Barry Cummins, of RTÉ
Barry Cummins, of RTÉ, presented a Prime Time programme about the disappearance of six-year-old twin Mary Boyle near Ballyshannon, Co Donegal in March, 1977.
You may also recall how, last July, Gemma O’Doherty posted her documentary on Mary’s disappearance, called Mary Boyle: The Untold Story, on YouTube.
Watchers of both Ms O’Doherty’s documentary and Mr Cummins’ Prime Time show will note that there were a few similarities between the shows, not least the drone footage.
But there were also some glaring differences – most notably in the quotes of retired detective inspector Aidan Murray.
During the Prime Time programme, Mr Murray told Mr Cummins that he believes he knows the identity of the person behind Mary’s disappearance.
Barry Cummins (voiceover): “So, who abducted Mary Boyle? One of the original investigators tells me that, for the last 40 years, he has suspected a local man to be responsible for Mary’s disappearance.”
Aidan Murray: “A person came in voluntarily into the station to have a chat with us about the child, you know. So, I interviewed that person, in the company of Inspector [PJ] Daly, now deceased. And, in the course of that interview, I took him as a witness first. He began to panic a wee bit and started kind of, would say roaring at me, more or less to say ‘I didn’t do it, I didn’t do it’. I had interviewed a lot of people and have done courses in that, in interviewing serious crime suspects and I know myself in my own heart that by looking at him and the way he looked at me, that he is the person. I’m convinced that he’s the person, even though he didn’t admit it. And I feel that if I had had another hour or so with him, he may have broken.”
Cummins: “I wasn’t there. I wasn’t in that room when you were with this man you believe had the answers.”
Cummins: “But we’re all human, we’re all open to mistakes. In your mind at all, is it possible that that individual is not the man, is not the person who harmed Mary?”
Murray: “No, he is the person. I am convinced of that myself.”
Further to this…
Retired Sgt Martin Collins; retired Det Ins Aidan Murray on Ms O’Doherty’s documentary
In Ms O’Doherty’s documentary, Mr Murray also recalled interviewing a man – in the presence of the late Inspector Daly.
Before Mr Murray’s account of this interview was shown in Ms O’Doherty’s documentary, retired Sgt Martin Collins explained the following:
“A person, who would have been known to Mary, made it his business to contact me at Ballyshannon Garda Station. This would be, some, maybe a week after Mary going missing. And he requested to meet me. But at the particular time, I was engaged in meeting my colleagues from Bundoran. From Ballyshannon to Bundoran, it’s only four miles so I told this person that I was meeting my colleagues, from Bundoran, I’d be only a few minutes and to remain at the station until I came back.”
“In the meantime, I went to Bundoran and, halfway to Bundoran, which only took about three minutes, this person drove his own car behind our patrol car and pulled in behind us at Fener, halfway between Ballyshannon and Bundoran. I got out of, when I finished with the Bundoran lads, I got out of the patrol car, and sat in to his motor car and when I did, he began to cry, sobbing, and told me what a terrible thing what happened – that he knew those little girls, the twins and that he was very fond of them, loved them and that he had children of the same age, and how he felt about Mary’s disappearance.”
“So, in the course of the conversation, I put three scenarios to him: one, that she’s still missing out there; second, that she was kidnapped; and the third one, bluntly, murder. And I said which of those three scenarios would you think is responsible for Mary’s disappearance and he said, the last one. So I said, ‘you mean murder?’. And he said, ‘yes’.”
In Ms O’Doherty’s documentary, she explained that the person who made these allegations to Mr Collins was a relation of the suspect.
And in the days after Mary’s disappearance, Aidan Murray spoke to this suspect.
Mr Murray told Ms O’Doherty:
“Inspector [PJ] Daly, who’s recently deceased, and myself interviewed that man. We interviewed him, at one stage I was interviewing him, I told him, ‘just tell us where the child is’. At that stage then he started crying and roaring and accusing me that I was accusing him of the murder of the child.”
“I got a little nudge from the inspector at the time, under the table, to ease off a wee bit. So I was reluctant a wee bit but I did ease off because it was more or less an instruction. And I went out and got him a glass of water, under the instructions of the inspector.
“When I came back then, that particular man had gone back to himself again. I felt that it, that in my own heart, that he had a guilty look. I could see it in his eyes and it was just that, a wee push, that he would have admitted.”
“When you do interview a person that, especially a very strong suspect, after a number of years, you can see things in their eyes if they’re really telling you the truth, or if they look away from you. And I knew from, from previous experience that if you have a man at a certain level, you don’t pull back. You just push that wee bit extra and I felt that I had him. A defence, that he was defending himself, that what he’d done was wrong but I thought that if I’d had has someone else with me, that maybe that extra wee bit of pressure, we would have, we wouldn’t be here today now talking.”
Readers should note that retired Sgt Collins did not feature in last night’s Prime Time show.
However, Mr Cummins did refer to retired Sgt Collins when Mr Cummins highlighted the allegation that there was political interference in the case.
This is an allegation that was raised in the Dáil in October 2015, and featured in Ms O’Doherty documentary last July with quotes from Sgt Collins making the same claim.
However, after Ms O’Doherty’s documentary, the Donegal Post ran a story reporting:
There was and there remains a cover up into the disappearance of young Mary Boyle in 1977, but there was neither political nor state interference, a lead investigator at the time has clarified this week.
He believed that the ‘cover up’ relates to an individual or individual, who may have vital information in helping resolve the near 40-year-old mystery
It follows on from a YouTube documentary which was released on social media about the case and featured an interview with the retired Sergeant.
The documentary alleged that political interference may have resulted in which way the initial investigation was carried out.
In an exclusive interview with the Donegal Post, retired Sergeant Martin Collins said that any suggestion that senior members of the force that he worked with in Ballyshannon, had influenced the direction of the original missing persons investigation were totally erroneous.
He was equally 100% adamant that NO political interference came about, despite an alleged call by a politician to Ballyshannon garda station.
In last night’s Prime Time show, Mr Cummins said:
“The allegation is that a phone call was made by a politician to Ballyshannon Garda Station in 1977, asking that Gardai back off investigating a local man. Last summer, former Sgt Martin Collins gave this interview to the Donegal Post [above] dismissing the suggestion he or his colleagues were influenced by any outside interference and Aidan Murray signed an affidavit to the same effect.”
Following from this, Mr Murray told Mr Cummins:
“There was no political interference whatsoever. I did what I had to do. I was never stopped from doing it through any political interference. No. There was no interference with me. Never was there.”
In Ms O’Doherty’s documentary.
She explained that some officers allege that, in the days after Mary’s disappearance, a politician contacted Ballyshannon Garda Station and ordered that the chief suspect not be arrested.
Ms O’Doherty also explained that this politician knew the suspect and that he, the politician, also had a close relationship with the late Superintendent Dom Murray who was in charge of the case.
Mr Collins told Ms O’Doherty:
“A phone call was made to Ballyshannon station, it was a politician. The gist of the conversation was that none of a particular family should be made a suspect for Mary’s disappearance.”
In relation to the same phone call, Mr Murray told Ms O’Doherty:
“Well I know that, as a result of that phonecall, that certain people weren’t allowed to be interviewed and that it was all hands-off them, and it was ‘look somewhere else’, as the man says. As it was said, the sting of the whole investigation went out of that whole investigation, you know?”
Watch Gemma O’Doherty’s documentary here
Watch last night’s Prime Time here