and engulfed the upper part as well.

“The entire house was a raging inferno and enveloped in heavy smoke. Every possible effort was made by members of the Dun Laoghaire Fire Brigade; Gardai and neighbours to effect rescue of the occupants but their efforts were beaten back by the intensity of the heat and flames. Only two members of the entire household viz. Anthony aged 12 years and Colm, 14 years survived this outbreak. These two boys are still detained at Dr Steeven’s Hospital.

Inspector Gilgan spoke to Anthony on 14.3.73 but the boy has no recollection of the matter and the only help he could give the Inspector was to outline the sleeping accommodation as shown above. The other survivor Colm is still too ill to be interviewed by police.”

In regards to Supt Hynes saying that Sgt Lynch assisted in removing one of the children from a rear upstairs window, it’s unclear which child Sgt Lynch assisted.

Nor is it clear how each Howard family member was taken to hospital.

However, it’s clear ambulances and a Garda patrol car were used to take the Howard family members to either St Michael’s Hospital, Dun Laoghaire or St Vincent’s Hospital, Elm Park, Dublin.

It was reported, a day after the fire, that the three surviving members of the Howard family – Louise, 19; Colm, 14; and Anthony, 12 – were still in a critical condition in St Michael’s Hospital, Dun Laoghaire.

It was also reported that Louise, Colm and Anthony were rescued by firemen using ladders and that they were taken out a back bedroom window of the house.

The inquest papers include a letter, dated March 11, 1974, from Sgt Edward Lynch, of Dalkey Garda Station, addressed to Dublin County Coroner Dr Bartley Sheehan, which states:

“Dear Sir

“Tragedy at 8 Carysfort Road, Dalkey, Co. Dublin. Derek Howard 41 years R.C. a newsvender, his wife Marcella 37 years R.C. and ten children between the ages of 17 years and 1 year dead.”

“At 12.41am, on 11.3.1974 a phone call was received at Dunlaoire [sic] Fire Brigade from Anita Harper, 6 Carysfort Road, Dalkey, Co. Dublin that no.8 Carysfort Road, Dalkey was on fire. The firebrigade turned out under Mr William Kennedy, and arrived at the scene a short time later. Gardai from Dunlaoire [sic] and Dalkey arrived also and saw flames coming from the front window on the ground floor, and from an upstairs window on the gable end of the house.”

“The Howard family totally [sic] 15 in all, the parents and 13 children. All 15 were removed by firebrigade personnel from the house. They were removed by ambulance and a patrol car to St Michael’s Hospital and St Vincent’s Hospital, Elm Park. Six were brought to St Michael’s Hospital and nine to St Vincent’s Hospital. All the family are dead with the exception of Louise aged 19 years, Colm aged 14 years, and Anthony aged 12 years, who are at present in St Michael’s Hospital.”

“Identification of the bodies will be carried out later on this date. A further report will follow when enquiries have been completed. Your further instructions are awaited, please.”

Readers will note that Sgt Lynch stated all 15 members of the Howard family were removed from the fire by ambulance and a patrol car to St Michael’s Hospital and St Vincent’s Hospital, Elm Park.

Reference to a Garda patrol car being used to bring a member or members of the Howard family to either St Michael’s or St Vincent’s hospital was made again in a letter sent from Sgt D.H. Doherty, from ‘A’ District, Kilmainham Station to Dublin City Coroner Dr PJ Bofin, in which Sgt Doherty informed the city coroner of Louise’s death on March 18 at Dr Steeven’s Hospital.

The same letter was copied and sent to the County Coroner Dr Bartley Sheehan.

The letter states:

“At 6.30pm on the 18th March, 1974 a telephone call was received at Kilmainham Station from Dr Daly, Dr Steeven’s hospital to the effect that Miss Louise Howard, 8, Careysford Road, Dalkey, Co. Dublin had died there at 3.30pm on the 18th March, 1974. She had been transferred to Dr Steeven’s hospital on the 13th March, 1974 from St Michael’s hospital, Dunlaoire [sic] with bad burns to her body.”

“Sergt Denis Doherty, Kilmainham Station made enquiries and interviewed Garda Thomas O’Keefe, Dalkey Station, who informed the member that at 12.41am on the 11th March, 1974 that a telephone call was received at Dunlaoire [sic] Fire Brigade Station from Anita Harper, 6, Careysford Road, Dalkey that no 8, Careysford Road was on fire.

“The firebrigade under the command of Mr William Kennedy, chief fire officer, turned out and arrived shortly afterwards. Gardai from Dunlaoire and Dalkey stations arrived also, and saw flames coming from the front ground floor window and the side of the house. The whole family total 15 in all, two parents and thirteen children were removed by the D.F.A. and Garda patrol car to St Michael’s hospital, Dunlaoire and St Vincents, Elm Park, Dublin. All were dead except Louise, aged 19 years, Colm 14 years and Anthony 12 years.”

“At 8.45pm on the 18th March, 1974, Garda Thomas O’Keefe, Dalkey Garda Station identified the remains of Louise Howard, 19 years, R.C. shop assistant at the mortuary attached to Dr Steeven’s hospital to Sergt Denis Doherty, Kilmainham Station as that of the deceased Louise Howard, 8, Careysford Road, Dalkey, Co. Dublin. He knew the deceased personally for years.”

“The death of the other members of this tragic family has been reported to the Country Coroner, Dr Bartley Sheehan, 24, Summerhill Road, Dunlaoire, Co. Dublin. I respectfully await your instructions in the matter please.”

In another undated but signed statement by Sgt Lynch, which must have been made subsequent to the death of Louise on March 18 as it referenced her passing, Sgt Lynch again referred to the removal of the Howard family members from the home.

