Lost Phones. Missing Laptops and Damaged iPads


Mark McConnell and Elaine Strachan, both of Forensic Science Northern Ireland, arriving at the Disclosures Tribunal yesterday

The Disclosures Tribunal resumes this morning.

Olga Cronin is live tweeting for the ‘sheet here.

The Tribunal has heard a lot of information about phones, laptops, iPads, computers and Garda electronic systems used by former Garda Commissioners Martin Callinan and Noirin O’Sullivan, and former head of the Garda Press Office Supt Dave Taylor.

It also heard from members of Forensic Science Northern Ireland Elaine Strachan and Mark McConnell who examined certain devices pertaining to Mr Callinan, Ms O’Sullivan and Supt Taylor, and Garda IT systems.

Judge Peter Charleton is tasked with examining all of the telecommunication interactions between Mr Callinan, Ms O’Sullivan and Supt Taylor between July 1, 2012 and May 31, 2014 – the period of time in which Supt Taylor was the head of the Garda Press Office.

On September 30, 2016, Supt Taylor made a protected disclosure claiming that, during his time as the head of the Garda Press Office, he was instructed by Mr Callinan, with the knowledge of Ms O’Sullivan, to negatively brief journalists about Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.

He later alleged to the tribunal’s investigators that the director of communications at An Garda Siochana Andrew McLindon was also aware of the alleged smear campaign.

Mr Callinan, Ms O’Sullivan and Mr McLindon all deny the claims.

At the time he made this protected disclosure, Supt Taylor was under investigation for allegedly leaking material to journalists – after having been suspended from duty in April 2015 and arrested in May 2015.

The tribunal heard extensive evidence from Chief Supt Francis Clerkin about this criminal investigation and how the DPP ultimately ruled there would be no prosecution against Supt Taylor on February 13, 2017.

The DPP’s decision came following a week of significant political controversy about Sgt Maurice McCabe.

Chief Supt Clerkin explained his criminal investigation was prompted by communications he discovered Supt Taylor had with journalists when he was no longer working the Garda Press Office – while he [CS Clerkin] was investigating leaks to the media concerning two Roma children in October 2013. [This matter gave rise to Children Ombudsman Emily Logan’s inquiry].

This morning, from 10am, the tribunal is expected to hear about a parallel disciplinary investigation into Supt Taylor which was dropped in February of this year.

Today the tribunal will also hear from a witness about the examination of other Garda IT systems to which the FSNI were not granted access.

The tribunal has already heard Supt Taylor claimed in his disclosure that he was directed to draw journalists’ attention to a complaint of sexual assault made against Sgt McCabe in 2006 by the daughter of a Garda colleague – which the DPP found had no foundation in April 2007 – to the effect that this was the “root cause” of Sgt McCabe’s complaints about malpractice within An Garda Siochana.

The tribunal has already heard that four journalists were either in contact or attempted to contact the D family in early 2014 – when Supt Taylor was still head of the Garda Press Office.

They are Debbie McCann, of the Irish Mail on Sunday; Eavan Murray, of the Irish Sun; Michael O’Toole, of the Irish Daily Star; and Paul Williams, of the Irish Independent.

Mr Williams interviewed Ms D – and carried out a video interview with Ms D – on March 8, 2014, and he subsequently wrote several articles about Ms D.

The tribunal has heard Mr Williams was the only journalist to write about Ms D in 2014.

Mr Williams’ articles were published on April 12, 15, 16 and May 3, 2014.

During the timespan of these articles, on April 29, 2014, Ms D emailed the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) claiming her allegation of sexual assault was not properly investigated and, a day later, on April 30, 2014, she met Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin in the Dáil.

Mr William flagged Ms D’s desire to make a complaint to GSOC and to meet Mr Martin in his earlier articles.

Not long after these articles, a false rape allegation – following a botched referral to Tusla and a further botched referal from Tusla to An Garda Siochana – against Sgt McCabe made its way to Ms O’Sullivan’s office in May 2014 and remained there until the beginning of the Disclosures Tribunal.

Last summer, the tribunal heard evidence that Mr Williams came to interview Ms D following a conversation between Mr D and a mutual Garda friend of Mr D and Mr Williams, Det Supt John O’Reilly.

It also heard evidence last summer – from Mrs D – who said Ms McCann was effectively turned away from the D home by Mrs D, while Ms Murray had a cup of tea with Mr and Mrs D.

Both these visits were said to have taken place late February/early March 2014.

Neither Ms McCann nor Ms Murray wrote articles about Ms D.

Mr D told the tribunal that Mr O’Toole sent him a message on Facebook, also around that time, but Mr D said they didn’t discuss the case.

Mr O’Toole didn’t write an article about Ms D.

