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. Continue reading