He also told how the remains of 10 Howard family members were identified to him by Patrick Taylor, aged 18, who lived at 21 White’s Villas, Dalkey, and who was friends with the Howard family. His brother Liam was godfather to Alan Howard, aged one.

In his statement, Sgt Lynch said Mr Taylor identified the remains of three Howard family members at St Michael’s Hospital in Dunlaoghaire (Jackie, 15; Jimmy, 11; Marcella, 8) and the remains of seven Howard family members at St Vincent’s Hospital (Derek Snr, 41; Marcella, 37; Derek Jnr, 17; Margaret, 13; Colette, 9; Ronald, 7; and Alan, 1).

He stated:

“At 12.45am approximately on Monday 11th March 1974, I was on duty at Ardeevan Road, Dalkey when I heard the sound of a siren. I was accompanied by Garda James Vincent Farrell, 18064E. We returned immediately to Dalkey Station, where I was informed by Garda Michael Troy, 17791A, that the fire brigade had turned out to a fire at 8 Carysfort Road, Dalkey. I went immediately to the scene accompanied by Garda Farrell arriving there at approximately 12.50am.”

“I observed one section of Dun Laoghaire fire brigade on duty under Mr William Kennedy. I saw flames leaping up from the front ground floor window and reaching the roof. The glass in this window was broken. There were a number of civilians on the road at the front of the house. I went to the rear of No.8 and saw a fireman standing on a ladder playing a hose through the upstairs window on the right. I saw a man whom I now know to be Patrick Boylan, ‘Ashlem’, Convent Road, Dalkey, standing on the roof of an extension to the left of the rear bedroom. The glass of this bedroom window was broken.”

“I then went around to the front of the house and asked a fireman for a ladder to put against the rear window. I helped the fireman bring the ladder to this window and held while a fireman with a breathing apparatus entered this bedroom. I handed up two lamps to the fireman, who were now in the bedroom. After a short period the fireman brought a child to the window. They handed the child out to me and I brought it down the ladder and around to the front of the house and placed it on a blanket on the footpath.”

“A member of the fire brigade started artificial resperation on this child. During the next few minutes five more members of the Howard family were removed from the house, all these were brought to St Michael’s Hospital, Dun Laoghaire.”

About twenty minutes after my arrival the flames had been extinguished, but it was not possible to enter the house for a further twenty minutes. Rescue operations were continued and the remaining nine members of the Howard family were removed from the house to St Vincent’s Hospital, Elm Park by ambulance.”

“The search was continued in the house for another half an hour and all it revealed was the family dog, dead in the kitchen. An official of the Gas Company Mr Christopher O’Rourke arrived and disconnected the gas supply. The ESB supply was disconnected by Mr Michael McAuley. There appeared to be a greater concentration of fire in the sitting room which then travelled up through the remainder of the house.”

“…The weather at the time of the fire was dry. There was a strong east wind blowing and it was cold.”

“Garda Vincent Farrell, 18064E Dalkey Garda Station was placed on duty at the entrance to the house with instructions not to allow any unauthorised persons to enter.”

“On Monday 11 March 1974 at 11.15am St Michael’s Hospital, Dunlaoghaire, Patrick Taylor, 21 White’s Villas, Dalkey identified the remains of Jackie Howard, 15 years, Jimmy Howard, 11 years and Marcella Howard, 8 years, to me.”

“As each identification was made to me I attached a label to that body bearing the name and age of the deceased on it. I later identified each of the remains to Dr O’Connor, pathologist.”

“At St Vincent’s Hospital, Elm Park at 12 noon on 11th March 1974 Patrick Taylor identified to me the remains of Derek Howard, Senior, 41 years, the remains of his wife Marcella 37 years, Derek Howard Junior 17 years, Margaret Howard 13 years, Colette Howard, 9 years, Ronald Howard, 7 years and Alan Howard, 1 year. As each identification was made to me I attached a label to that body with the name and age of the deceased on it. I later identified each of the deceased to Dr Towers, pathologist.”

However, although the statement above says Mr Taylor identified 10 members of the Howard family to Sgt Lynch – in a statement given to Sgt Lynch, Mr Taylor said he identified all 12 members of the Howard family who initially died in the fire to Sgt Lynch, not 10.

The two extra family members whom Mr Taylor identified to Sgt Lynch – but whom Sgt Lynch may have forgotten in his statement – were Catherine, 3; and Victoria, 2.

In his statement, Mr Taylor said:

“I went to bed around 12 midnight on 10th March 1974, I was reading for about half an hour before turning off the light. I was still awake when I heard the sirens of the firebrigade about ten minutes later.”

“I got up and looked out the window, and saw a lot of smoke coming from the direction of Carysfort Road. I got dressed and ran down the road. When I arrived the ambulance was just arriving at about 12.50am. I knew all the Howards personally. I went to school with Derek and Louise, but I used to call into the house frequently.”

“My brother Liam was godfather to Alan Howard, 1 year old. Shortly after I arrived at Howards, members of the fire brigade brought five children out from Howards, and put them in the waiting ambulance.”

“I am a member of the Irish Red Cross. I got into the ambulance and accompanied it to St Michael’s Hospital [in the inquest, Mr Taylor said there were five members of the Howard family in the ambulance he travelled in, including Louise Howard. He and a fireman worked on resuscitating two members of the family each while Louise lay on the floor as she was breaking on her own at this point]. On the way I administered mouth to mouth resustitation to Jimmy Howard. There was no breathing or pulse present. I partially succeeded in bringing him around, but he vomited, and I had to let him go for a couple of seconds. I then made another attempt to revive him but to no avail.”

“On arrival at St Michael’s Hospital there was no sign of life present in Jimmy as far as I could see. I helped to remove the children from the ambulance into the casualty ward. I stayed around and helped remove the dead to the morgue and helped as best I could with the rest of the patients.”