It’s expected that the journalists who made contact with the D family during this time period will be asked if they were prompted to do so by Supt Taylor.

But going back to the phones and laptops…


The tribunal has heard that – during the time period in which Supt Taylor was head of the Garda Press Office – Ms O’Sullivan had the use of six phones.

Only one – an iPhone – was surrendered to the tribunal.

The tribunal heard that this iPhone had been given to her son as a “hand-me-down” phone and, following an examination by Forensic Service North Ireland, was found to have only information pertaining to her son.

In relation to the phones used by Mr Callinan during this same timeframe, the tribunal heard he also had the use of six phones – and two were surrendered to the tribunal.

One of the surrendered phones (a Nokia 520) had been sent for repair as the screen was damaged and it was then reissued to a Supt Howard.

It was wiped before it was given to Supt Howard so, therefore, Elaine Strachan, of the FSNI, told the tribunal no information on the phone pertained to Mr Callinan.

The second surrendered phone (a Nokia Lumia) was issued to Mr Callinan in December 2013 and it was the last phone issued to Mr Callinan before he stepped down from his position in March 2014.

This Nokia Lumia was originally surrendered to the Fennelly Commission which was set up in April 2014 with one of its strands involving he examination of the circumstances of Mr Callinan’s retirement in March 2014.

On this phone, Ms Strachan told the tribunal she found 1,100-plus contacts, including deleted contacts, and 278 text messages recovered from the handset – 277 of which had been deleted.

There were also 241 emails stored on the memory of the phone, including some which were deleted.

In relation to the deleted texts, the tribunal heard that it wasn’t possible to identify the direction of the texts – as to whether it was an incoming text or an outgoing text and so it wasn’t possible to identify the sender or recipient of the texts.

Ms Strachan also found contacts stored on Mr Callinan’s phone which might be considered relevant to the tribunal.

Kathleen Leader BL, for the tribunal, read out a selection of these contacts. She said:

“Con Noel”, which perhaps is Noel Cunningham; at number 8 there is “Diarmuid O’Sullivan”; number 14, there is a “Leo McGinn”; number 15, a “J McCann”; number 24, “Paul Reynolds”; 25, “Brian Purcell”; 28, “J Sheridan”; 29, a “O’Sullivan Diarmuid”; and there is a “Tom Brady””

Tara Burns BL, for Supt Taylor, did read out one text from a phone belong to Mr Callinan – which was sent on March 28, 2014, and read:

I feel so sorry for the way you have been treated. It’s despicable. You will always be the boss to me and I am proud to have served under you and worked with you. You were inspirational to me. I wish you and your family all the best for the future, and if I can do anything to help, please let me know. Dave.”

This text, Ms Burns pointed out, was noted “deleted carved”.

Ms Strachan’s examination of the texts pertaining to the ‘Fennelly’ phone did find texts saying ‘Thanks Dave’.

However, ultimately, Ms Strachan said she found no evidence on this phone to support the claim made by Supt Taylor about an alleged smear campaign against Sgt McCabe.

In relation to Supt Dave Taylor, he had the use of three phones during his time as head of the Garda Press Office and none of these were surrendered to the tribunal.

In respect of the last of Supt Taylor’s three missing phones, the tribunal heard Supt Taylor didn’t return this phone to the Telecommunications Unit within An Garda Siochana when he got a replacement phone from Insp Liam Moroney in September 2014.

On September 5, 2014, the tribunal has heard, Supt Taylor gave Insp Moroney a faulty Nokia Lumia and Ins Moroney issued him with a Nokia Lumia 925.

On the new phone, Insp Moroney activated Supt Taylor’s Garda email account and synchronised it with the Microsoft exchange serve to restore all his emails, contacts and calendar details.

It was Insp Moroney’s evidence that Supt Taylor did not ask him to transfer any of the content of his old phone to the new phone.

The tribunal heard Supt Taylor had previously suggested that all his data had been transferred including texts but that this is something that is no longer in dispute.

In respect of the faulty Nokia Lumia handed in by Supt Taylor, he left with it instead of leaving it with the Telecommunications Unit.

Kathleen Leader BL, for the tribunal, said:

As far as Superintendent Taylor is concerned, I think it has been confirmed that it was believed that that was at home and searches were made for it, and I think he has been unable to find that.

This was agreed to by Supt Taylor’s solicitor Tara Burns BL.


Separate to his time in the Garda Press Office, the tribunal also heard details of three phones seized from Supt Taylor – in December 2014, February 2015 and May 2015.

During this time period, Supt Taylor was not working in the Garda Press Office.

Instead he was working in the Traffic Department, from June 2014 until he was suspended in April 2015.

The three phone seizures pertained to Chief Supt Clerkin’s aforementioned criminal investigation.

