That the series of secret inquiries which have been held from time to time in Parsonstown in connection with Sub-Constable Browne's murder were not to be entirely futile was made plain on Tuesday when the results, to a certain extent, were made public. On that day an investigation was held in open Court, the nine men already in custody being brought from Tullamore for the purpose. They arrived in Parsonstown in two large breaks accompanied by a strong police escort, each man being carefully handcuffed and placed so as to prevent communication with his neighbour. The cortege created quite a sensation in the town, and shortly after one o'clock the prisoners were marched from the Police Station to the Courthouse, where Mr. J.T. McSheehy, R.M., presided. Mr. H.A. Blake, S.R.M., was on the Bench for a time but took no part in the proceedings.
The name of the accused were: Wm. Doorley, Lawrence Slevin, Francis Clancy, Bernard Deehan, Patrick Davery, Michael Kemmy, Michael Kenny, Richard McGrane, Thomas Garahy.
The Crown was represented by Mr. John Julian, Crown Solicitor, who was assisted by Mr. Seddall, S.I., and the accused by Mr. J.J. Kelly.
The usual preliminaries having been gone through,
Mr. Julian explained that his intention was to examine but one, or possibly two, witnesses that day so as to justify him in asking for a further remand.
The first witness called was Bridget Curley, a girl of about eighteen years of age. When she appeared in the witness box the prisoners seemed to evince no surprise, and beyond laughing, none of them regarded her particularly. She gave her evidence in a very cool, self-possessed manner, and while Mr. Julian was reading the lengthy information she listened most attentively. The following is her evidence as taken by Mr. H. A. Blake, at the private inquiry:
I live in Cloghan; it is my native place; I have been only away from it for 8 months in all my life; I know the people of the neighbourhood; I know Lawrence Slevin's house; about a year and a half ago I observed that people used to meet at his house at night ; they used generally come about half- past seven, and the meetings used to last until about 11; the meetings excited my curiosity and I often used to listen at the back window; I remember the Saturday on which Sub-Constable Browne was shot in Parsonstown last year; about three Saturdays before the murder I was listening at the window; I saw some of the people inside; Will Doorley, of Stonestown, was in the chair; it was a regular meeting; there were some books; like copy-books on the table; Mick Kenny was there, John Doorley, Mick Horan of Cloghanhill, Tom Mulleady, Martin Smith, John Clement, Lawrence Slevin, Tom Garahy, Richard McGrane was there, a man from Banagher was there; I do not know his name, but I would know him again; Francis Clancy was there, Patrick Davery was there, and Michael Kemmy of Goatstown; on that night the whole discourse was about the policeman; I heard John Doorley ask Jem Corcoran to shoot Browne; Corcoran said he would not do so; Will Doorley said that if Corcoran would not do it he would do it himself; John Doorley said he would not leave it to any of them to do, that he would do it himself, there was a general conversation over the matter; I did not gather from the conversation why Browne was to be shot; but after John Doorley spoke, John Clement said it was better to leave it to the next Saturday; he said that he was going in to buy turnips in Parsonstown, and it was settled with the meeting that John Clement and Bernard Deehan, and John Doorley were to go into Parsonstown next Saturday; they were to wait until night, and they were to watch him and shoot him whenever they would meet him; William Doorley was sitting at the table and looking over the books; some of the people were sitting and some were standing; Bernard Deehan was there in the beginning of the meeting, but he was after going out when I heard the conversation, they waited a long time for Deehan to return, and when they did not see him they said it would be better to wait until the next meeting night; it was William Doorley who said this; the meeting broke up then; the shops were not closed; this was on Wednesday; the next Wednesday they met again in the same place; I went again and listened; I saw the same people in the same room; I did not miss any of them out of it; Bernard Deehan was there; Will Doorley was in the chair; it was getting dusk; they were talking about the murder of Sub-Constable Browne; Bernard Deehan said he would assist John Doorley; John