“I remained in the hospital until about 3.30am and was then advised by the doctor to go home and get some rest. I later returned to St Michael’s Hospital at 11.30am on 11th March 1974 and identified the remains of Jackie, Jimmy and Marcella Howard to Sergeant Edward P Lynch of Dalkey Garda Station. I then accompanied Sergeant Edward P Lynch to St Vincent’s Hospital, Elm Park, where I identified the remains of Derek Howard, senior, Mrs Marcella Howard, Derek Howard Junior, Margaret Howard, Colette Howard, Ronald Howard, Catherine Howard, Victoria Howard and Alan Howard to him. That is all I have to say.”

Readers may recall the aforementioned statement of Florrie Kelly in which she said she heard Mrs Howard shouting: ‘Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Somebody help me’ and the aforementioned statement of Marie Farrell – to Det Gda Francis Mullen – in which she specifically said: “This statement has been read over to me. It is correct, except to say that I did not hear any screams.”

In the first newspapers reports of the fire at the Howard family home, it was reported that several neighbours heard Stella Howard and several children screaming for help.

From some of these reports on March 11, 1974:

“Fireman wearing breathing apparatus, were still carrying out the bodies over half an hour after the bang of bursting plate glass windows had awakened neighbours. A number of men broke down the front door, but were beaten back by the flames and belching smoke which enveloped the entire area. Neighbours told of the screams of the mother and children as the flamed raged through the house.”

“The fire was first noticed between 12.30 and 12.45am and spread rapidly through the two-storey house, which was completely destroyed. Firemen at the scene were unable to pinpoint the cause, but it appeared to have ripped through the house at a tremendous speed, giving the occupants little chance of escape.”

Mrs Florrie Kelly, of White’s Villas, which is opposite the ill-fated house, was one of the first to reach the blazing house. “When I ran over to the house,” she sobbed, “Mrs Howard shouted: ‘Somebody help, somebody help’. She was in the top bedroom.”

“Patrick Fallon…was one of the men who kicked in the bolted front door. “There was nothing anyone could do at that stage,” he said. “The downstairs part of the house was in flames. We just could not get in.”

A next door neighbour Mrs Knight said: ‘The children were screaming in the blazing house when I ran out to help. There was nothing I could do. I ran in my bare feet to the Garda station up the road. It was appalling’.

“Another neighbour, Miss Quinn described to me hearing an explosion around 1am. She ran out and saw the 3-bedroom house, No.8, explode in flames. She tried to get into the house but was prevented by the smoke and heat.”

The mother, Mrs Stella Howard, who is expecting a child, appeared at the top window but despite appeals to drop the children out to neighbours who had gathered around, she became hysterical and refused to do so.”

In addition, there were further reports in which a then 23-year-old neighbour, named as Mrs Maria Harvey, was quoted as saying: “The whole family disappeared in front of my eyes. They didn’t have a hope.”

It was further reported that another neighbour described how she had seen the mother screaming for help at an upstairs window “with a whole load of children gathered around her”.

Despite these claims, from some named and some unnamed neighbours – that Stella and some of the children were seen and heard screaming for help – it was reported the following day, on March 12:

Neighbours were mystified as to why the family did not evacuate the house through the windows, but a Garda spokesman said it was possible that they were sleeping and overcome by fumes before they had a chance to do so.”

“A spokesman for Weatherglaze Ltd, who recently installed new windows in the house, said that the windows were not double-glazed. They were the same as ordinary glass, although they had aluminium frames. The windows were very easy to break, he said.”

The inquest papers include a deposition from Michael P Murphy, then chief fire officer at Dun Laoghaire Fire Brigade, in which he said:

It was not possible to ascertain the cause of the fire on March 11, 1974 at 8 Carysfort Road, Dalkey. The fire originated in the living-room on the ground floor at the front of the house. The fire spread very rapidly aided by the furnishings which included a dining room suite and a PVC (polyvinylchoride) covered polyurethane foam padded three piece suite with PVC covered polyurethane foam cushions.”

“Foamed plastics are easily ignited, burn very rapidly, and produce thick black smoke at very high temperatures. Polyurethane foam has a combustion heat of between 40,000 and 50,000 BTU’s per cubic foot of 4lbs foam.”

“This is the same amount of heat as is generated by 12 electric radiant bar heaters switched on for one hour. It must be remembered that this amount of polyurethane burns in minutes. Many cubic feed of this material could be involved. An indication of the rapidity at which polyurethane foam burns and the temperatures reached can be guaged from the fact that during a test fire using this foam a temperature of 650 [degrees celsius] was reached in 30 seconds with an ultimate temperature in the region of 1200 degrees centigrade.”

“These superheated gases spread upstairs while the family were asleep. The door of the main bedroom was open and these gases quickly ignited materials in this room. All smoke from plastics and man made fibres contain higher percentages of carbon monoxide, than do wool or cotton. Hydrogen cyanide is also produced.”

The inquest papers also include a statement by Mrs Patricia Smiley, ‘Carraig’, Carysfort Road, Dalkey, in which she stated:

“On the night of the fire at the Howard residence we arrived at the scene along with the ambulances. Some time was spent having a car removed from the footway opposite the hydrant marker on the assumption that the hydrant was under the car.”

“Later the hydrant was found further down the footpath. The fireman who went to work the hydrant appeared to have difficulty in getting it to operate, there appeared to be some problem with the standpipe. He abandoned it and water was obtained from the end of the road. Later this hydrant was put into operation. While this was going on, one single small hose was played on to an upstairs room of the Howard home. It did not appear to make any impression on the fire.

Mrs Smiley appeared at the inquest and was questioned by a Mr Leech, a law agent from Dun Laoghaire Corporation.