The phone which had been seized in December 2014 had been issued in September 2014.

On this phone, Ms Strachan did find some family photographs which predated the date the phone was issued to Supt Taylor and it was suggested to Ms Strachan that this could support Supt Taylor’s suggestion that material from his previous phone had been transferred to this new phone.

Ms Strachan said she couldn’t be conclusive about the matter.

In relation to other information found on the phone, Ms Strachan found more than 2,000 contacts were stored on the phone.

The tribunal heard the following contacts – whom Ms Leader said may be potentially relevant to the tribunal – were on the phone:

Alison O’Reilly, Cathal McMahon, Conor Lally, Cormac O’Keeffe, Debbie McCann, Eavan Murray, Fionnan Sheahan, John Mooney, John O’Reilly, John Burke, Juno McEnroe, Mark Hilliard, Michael O’Toole, Mick Clifford, Mick McCaffrey, Paul Reynolds, Paul Williams, Philip Boucher-Hayes, and Sarah Bardon.

There were also 800 email messages stored on the phone.

Ms Strachan said she found no evidence on this phone to support Supt Taylor’s claim about a smear campaign.

As for the second phone – which would have been issued to Supt Taylor on December 18, 2014 and seized on February 19, 2015 – there were 950-plus contacts on the phone.

Ms Leader told the tribunal that the potentially relevant parties among those 950-plus contacts included: Cormac O’Keeffe, Debbie McCann, Eavan Murray, John Burke, John Mooney, Juno McEnroe, Michael O’Toole, Paul Reynolds and Paul Williams.

There were also 600 emails stored on this second seized phone.

Ms Strachan also found there was no evidence on this phone to support the claim of an alleged smear campaign.

In regards to the third seized phone – which Supt Taylor used from February 24, 2015 to May 29, 2015 – there were 580 contacts and those potentially relevant to the tribunal included: Debbie McCann, John McCann, John Burke, Juno McEnroe, Michael O’Toole, Paul Reynolds and Paul Williams.

Ms Strachan also found there was no evidence on this phone to support the claim of an alleged smear campaign.

Laptops and iPads

The tribunal heard that Ms O’Sullivan had five laptops pertaining to the relevant period – with the earliest of the five issued in 2006.

None of these have been accounted for and so the tribunal never got them.

Ms O’Sullivan also had two iPads during the relevant period – one was badly damaged and couldn’t be repaired, so it wasn’t surrendered to the tribunal, while the other was surrendered.

The tribunal heard that when the FSNI investigators were given this iPad it was locked and Ms O’Sullivan couldn’t remember the password.

Three suggested passwords were given to the FSNI.

But, because the device, the tribunal heard, was on its seventh attempt of 10, it had only three remaining chances to get the password correct – before it would automatically wipe itself clean.

The FSNI didn’t attempt to unlock it and, instead, sent it out to an external company to be forcibly unlocked.

Ms Strachan, of the FSNI, was asked if, after the fact, she learned any of the passwords proffered were correct, she said she didn’t know and would have to check his notes.

Ms Strachan also said 800-plus emails were stored on the memory of the iPad.

[This iPad was the same iPad used by Ms O’Sullivan to send emails to former Minister Frances Fitzgerald’s Oireachtas email account – from Ms O’Sullivan’s Gmail account – around the time of the publication of the O’Higgins report].

Ms Strachan told the tribunal there was no evidence on this iPad to support the claim of a smear campaign.

The tribunal has also heard that Ms O’Sullivan offered the tribunal access to two other phones – Samsung phones – which she used in 2016 and 2017.

The first one was in use from May 29, 2016 to October 12, 2016 and appeared to be mainly used for accessing emails.

The second was in use from April 26, 2017 to July 20, 2017.

The tribunal heard that contacts on this second phone which may be potentially relevant to the tribunal included Debbie McCann, Dave Taylor, John McCann, John Mooney, and ‘Paul R’.

Ms Strachan found nothing on either of these Samsung phones to support the claim of an alleged smear campaign.

In relation to former Commissioner Martin Callinan, the tribunal heard he would have had six laptops and one iPad during the relevant time – with the first laptop issued in 2001.

Of Mr Callinan’s six laptops – four were recorded as having not been returned to the IT centre, one was allocated to the Ashbourne incident room in 2012, and the final laptop issued to Mr Callinan, in August 2011, was bought by him on his retirement.

The tribunal heard that the laptop Mr Callinan bought would have gone through a factory reset – effectively wiping it clean of all information – before he left An Garda Siochana.

