CRIME SCENE A guard stands watch outside of the Blaine brothers’ home at New Antrim Street, Castlebar, the scene of their double killing on July 10, 2013. Pic: Keith Heneghan/Phocus
Third day of evidence in trial against Alan Cawley
A Ballina man killed two elderly brothers in their home just hours after telling strangers in a pub that he was a doctor who would carry out autopsies on any bodies found that night.
Alan Cawley’s murder trial also heard that he threatened to have a one customer ‘committed’ with the help of the Gardaí to prevent him killing his wife.
The evidence was heard today (Thursday) at the Central Criminal Court, where the 30-year-old is on trial, charged with murdering both Thomas Blaine and John (Jack) Blaine. They were found beaten to death four years ago.
Mr Cawley of Four Winds, Corrinbla, Ballina, has admitted killing the brothers, both of whom had speech impediments and other illnesses. However, he has pleaded not guilty to murdering them on July 10 at New Antrim Street in Castlebar.
‘Leave us alone’
Michelle Nally testified that she was bar manager at The Irish House in the town, but was off duty and socialising there on the night of July 9 that year.
She told Denis Vaughan Buckley SC, prosecuting, that a couple she knew, Mick and Maureen Lacey, came into the bar. They were followed a short time later by a man she didn’t know; it’s accepted that this was the accused.
“He seemed to go straight over to them,” she recalled. “At first, Maureen seemed to be ok but after a while I heard her saying: ‘Leave us alone’.”
She said she invited Mrs Lacey to join her and her friend, as she looked ‘very uncomfortable’.
“He followed her over,” she said. “He was saying that Michael Lacey had health issues and he thought that Michael was going to kill Maureen that night. He said he wanted to ring the Gardaí on him, that he was afraid for her.”
She said this man claimed to be studying to be a doctor and to have done four-and-a-half years of his training.
“He said he was working in the mortuary in Castlebar and that if her body, or any body, was found in the morning, he’d be doing the postmortems,” she said.
“I said they were very serious accusations [about Mr Lacey] and that he had no right to be saying it,” she continued. “He said he had the authority to do it because he was training to be a doctor.” She said she asked him outside to speak to him and asked him his name.
“He said he was Alan McDonagh from Cavan, his grandparents were part of the Traveller community but he was settled,” she said. “He had settled as a child and that’s why he was training to be a doctor.”
She said she asked if he would mind her ringing the HSE in the morning to report him; he was drinking at 11pm, and would possibly be carrying out a post-mortem exam at 6am. She was also going to mention the serious allegations.
She said he became angry when she put her hand in her pocket, and asked if she was recording the conversation.
‘I was fearful’
Michelle Nally said that she and her friend were also getting very uncomfortable by this point, and she told him he could finish his drink outside, but not to come back onto the premises.
“He was talking slow but I could understand him,” she explained. “I didn’t know what to think. At first I had no reason in the world to doubt him.” She thought that he might have been on drugs.
“I didn’t know if he was acting crazy,” she added. “I was fearful.” She said that she’d had every intention of calling the HSE the next morning but, when she heard the news about the Blaine brothers, she called the Gardaí instead.
Caroline Biggs SC, defending, put it to her that it had been a completely irrational allegation to make about Michael Lacey. “Yeah, it was crazy,” she replied. “He didn’t know them.”
The jury also heard from the last person, besides the accused, to see Jack Blaine alive. Barman John Ralph had just delivered a cup of tea to Mr Blaine’s windowsill, when he noticed him with the accused. He told Mr Buckley that he had known the brothers since he was a child.
“Everyone would know them around town,” he explained.
“Jack used to go around town blessing everything,” he added. “They were complete and utter harmless people. If you grew up in Castlebar, you’d know Jack and Tom.”
He said that he got to know Jack better than Tom during his nine years working in Rocky’s Bar, across the road from their home. “Every single night I worked there, he came into the pub,” he said. “What for?” asked the barrister. “A cup of tea,” he replied, explaining that he would come in between three and eight times a night.
“Even on Saturday night when it was packed, you’d make him a cup of tea,” he said “He’d never ask. He’d come in with the cup.”
Mr Ralph said he would then go across the road and leave the tea on Mr Blaine’s windowsill or go into his house and leave it on the table for him.
“He had his own cup,” he recalled. “It was a Christmas cup as far as I know.”
He said he was ‘very slow’ walking and had ‘a bit of a hunch’, having suffered severe injury working on a building site in England many years earlier.
He said that it was late on the night of July 9, when he brought him his last cup of tea.
“Jack was coming out beside me,” he said. “This gentleman was on my left-hand side.”
He said he crossed the road and left the cup of tea on the windowsill. “I saw this lad again,” he said. It’s accepted that this was Mr Cawley. Once back in the bar, Mr Ralph looked out the window.
“I could hear him asking was he ok,” he recalled. “This lad had his arm on Jack and Jack patted him.” He said he’d always looked to see who was with the brothers.
“I thought this lad was no hassle, bringing him across the road,” he explained. He said he’d seen the same man walking into the town’s presbytery the day before, looking ‘shook’.
“He looked as if there was something on his mind,” he testified. “He stood out. I knew there was definitely something wrong, that he was going in to talk to a priest about something. That’s why he stuck in my mind.”
The trial continues on Monday before Mr Justice Paul Coffey and a jury of four women and eight men.