Clement said he would help; they were speaking to and fro; Mike Kenny asked John Clement what business he would have in Parsonstown the following Saturday; Clements said he had to buy turnips and to get his name down for the emigration; then Willy Slevin came into the room drunk, and they all had to leave; the following Wednesday the same people met again; Will Doorley was in the chair again; John Doorley was there; Bernard Deehan, John Clement, and Francis Clancy were also there; that was the Wednesday before the murder; Bernard Deehan said that he got leave from the gaffer to stop at home the next Saturday; he was working on the railway; Mike Kenny and John Doorley went out to the New Garden that they had hid under ground; they brought in the rifle; it was in John Doorley's hands; John Doorley said that as far as the contents of that would go he would give it to Browne; and he only wished that Constable McCormack would be with him also; Mike Kenny, said there would be more than police in the crowd; John Doorley said he did not care, that he would do his best on him; John Doorley had a revolver; that is what I mean by a rifle; it was a little longer than my hand; Francis Clancy said that he would yoke his own horse and would carry the party in; the party was Doorley, Deehan and Clements; Mrs Mullhaire then came and tapped at the door; then they settled that they would go into Parsonstown the next Saturday; Will Doorley gathered up all the books and put them in a strap, and the meeting broke up; there was no meeting there until about a fortnight after the murder; on Wednesday the same parties were there again; Will Doorley was in the chair, and the books there also; John Doorley said he was satisfied now that he had Browne down, and if he had McCormack now he would be easy; one of those present; I think it was one of the Deehan's, asked Francis Clancy did he go, and he said he did, and that if he had to yoke his wife under the car he would carry them home; they were talking about the spree they had; Bernard Deehan said he was there; John Doorley told the lot of people how he had shot Browne, he said that they were in at Molloy's house when they saw Browne passing; Deehan said, "is that Brown passing?" Doorley said yes, and then he shook hands with Molloy, and followed him and the man he was with; Doorley said that when he fired the shot he went over to a road that was convenient and went off towards home; Clancy said that as soon as Browne was shot he went along and got the horse and went home; they said nothing about losing the revolver; the meetings are still going on , and are attended from time to time by the same people but some of them have emigrated; they do be planning how to get up a large League meeting; before the arrangement to shoot Browne, I heard Will Doorley offer some money , and three of the best bullocks in his field, to Patsy Martin if he would shoot Constable Madden; Martin agreed to do it, but my brother Pat prevented it, as Martin told him he was to do it; it was Tom Garahy offered the money, and Will Doorley the bullocks; they gave no reason; at a meeting before last Christmas Will Doorley wanted Willy Slevin to put some poison in a loaf for Constable O'Rorke, but Slevin refused to do it; the usual lot were at the meeting."
Mr. Kelly said he did not purpose at this stage in cross-examining the witness at any great length, but he wished to ask her a few questions, for infomations sake.
Mr. Julian - She is there now, and you can ask her anything you please.
Mr. McSheehy - First of all ask her does she identify the prisoners.
The witness turned round and calmly surveyed the accused, who were sitting sandwiched between the policemen, and after a pause said she did
His Worship - Look at all the prisoners and see if you identify all? Yes all of them.
Mr. McSheehy - Name them one by one.
Witness pointing to Michael Kenny, named him first.
Kenny - On your oath did you ever see me there?
The prisoner was promptly reprimanded and ordered not to speak.
Witness continuing - Tom Garahy, Will Doorley, Bernard Deehan.
Deehan - Oh, I'm here but I was never there.
Witness - Frank Clancy, Richard McGrane, Laurence Slevin, Paddy Devery, (pointing to Michael Kemmy), I never saw him.
Mr. Julian - You mentioned the name of Corcoran. Are you sure of him?
I am sure of Jim Corcoran.
You are quite sure of him?
Mr. Julian - I have nothing more to say at present,
Mr Kelly - Where do you live at present? Now is it?
Yes, at present? I live in Birr presently.
Where in Birr? At the hotel.