The inquest papers note that Mr Leech went over evidence of various people and then summed up by pointing out to Mrs Smiley that it was given in evidence that the water from the fire tenders was sufficient to put out the fire and that the water from the hydrant was only used later to dampen down the fire, and that, as Mrs Smiley had not arrived at the scene of the fire until 1.05am, she was not in a position to know what had happened from 12.47am until 1.05am, by which time the fire was out.

Mrs Smiley said she was only saying what she saw when she arrived, that her husband was a civil engineer and understood the difficulty firemen were having in trying to undo the lid of the water hydrant.

At this point, the Coroner Dr Bartley J Sheehan pronounced his admiration for Mrs Smiley in coming at that late stage to give her evidence and said it took courage to say what she had seen and what she felt to be the truth.

The cause of death for each member of the Howard family who died was recorded as carbon monoxide poisoning, while Louise died of “renal failure and pneumonia, following burning” and Margaret died of carbon monoxide poisoning “and burns”.

The inquest also made the following recommendations:

1.That the use of Polyurethane in furniture should be controlled and that warnings should be given to the public of the potential dangers of this material now in use.

2. Dun Laoghaire ambulance should be available at all times with trained personnel, regardless of the needs of the fire services.

3. Hydrants identification should be more readily available, perhaps with identification discs on walls or pavement in some permanent form to withstand vandalism.

After the fire took place in the early hours of March 11, 1974, the remains of the 12 deceased members of the Howard family were emoved from St Vincent’s Hospital, Elm Park and St Michael’s Hospital, Dun Laoghaire to the Church of the Assumption in Dalkey at 5.30pm on March 12.

The funeral took place after 11am mass on March 13 to Dean’s Grange Cemetery – and it was described as the largest funeral to take place in the cemetery’s 109-year history.

On the day of the funeral, Louise, Colm and Anthony Howard were moved from St Michael’s Hospital in Dun Laoghaire to Dr Steeven’s Hospital in Dublin, which has an intensive care unit to deal specially with fire victims.

The following day, March 15, 1974, a new Dalkey Community Council set up a trust fund to help the survivors of the fire at the Howard family home…

screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-04-14-16

Irish Independent, March 21, 1974

At the meeting to mark the formation of the new community council, Dr Michael Woods spoke while President Erskine Childers also attended.

On March 17, 1974, an article, by Declan White in the Irish Independent and headlined, “Where were the ambulances?” addressed the fact that there were no fire brigade ambulances from Dun Laoghaire able to attend the Howard fire.

It stated:

“Each night firemen are rostered to go on the first appliances and others for the second. But some firemen are rostered for ambulance and fire brigade service. If there is a fire they must go out on the appliance, leaving the ambulance sitting idle. That is what happened last Monday morning [morning of Howard fire].”

A timeline of events on the night is also reported as being:

10.35pm: Derek (Jnr) last seen by friends.

11.45pm: Louise seen home by boyfriend.

11.47pm: (Approx) Neighbours hear front window blown out.

12.40am: Dun Laoghaire Fire Brigade alerted.

12.45am: (Approx) Appliances arrive.

12.48am: Brigade at scene call for ambulances.

12.52am: Stillorgan ambulances contacted.

1.03am: Fire ambulance arrives at scene.

1.09am: (Approx) First victims rushed to hospital.

1.10am:
Dublin Fire Brigade asked for three ambulances.

1.16am: Call for more Stillorgan ambulances.

1.18am:
Two Dublin ambulances, from Dolphin’s Barn and Rathmines – are on way.

1.28am: Second Stillorgan ambulance arrives.

1.29am: Third Stillorgan ambulance arrives.

Anthony Howard was not released from hospital until June 19, 1974, after which he went to live with an aunt and uncle in Sallynoggin. It was reported at the time that Colm Howard would not be released for another month.

On January 7, 1975, it was reported that Brian Quinn, editor of the Evening Herald, presented a cheque for £1,028 – from donations from readers of the Evening Herald – to Mr W Willoughby, Cathaoirleach of Dun Laoghaire Borough Council “to be used for the benefit of the survivors of the Howard family.”

It’s further stated that, “Mr Willoughby said the money would be used towards the arrears on the purchase price of their home.”

Two months later, on March 11,1975, it was reported:

“In a statement issued by Mr. Peter Northover, chairman of Dalkey Community Council, thanks is expressed to all the local and foreign organisations, individuals and firms who subscribed to the Howard Fund, organised by the council.

“By a strange coincidence, the council was in the process of being formed when the fire wiped out most of the Howard family and the appeal we launched was most magnificently answered,” Mr Northover said.

“The fund now stands at £11,500, even though many sums have been expended on behalf of the surviving members of the family, Colm and Anthony,” he said.

colm

 

On the same day, it was also reported that Colm Howard was in hospital recovering from being knocked down in a hit and run accident by a car in Sallynoggin some days previous.

Two years later, on October 29, 1977, it was reported that the remains of the Howard home were up for sale and to be auctioned on November 16.

The report stated:

“The two children who survived, Colm, who is now 17, and Anthony (15) are understood to have made a full recovery from their injuries. They will benefit from the sale of the family home through a trust fund. The house, a three-bedroomed semi-detached, is being sold by the auctioneers Neville and Son, of Sandycove, as fire-damaged with good potential. It has been unoccupied since the fire over three and a half years ago.”

On Monday, August 23, 2010, Anthony Howard gave a taped interview to a writer in London in which he claimed the fire arose as a result of a row over money between Mr Howard and a number of named local men.

The interview was never published but obtained by Cynthia Owen’s legal team and sent to Dun Laoghaire Garda Station.