This laptop was made available to the tribunal and, specifically, Mark McConnell, of FSNI, found:

“Former Commissioner Callinan’s laptop was found to have been sanitised and re-installed in accordance with Garda IT protocol. The laptop user’s account “Martin Callinan” was created on Friday, 4th April 2014. Any data from when Mr. Callinan was in post as Commissioner is no longer available and non-recoverable.”

In relation to his iPad, it was damaged.

In relation to Supt Taylor’s Dell laptop – in use from July 31, 2012 to October 8, 2014 – Mr McConnell said he could find no evidence to support the claim of a smear campaign.

Garda IT systems

Mr McConnell also examined many Garda IT systems, including email, its File Share System and its Correspondence Register, and also found no evidence to support the claim of a smear campaign.

The tribunal has already heard that the Correspondence Register – which records correspondence to and from Garda Headquarters – didn’t contain the letter solicitor Gerald Kean sent to then Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan when he wrote to him for assistance after he received a legal letter from Sgt Maurice McCabe over comments he made on RTE’s Marian Finucane  Show on January 26, 2014.

In addition, the tribunal did hear that, in relation to the Commissioner’s Office Group File Share system, a series of reports pertaining to Sgt McCabe were found.

One was called Maurice McCabe Chronological Sequence Report.

It, the tribunal heard, contained a reference to the Ms D issue.

This report was marked June 12, 2013 – around six weeks before Ms D would go to counselling and, unbeknownst to her, a false rape referral would be first mistakenly created by her counsellor and then sent to TUSLA before eventually going to Ms O’Sullivan’s office in May 2014.

On Wednesday, May 7, 2014, Supt Leo McGinn, the district officer in Bailieboro, received TUSLA’s botched referral and wrote a letter to Chief Superintendent James (Jim) Sheridan with TUSLA’s referral attached.

In his letter to Chief Supt Sheridan, Supt McGinn wrote:

“In light of the referral received on foot of Ms. D’s disclosure to a professional,I feel it is appropriate to have the [2006/2007] investigation reviewed.”

I suggest that the file and investigation in its entirety be reviewed at officer level within An Garda Síochána or that it be referred to the Cold Case Unit, NBCI. In any case, if a review of the case is to be conducted, I suggest it be conducted external of personnel within Cavan-Monaghan division.”

Supt McGinn said, once he got the referral, he acted swiftly without consulting anyone about his actions or even examining the investigation file.

He sent the original referral to Chief Supt Sheridan but also made and kept a copy of the referral.

When giving evidence to the tribunal, Supt McGinn was asked about his understanding of the 2006 investigation at this time. He said:

“Nothing other than a sexual assault. I didn’t know the gravity of it, the extent of the investigation. I knew that an allegation had been made that it had been investigated by Noel Cunningham, a file to the DPP, no prosecution, and I took it that was it.”

A few days later, Chief Supt Sheridan forwarded Supt McGinn’s correspondence on to Assistant Commissioner Kieran Kenny on Wednesday, May 14, 2014.

Chief Supt Sheridan knew the referral contained a wrong allegation of rape and chose not to inform the Asst Commissioner of this fact.

In his letter Mr Sheridan attached the referral with an unrelated digital penetration allegation and said the “the allegations contained in the attached referral have been the subject of a previous Garda investigation” which resulted in the DPP directing that there be no prosecution against Sgt Maurice McCabe.

This was untrue as the allegations contained in the referral didn’t pertain to either Sgt McCabe or Ms D.

He also stated that it was his understanding that Ms D had made complaints, based on the allegations set out in the attached referral, to Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin and GSOC.

This was also untrue as, again, the allegations contained in the referral didn’t pertain to either Sgt McCabe or Ms D.

Asked about his knowledge of Ms D’s complaint to GSOC, and if he had received an official notification of the same, Supt Sheridan told the tribunal he knew of the complaints based on media reports and he couldn’t recollect any official notification from GSOC.

Mr Kenny then forwarded the incorrect referral to the office of the Garda Commissioner.

At that time, Noirin O’Sullivan would have been the Acting Garda Commissioner as Mr Callinan had resigned on March 25, 2014.

The tribunal heard that, similar to Mr Sheridan, Mr Kenny knew the 2006/2007 investigation had nothing to do with any rape allegation.

Previously: Disclosures, Discrepancies and Paul Williams

10 thoughts on “Lost Phones. Missing Laptops and Damaged iPads

  1. Daisy Chainsaw

    I just want to repeat that your coverage of the Disclosures Tribunal has been exemplary.

    Thanks to the reporters attending and transcribing. You’re shining a light on some very dark and murky goings on and you deserve to be publicly lauded for it.

    1. ivan

      Seconded. Although the ‘readers may/readers will’ thing annoys the fup out of me….

  2. Hank

    From the photo, it looks like they had a bit of a falling out on the bus on the way down..

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