While on a night out in Clara, Co Offaly in February 2002 Shane Tuohey disappeared. His body was found by his brother a week later in the river Brosna. His family suspected foul play, the Gardaí treated it as if it was a suicide.
At the time Gardaí collected CCTV tapes from around the town. Those tapes would have been critical to establishing what happened that night but Gardaí lost them. Now I have seen correspondence which shows that thirteen years on those tapes have been found, and the facts about what happened may now be established.
The Gardaí investigating this case appear to have operated on the basis that Shane had taken his own life. But there was a lot of evidence pointing towards Shane having been assaulted. Two independent coroner’s reports concluding homicide. Contradictory witness statements from his alleged assailants.
However nobody’s movements on the night could be verified because all the tapes that were collected by Gardaí went missing while supposedly in Garda care. The cameras from which the tapes were taken covered all the parts of the town where Shane was last seen alive.
But – Two separate Garda investigations were carried out without those tapes being available to the investigating detectives.
Simply put those tapes may show exactly what happened to Shane and why he ended up in the river. Or at the very least they will show if Shane’s alleged assailants were at home while Shane was known to still be alive – as they claim. Or if the statements they gave to Gardaí were wrong – and they were still in Clara after Shane was last seen alive.
How they have turned up now is almost as great a mystery as what happened to Shane. The Tuohey family had been led to believe them to be missing all this time.
On the basis of what he had been told the then Garda Commissioner, Noel Conroy, wrote to me in 2006 confirming the tapes hadn’t been available to the investigation team. He wrote that “a more professional investigation would have made reference to the CCTV which should have been available”
But they weren’t available, at least not to anybody investigating Shane’s death. I have obtained correspondence which indicates that 17 tapes related to the investigation are in Portlaoise Garda station in addition to other unspecified evidence.
What is even more puzzling is that it is evident that nobody looked at the tapes. The file sent to the DPP with a Garda recommendation that there was no foul play involved makes no mention of any CCTV evidence.
So Shane’s father Eamonn and his brother Edwin are now very keen to get their hands on these tapes and get them to the Independent Review Mechanism in the Department of Justice that is currently considering Shane’s case. I spoke to them earlier this week – that interview is podcast here.
So naturally I asked the Garda Commissioner would she send the tapes to the Independent Review Mechanism, and at the same time asked the Department would the review panel be requesting the tapes.
The Dept of Justice told me it has nothing to add to the statement issued to me from Gardai. And for their part Gardai said they could not comment because the matter is being considered by the Dept of Justice’s review mechanism.
That is as perfect a piece of inter agency stonewalling as you are ever likely to see. Stand back and admire it.
This is one of the most serious cases to end up before the Review Mechanism. Not alone is there the mystery of Shane’s death but also the improbable conundrum of how Gardaí came to take a statement suggesting Shane killed himself which was proven to be false. And the further mystery of how an assault on Shane is described in one statement to Gardaí but absent from a subsequent statement from the same person. There is also an alleged miscarriage of justice which flows directly from the investigation into Shane’s death.
In short the allegations and unaswered questions in this case are as troubling as they come. And in all probability examination of these tapes would confirm things one way or another. At the very least it would confirm whether an investigation needs to be re-opened.
Leaving them sitting in a box in Portlaoise Garda Station cannot be an aceptable answer.