Anthony stated the following when he recalled the morning of Sunday, March 10, 1974 (the fire took place in the early hours of Monday, March 11, 1974) when he got up at 6am to do his newspaper round and went to leave the house:

“I went back into my father and said ‘someone’s left these two big bunches of flowers outside the door’, and he walked out, and went pale, and said ‘come here, come back, go back up to bed, we won’t go doing the papers’. I said, ‘I couldn’t, I wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep’. He said, ‘well, don’t wake anyone else up’.”

Anthony explained that even though customers started calling the Howards at around 10am – to enquire about their missing newspaper – Mr Howard firmly told his children that the newspapers wouldn’t be delivered until noon.

Anthony said around six weeks before the fire, three men had approached Mr Howard asking if they could become partners in the newspaper delivery business. He recalled:

“On the weekend my father was being very nervous and he sat us down and asked us about letting the [three] men become partners [in their newspaper delivery business]…My father said they wanted to get half the profit and that was it…We said, ‘no, it’s daylight robbery, we’re not doing it’. My mother was on my father’s side but all the kids said ‘no’. If my father was honest with us and said ‘they’re terrible people’, we’d have said okay…but he didn’t want us to know he was afraid. As fathers do with their children.”

In relation to the night of the fire, Anthony explained that there were three men in the house that night. He said:

“Derek came in and Louise came in, and that’s when all hell broke loose. Louise was the eldest daughter. We thought my dad was dead, we heard and most of us saw, he was hit on the head with a pickaxe handle and was on the floor. My mother said ‘break all the lights’ – we smashed all the lights upstairs so the men couldn’t see.”

“When my mother started saying ‘break the lights, break al the bulbs’, I knew it was something very, very serious going on. They must have had a plan set up, some kind of arrangement where she had all the kids in her room, all the young kids were in with my mother. Margaret and myself, Marcella wasn’t there. It was just me and Margaret in the girls’ room.”

“We heard Louise come in, the door opening. She’d been on a night out with her boyfriend. Derek came in before her, he got knocked out as he came in the door after hanging his coat up. Also there was a dog in the house called Lassie who used to bark if you went anywhere in the house, he was found in the kitchen dead [after the fire]. I think Derek was in the kitchen, but I wasn’t told where the body was found. The dog didn’t bark.”

“I heard a scream when Derek was hit. Then I heard a voice say ‘hit him again’ [with the pickaxe handle]. ‘Make sure he’s done’. Then, of course, my father, when Louise came in 15 minutes later, my dad had already been hit, we thought he was dead, but when Louise came in he got a burst of energy from somewhere to protect his child, and he attacked them again and he told Louise to run upstairs and hide.”

“That’s when she came upstairs with us. She was with me and Collie. We ended up in a corner of the bedroom. When eventually they left, when they got out, I jumped out the window. I said ‘I’m getting out of here’. I used to jump out the window all the time, I thought they’d [siblings] come behind me. But Collie couldn’t, I didn’t realise, his legs were all burnt. They were stuck together as he was kneeling down. In the hospital they said he’d never walked again, he had skin grafts.”

When asked if the fire had already started by the time Louise went upstairs, Anthony said:

“Yes. I don’t think, I’m not sure, I don’t think they intended to kills us. They intended to kill my father, yes, I think it got out of hand.”

When asked about the three men he claimed were in the house that night – and if he had seen all three of them beating up his father – Anthony said:

“It was Frank Mullen…another Garda and a man I don’t know the name of. When they came up the stairs I don’t know how they kept my mother in her room…the third man, his hands were burnt because he held the knocker on the door. That’s how he burned his hands so badly. And tMullen and the other Garda were actually blocking the window – that’s where we would have jumped out of – that’s what our plan was, but they were standing there. We did make some attempts but they were two big men and we were only kids, we didn’t stand a chance.”

Anthony claimed that, at one point shortly after the fire, a police officer told him the names of the three men who were purportedly in the house on the night of the fire but that he quickly forgot the names.

He said, from the age of 12 and after he left the hospital, he kept calling Dalkey Police Station to get the names again but they wouldn’t tell him. He said:

“There were three men who came into the house – Frank Mullen, another police officer, and this other guy. The police officer gave me the names but only once and I can’t remember, I kept asking and she said it’s not important, but it’s important to me…I said I’d like to go down and shake his hand…I had tried for years and I didn’t want to push my luck.

I phoned Dalkey police station almost from when I left hospital at the age of 12 and they kept saying no, they didn’t give out that information.”

According to Anthony, he was taken to hospital in Frank Mullen’s car.

He said:

“All I was thinking was how am I going to talk this man out of not killing me? That was my main thing and I knew I could talk him round. I said there’s a picture of you putting me in the car. I said how are you going to explain me being found up here in the middle of nowhere, and he didn’t answer me. He was talking to himself, saying ‘what am I going to to with this bastard’. When I knew he was indecisive I decided to take the bull by the horns. I said if you do it you’re going to have to answer for it, loads of people seen you taking me.”

“First of all he drove to Dun Laoghaire, St Michael’s hospital, then drove back off again, then drove round again for a long time. I was in tremendous pain. I couldn’t describe the pain to you. Pour a bit of scalding water on your hand and just think about that a hundred times more painful and you’ll have a little idea of the pain. But he saved my life in a sense.”

“I wasn’t taken to hospital in an ambulance…you’d have thought I’d have been taken in the ambulance first. I was thrown in the back of Frank Mullen’s car and taken for a drive. When I was in the car he kept on talking to himself saying ‘where am I gonna dump this guy?’… he was thinking of getting rid of me. I said to him if you do that you’re gonna be in terrible trouble because everybody has seen you throw me in the back of the car.”

