ON TRIAL Alan Cawley is pictured arriving at Swinford District Court back in July 2013, when he was charged with the murders of Tom and Jack Blaine. His trial began in Dublin last Friday. Pic: Keith Heneghan/Phocus
Ballina man on trial in Dublin for murder of ‘vulnerable, reclusive’ brothers
A woman who had cared for two elderly brothers for almost a decade became emotional in court today as she described finding their bodies covered in blood in their Castlebar home four years ago.
Helen Maloney was giving evidence to the ongoing murder trial at the Central Criminal Court earlier today.
Alan Cawley of Four Winds, Corrinbla, Ballina, is charged with murdering both Thomas Blaine and John (Jack) Blaine, who were beaten to death in their home.
The 30 year old has admitted killing the brothers, one of whom was disabled and was scalded during the assault. However, he has pleaded not guilty to murdering them on July 10, 2013, at New Antrim Street in the town.
‘I loved them dearly’
Ms Maloney told Denis Vaughan Buckley, SC, prosecuting, that she was employed as a Home Help by the HSE and had been caring for the Blaine brothers for around nine years, when they died.
She became emotional when he asked her about her first impression of them. “Two absolute gentlemen,” she replied.
The barrister was then given permission to lead her through her evidence, and put the contents of a document to her.
She agreed with him that they were ‘very vulnerable, reclusive and had speech impediments’. She agreed that Jack Blaine had both a speech and hearing problem, and had a spinal injury from an accident in England many years earlier. He had also suffered from dementia in his last few months. She added that she used to call to see them three times a day, 365 days a year.
“They were two absolute gentlemen, a pleasure to look after,” she said. “They gave so much love and respect to me. They’ll be in my mind until the day I die. I loved them dearly, and so did the people of Castlebar.”
She said they were loved throughout the town, where their nickname was ‘The boys’.
She described them jointly as a treasure. “They’d never hurt anybody,” she said, before describing the scene she found that morning.
She said she arrived at their house at 7.15am, went into the kitchen and called out to them in the same way she had everyday: “Are you ready to rock and roll?” she said.
She got no answer and looked into Tom Blaine’s bedroom, where she saw him lying on the floor, with his legs on the bed. She said she shouted: ‘Tom, Tom. It’s Helen’, but there was no response.
She then saw a pool of blood on the floor and that he was saturated in blood. She said there was blood on the walls and there were bloody handprints in the room. She could see that the blood was coming from his head. She said she went out the front door and asked two council men to call the Gardaí before running back into the house.
“I couldn’t find Jack,” she explained. She ran upstairs to his bedroom and found it totally ransacked. “I searched, thinking he might have been hiding with fear, but there was no Jack,” she recalled.
She returned downstairs and found the back door fully opened. She saw Jack Blaine on his back on the ground, half in and half out of the house. “He was also covered in blood all over,” she said.
She recalled running out the front door again and shouting: ‘Oh my God’.
She said she saw Rocky Moran, the owner of a pub across the road. She described Rocky’s Bar as Jack Blaine’s ‘home from home’, where he could get a cup of tea any time of the day.
“The boys are gone,” she told Mr Moran. He asked her where they’d gone. She told him they were dead and not go to in, that he didn’t want to see what was inside. She said she then got sick.
Caroline Biggs SC, defending, asked if she was satisfied that the brothers would never have had the capacity to hurt her. “Never in a million years,” she replied. “The only thing they would have shown me was affection.”
Michael ‘Rocky’ Moran confirmed that Ms Maloney had warned him not to go into the house but that he had gone inside anyway. He described the same scene as Ms Maloney, adding that Jack Blaine was ‘all cut’.
“He was all sliced,” said the publican and undertaker.
“It’s one of the worst sights I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of sights,” he said.
He said he had not been working the night before and had last seen Jack Blaine on July 8. “He might have come in ten times a night for a cup of tea. He came in during the day as well,” he said.
He said that he sometimes drank the tea in the pub, but that staff would mainly bring it across the street for him and leave it on his windowsill.
“He only spoke to me twice ever in his life,” he said, explaining that he had known both brothers all his life.
Garda Michael Tolan was one of the first gardai on the scene and described Ms Maloney as inconsolable when he arrived.
He also knew both men. He told Mr Vaughan Buckley that Tom Blaine appeared to be badly marked and that his brother’s lips were split.
“His stomach was bare,” he said of Jack Blaine. “There appeared to be pieces of skin removed from his stomach.”
The jury was then shown CCTV footage of Alan Cawley’s movements around the time of the killing. It showed him cross paths with Jack Blaine outside Rocky’s Bar at 11.58pm, as an employee was delivering a cup of tea to the pensioner’s windowsill.
It showed the accused enter the Blaine home at midnight, followed by Mr Blaine. Mr Cawley was seen leaving the house an hour and two minutes later.
The jury also heard that the accused had been released from prison a few days earlier.
Clodagh Peyton testified that she had provided B&B accommodation in apartments on Newport Road in the town. She had agreed to host Alan Cawley for a number of nights from Friday, July 5, the day he was released from Castlerea Prison, after the prison’s resettlement officer had introduced them.
She said that he was a little agitated on Tuesday, July 9, having been picked up for shoplifting.
“He was just telling me that he was trying to keep himself chilled out, lighting incense and things like that,” she recalled.
The morning after the killing, she said, he seemed fine – relaxed, chatting and smiling. “He was asking questions about the bible,” she said, explaining that she was a Jehovah’s Witness and had left related magazines in his room.
She brought a friend to meet him later that day and the three of them held a bible study for over an hour. When she told him the news of the killing, she said he replied: ‘That’s terrible’.
She said she no-longer provides the service she provided at the time.
The trial continues tomorrow morning (Thursday) before Mr Justice Paul Coffey and a jury of four women and eight men.