“He claimed he caught me running from the house and was blaming me for starting the fire…but people all knew me and said ‘no that’s one of the Howards’ everybody knew everybody. I said there’s no way you can get away with throwing me somewhere up the mountains…I was lying down and burned. He drove me to St Michael’s hospital and pulled away again. Then he pulled back in again and this time I seen a man pushing a trolley in a white coat…I started screaming – he pulled me out of the car and when he pulled me my skin stuck to the car. My body [impression of my body] was left in the car. The pain was terrible. You couldn’t imagine ..then he just went off..your man took me out of the car because I broke the window, then I fainted with the pain..he realised I was burnt. I’d been stuck to the seat with the heat coming off me.”

When asked what, if any explanation, the three men gave to the authorities about being at the Howard home on the night of the fire, Anthony said:

“They didn’t give any explanation at all. Mullen and your man said they were looking in the window but couldn’t see in as there was too much smoke, they said they arrived early and went around the back of the house… If they were round the back of the house, why? Others were round the front trying to kick in the front door. The fire was in the front room…all these people should have known to go round the back.”

“When I went back to the house after leaving hospital the floor was perfect, the back bedroom, nothing, bit of smoke but that was about it.”

According to Anthony, Mr Howard had around £2,000 in a floor safe which had to be opened with a key.

In addition, when asked how the fire started, Anthony said:

“I’ve never been told, except it was a cigarette. That’s the rumour. It was also said it was a knocked out oil lamp…but no, it wasn’t petrol, it wasn’t inflammatory – it (the lamp) was encased in steel so even if it did fall over it wouldn’t have lit – or it was said it was a bit of coal that came out the fire. Somebody snapped a picture through the window and you can actually see the fire grate still round the fire…everyone was looking for excuses, but it couldn’t have been this…”

“The coroner, I swear to God when I read it (the inquest report) and came back I was so depressed I lay in bed for 8 months, I was crying. I said to myself a six-year-old child could have done better. He didn’t send anyone to collect the box. It also contained a bank book containing £6,800 from 1961….some woman in 1980 went in with my mother’s birth certificate and emptied the bank account. (it came from her family, a tea house at Killiney beach…I think she was going to give money to Louise when she got married). We didn’t need the money when the paper round started being successful. When they went decimal it benefited the business, we got three times more money…(he gives an explanation of how the profits rose).”

Anthony claimed:

“I went to the police, and they said there’s nothing we can do. Since I was 14 I’ve been trying to do this. All the time I was hitting a brick wall. The doctors (in hospital) started giving me morphine, so once I started taking morphine that was a slippery slope, I didn’t care then. I just got home and lay down. Then I got a job on the ships to stop it. I said I have to stop this. BNR, then Irish Shipping, I went abroad. But all the time doctors gave me morphine, I remember being given it even at the age of 26.”

“That’s the time when I found out about the money being gone. The house was sold at auction. I don’t know how they sold it. My signature was forged. My mother’s bank book, someone emptied it, they had the original book – they told me this in Galway, but they waited a long time…they held it back until about three years before my 21st. £6,800 with interest it would have been a lot of money… the interest she had accumulated in the back. My father had money in the back and all I got was £2000 of it….”

In addition:

“The people of Dalkey collected £12,000, me and Collie and my aunty Alice went to Allied Irish Bank and were told it was being put in a trust fund.. I said I don’t want to lose the money – can you put it in an account and we’ll take the interest, he (the man in the bank) said it’s not possible. Then when I became 21 all I got was £2,900… the man said I bloody lost it, get the ‘effin hell out of here. This woman kicked him in the shin and said ‘do you sleep at night’…the man promised me we wouldn’t lose it, but we did.

As for the money from the sale of the house, Anthony said:

“I haven’t got a clue, somebody took it…. I used one of my dead brother’s identifications to go to sea. I know I shouldn’t have but it was go to sea or go into a home and I’d heard what happened in homes, not very nice.”

When asked if he told anyone what happened on the night of the fire – while he was still in hospital – Anthony said:

“Yes, but they told me ‘you fell off the fire grate’. We had a big fire grate, six foot, whoever came in from the paper round sat on the side of it to get hot. They said you were sitting on one side, Collie was sitting on the other side and you fell into the fire. I said that sounds the most ridiculous thing I heard in my life. I said what about the people I seen in the house? Then they told me. They told me my family were alive. I said no they are not alive, they are dead.”

“They told me I had gone doolally. I said if you put the whole Irish Army out there my mother would have one out and seen me because that’s the way she was, you’d have to shoot her to stop her coming in to see us, that’s the kind of person she was. She cared for all her kids.”

Anthony died of a drug overdose in April, 2015.

Previously: To Clear A Good Name

I Had To Clear My Name (Irish Examiner)

Screengrabs via Irish Newspaper Archive

73 thoughts on “The Unforgettable Fire

  1. 15 cents

    The most inept poilce force in Europe are tasked with the job of figuring it out .. and what did they do? stopped. the man who made the allegation died, and the cops let his allegation die with him, rather than try firgure out what happened and bring justice to the arena. such a lazy, tainted force.

    1. Jackdaw

      Could you expand on your extensive knowledge of European Policing? Why are AGS the worst. What study do you base your assertion on or did you like so many other BS contributors pull anti Garda statements out of your bottom region.

  2. Dόn Pídgéόní

    And this is where you did yourself a great disservice, though maybe it’s just another good conspiracy story for BS ‘admin’.

    I hope Cynthia gets what she’s looking for.

        1. Kieran NYC

          I think after the past few weeks it’s reasonable to question Broadsheet’s journalistic “standards” and “professionalism” or lack thereof in serious news stories even if we may sympathise with the sentiment.

          They’ve insinuated foul play in the death of Kate Fitzgerald, after all. How do we know that’s not just Bodger going down another rabbit hole?

          1. Yep

            Send an e-mail with your worries to the site and report back here. I understand yourself and Don are worried and I do sympathize.

            Directing your anger here about really irrelavent posts involving an election it had no impact seems self serving. Distasteful at best when trying to downplay these stories because of it.

            Anyway, me being annoyed about your posts is probably worse than you being annoyed with BS. Have at it.

          2. Salmon of Nollaig

            This all sounds very personal, Kieran.

            You’ve entirely misrepresented Broadsheet’s coverage of Kate Fitzgerald’s death in your comment. Broadsheet covered the story as evolving and as part of this dealt with Kate’s parents’ allegations regarding foul play.

            Covering a story fully and in detail is good journalism and this is what Broadsheet has done both in this case and in the Kate Fitzgerald case.

            You are the one making insinuations, and I wonder for what reason?

          3. Kennysmells

            As if Bodger cares about what you think Kieran; your constant bleating is worse than a scratched record at this stage; cry me a bucket

      1. Errol

        Don Pigeonini, so many reasons why you might leave a comment like that, none of them creditable to you unfortunately.

        Comments like that are exactly what has been used to hush up all sorts of wrongdoing for a very long time.

        Why not call it straight? Exactly why is Broadsheet doing itself a disservice by posting this account? It is a clear, balanced, and much needed explanation of the background to Frank Mullen’s assertions, and it leaves conclusions open for the reader to make up their own mind. Excellent journalism.

        And what exactly are you implying Cynthia is looking for?

        If either of the things you imply are genuinely felt by you, aren’t they important enough to say straight in a comment?

          1. Salmon of Nollaig

            Not if you read it fully.

            It sets out the allegations as detailed by Frank Mullen to Clifford.

            It then sets out all the key documents in the public domain in relation to the case.

            Then it sets out Anthony Howard’s allegations in his own words (essentially the same as those detailed by Mullen Clifford, but in more details)

            It provides readers worried and concerned by the Howard interview with as much information as is available. That’s a great service.

          2. jusayinlike

            You don’t need to apologise to him salmon he’s clearly agitating, he threw his inflammatory remarks in and than just hightailed it

          3. RoseBH

            Holocaust deniers are always distasteful. This story was covered about a year and a half ago by Conall O’Fatharta of the Irish Examiner. The rest of the Irish media failed to pick it up. Conall is in possession of a huge report by the HSE which covers the various crimes committed by the Sacred Heart nuns in Bessboro, Cork, which was a notorious mother and baby home. We also have evidence in the testimony of women who were incarcerated there and of people who were born there an subjected to forced adoptions, many of them into abusive situations. You can be as sceptical as you please about this series of articles but they’re actually very accurate.

          4. jusayinlike

            Yea well why isn’t Frank sueing Cynthia? if it’s just mere conspiratorial guff why isn’t Frank clearing his name in the courts? is he afraid of something? why is he conducting a counter pr offensive with his stooge Clifford?

    1. anne

      Who the fupp pissed in your chips? You should hope anyone who went through what she went through would get some justice and other children be protected too.

  3. louislefronde

    It is all too easy to label something as a ‘conspiracy theory’… It’s overtly deflective. However in Criminal Law, conspiracies do exist where there is an agreement between two or more people to commit an unlawful action. Something which happens all too often.

    Well done again to Broadsheet for casting a light on a story which has largely been forgotten.

  4. phil

    @Broadsheet , Fair play , however, might I be so bold to suggest you might be careful. A story may appear in the future, too important not to publish , but it will be a web of lies and once exposed it will be used to attack this site and undermine your efforts for truth….

  5. Errol

    Very thought-provoking piece. A lot of persons mentioned in this post as witnesses, involved with the Howard fund etc. Some of them must be still alive. There must be other former residents of White’s Villas still alive. It would be interesting to know what, if anything, they have to say on this.

    One matter which I don’t fully understand – either from the official inquest evidence, or Anthony’s account. How did Collie and Louise get burnt? Possibly Louise got burnt on her way up the stairs, but Anthony doesn’t mention this. But Collie seems to have been upstairs all the time? How did his knees get burnt? Anthony says that the fire hadn’t spread to their bedroom?

  6. Dot

    It was such a terrible tragedy, I remember the whole village of Dalkey was in shock, the Howards, all 13 children and their parents were well known and well liked by all of us. Louise worked in the local Dry Cleaners and I remember a few weeks before the tragedy she said she’d love to be famous. If only she’d known. At the time of the fire it was reported that Louise died trying to protect her two younger brothers from the fire.

  7. Lord Commander Frill Snow

    I’m in bits reading that

    I appreciate the graft and effort it took t’put it together

    But I’m sorry I’m now the wiser
    And if there was something I could do I would

    I just don’t cope with this sorta stuff
    Sorry Cynthia

  8. Peter Dempsey

    I have family in Dalkey and a friend of ours was living in White’s Villas in March 1974. We heard all about this at the time. FM is not to be trusted – on any level.

    Some of the people mentioned (neighbours, residents) are still alive.

    1. Salmon of Nollaig

      They’re also allegations about a leading figure in the Gardai and in Irish football, who put the allegations into the public domain himself in his interview with Michael Cifford.

      Having done this, the allegations are entitled and permitted to be explored fully.

      Broadsheet sets the allegations against all the evidence in the public domain and allows people to draw their own conclusions.

      One very obvious conclusion is that there needs to be special guidelines for dealing with allegations of crime against members of the Gardai so to be sure they have been fully investigated.

    1. jusayinlike

      Sue Cynthia for slander, and Howard for libel, try read the article and posts before you lose control of your thumbs

  9. John kelly

    Sure Howard is deceased and cynthia more than likely has assets in spouse name??? And at a cost of 100000 euro at whatever age he is..ridiculous suggestion

    1. jusayinlike

      John Frank Mullen has easily that amount, his house alone is worth close to a million, all from a Garda salary of course for some lame reason though you seem to think he hasn’t a pot to pee in

      1. jusayinlike

        You called her cindy John? do you live in dalkey area by any chance, and mooch around the odious masonic lodge down in the town?

  10. Mr M

    What a shocking story. I’m sure there is more to it.
    That misfortunate lad had such a horrible life and then to die from a drug overdose the poor troubled soul.

    The report is well written and has so much detail it has taken me most of the day at work to follow it.
    Just a couple of questions; one what does [sic] mean? What are the initials RC after the parents names for?

  11. John kelly

    So Frank should remortgage his house to sue who?? To clear his name….he hasn’t been charged with any crime..just found guilty by idiots on Web .no genetic or forensic evidence to prove any of the BS that was put out..all hiding behind pseudonym lol

    1. Salmon of Nollaig

      That bit about being ‘found guilty by idiots on web’ is total nonsense.

      There was nothing about Mullen & the Howard fire on the internet before he decided to give his interview to Michael Clifford, referencing the Howard fire allegations against him, which then appeared on the web.

      These allegations weren’t on the internet previously, they must have been circulating locally by word of mouth.

      In other words, the first internet reference to Mullen & the Howard fire were put there by himself.

      This just puts context on what he said. Something which, in fairness, Michael Clifford should have done first.

      Mullen was not served well by the way in which that interview was conducted.

      1. jusayinlike

        Mullen and “objective journalist” Clifford knew exactly what they were doing in that interview and the examiner piece, two scumbag masons ducking for cover

    2. jusayinlike

      If I was accused of the stuff Frank is I would be desperate to clear my name and restore order, Frank prefers to hold onto his ill gotten money and roll out goffers like “John Kelly” here

  12. cynthia owen

    Just to clarify, that the allegations about the fire did not come from me, they came from Anthony Howard, who it was confirmed by the Garda that Anthony had been making these allegations since 1984, I did not meet up with him again until 2005.

    I would not relay these allegations to the Garda in Dunleary until 2014, and they began to correspond with Anthony again using the same officers who dealt with him in 1984.

    So before I ever went to the Garda about my own childhood unknown to me Anthony was living in London and regularly travelling back to Ireland relaying these allegations but getting no where with them.

    Frank Mullen left the police force in 1985, and to date owns a vast portfolio of property, and has plenty of money to sue me, or at the time to sue Anthony while he was still alive.

    I dont have a vendetta, and I did not put these allegations into the public domain, Frank Mullen did, so how is that my vendetta? If I had a vendetta I would have been making these allegations myself in interviews and online since 2005, when I first learnt of them.

    I hope that clears everything up, and by the way, my assets are not in my husbands name if anybody wants to sue me.

    My childhood name is Sindy, but I am formally known as Cynthia Owen.

  13. John kelly

    Ink goes onto paper very easy..no proof of anything with this or anything else he has been accused of..all hearsay…good luck with that…!!

    1. jusayinlike

      Why isn’t Frank suing John? he can clearly afford it, why is he not even sending cease and desist letters John? why did he think that pr work through his mason lapdog Clifford would be a better approach?

    2. jusayinlike

      Thankfully this will stick to Frank until he takes it in front of a judge, and he’s clearly afraid to have his day in court, it will take more than mason stooges like Clifford and “John Kelly” to sweep this under the rug

  14. cynthia owen

    No its actually not all hearsay, he is an official suspect in a rape and murder case, and even by his own admittance he agrees that he is a suspect and that he has not been cleared, so how can that be hearsay? The fact he is a suspect?

    Again by his own admittance, in both radio and newsprint interview he is the one who reveals he was also questioned about the fire, again, how is that hear say?

  15. John kelly

    The Birmingham 6 and Guilford 4 were suspects..as are many people who are suspects for Raonaid Murray’s murder..suspects means suspect..why aren’t DPP charging him..where’s scientific proof in the murder case??? John James Stephen Kelly DOB 27/07/71 in the beautiful county of Wexford..anyhow wish you well Cynthia…”justsayinglike”what a name to hide behind..as for Mullens involvement in this fire!! It is hearsay with no one to prove anything…off to work now Oiche Mhaith

  16. Bobby

    Everyone I know in Dalkey is 100% behind you, Cynthia. From what I can guage it’d be 100%, I’m pretty sure. And it’s a lot of people.

  17. John kelly

    Justsayinglike that’s not how prosecution in this country rolls..and most countries..judge jury and executioner…very very narrow minded and suit yourself attitude..that way you can justify anything..I’m not trying to encourage anyone to do anything..facts are facts ..whether a suspect or anything else there has been no charges brought against anyone..now if you want to live in a world with no proof or foundation to any allegations, keep living in Sunday World life..it makes lots of money but unfortunately doesn’t represent the democratic majority of this country..armchair detectives and judges..lol pathetic

    1. jusayinlike

      Bask in your corruption John, it’s already been established from this article that Frank and his corrupt friends did away with whatever evidence could tie them to this disgraceful incident, the dpp has already been established as corruptthere’s a whole establishment trying to stop this from seeing light, this will not stop until justice is served, Frank Mullen will have to go to court, go back to the masonic lodge and ask Frank what to do next

    2. jusayinlike

      And John your not representing any democracy with your paid for stance don’t even try and suggest that you represent a popular vote you are defending a somehow filthy rich dubious garda who happens to be accused of a range of disgusting sexual offences, you named Cynthia sindy you have prior knowledge of this case and didn’t happen upon it by chance, you are a paid mercenary and nobody is influenced by your posturing, and cry all you want about lack of physical evidence Graeme o Dwyer was put away for murder without a body or cause of death thankfully this will stick to Mullen and there’s nothing you can do, back to the drawing board at the masons hall with you

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