Were you born in Cloghan? Yes.
Have you lived there all your life? All but eight months.
Who do you live with? In my own house, with my mother.
Is your father alive? No.
Do you have any brothers? Yes.
You were away for eight months you say. Where were you? I was living in Birr, as a servant at Molloy's.
You knew Slevin's house before? Yes.
And you saw all you describe? Yes.
And you heard of the murder before it took place? Yes.
But you said nothing of it before it took place? No.
But you did after? Yes.
Who to? I told the Constabulary in Cloghan.
Where? I can't exactly say.
How soon after the murder? I can't say.
About how soon?
Mr. Julian - I should have said, Mr. Kelly, that if you choose you can have her answers taken down and added to the information.
Mr. Kelly - I am aware, sir, and I shall ask to have anything that I think is material taken down.
Cross-examination continued - How long before the murder was it you heard of it? About three weeks.
And after the murder, when did you hear of it again? About a week or a fortnight.
Do you mean to say you heard nothing of the murder for a fortnight? I heard nothing of it until the next meeting night, and that was a fortnight after.
And you were living in Cloghan, but said nothing all the time? I said nothing.
Although you knew all? Yes.
And you heard the Birr murder spoken of? Yes.
But you said you heard nothing of it for a fortnight? I did not until the next night of meeting.
How soon after did you tell the police? It is not long since I told them.
Who did you tell? I told Sub-Constable Weir.
Where? I couldn't tell you the spot.
Or When? No.
Then how do you remember the day of the murder so well?
Mr. McSheehy - She never fixed the particular day.
Mr. Kelly referred to the information where she swore it was on a Saturday.
Mr McSheehy - that was by the meeting to which se alludes
Mr. Kelly - How do you fix it on a Saturday when you can remember no other day? I know it was Saturday, but I can't say the day of the month.
You allude to three weeks before the murder, how do you fix that date? Because the meeting night was always on a Wednesday and I know it by that.
Did you ever swear it was three weeks before the murder you heard of it?
It was on a Wednesday I heard of it.
But you swear it was three weeks before? I meant to say it was on a Wednesday.
Mr. McSheehy - I thought the witness had given a fair explanation of her meaning.
Mr. Kelly - I think sir, given the gravity of the charge against these men, and the suspicion attaching to the witnesses evidence, I am entitled to a little latitude in cross-examination.
Mr. McSheehy - You shall have every latitude, but the witness has over and over again said what she meant. I don't wish to restrict you in any way.
Cross-examination continued - Now you say about three weeks, how do you fix the number? Because there were three meetings held before it.
And how did you come to tell the story to the policeman? He drew it down in conversation.
And did you think it of no importance? Not the slightest.
What! All this conversation before and after the murder? Oh, I knew it was important, but I wasn't going to say anything about it.
You say it was three weeks before, you heard, and a fortnight after the murder you told the police? I did not.
Well you say it was a fortnight after the event you heard of the murder? Yes.
How do you fix that date? Because one Wednesday night there was no meeting at all, and the next Wednesday there was.
I see. And who did you tell after Weir? Only him.
Did you tell no one else, do you have no comrade girls? I told no one.
Did you never mention the murder at all in course of conversation?
Oh yes, we talked about the murder, but not what I have sworn.
Did you ever ask a girl to back up your story?
Witness emphatically: No.
Do you swear that? I do.
Do you swear that you never asked anyone to swear what you have sworn?
I did not.
The meetings were held in Slevin's house, you say. How far from your house? I can't say.
What! You can't say? I cannot.
Mr. Julian - Cloghan is not such a very big place, Mr. Kelly.
Can't you say about how far? Our house is in one street and theirs is in another.
Mr. McSheehy - Is it about as far from here to the barrack? It is about that.
Mr Kelly - And you used to go every evening to listen? Yes.
For no reason? No, but to hear what was going on.
I won't ask you any more for the present.
Mr. Julian said he did not propose to go any further that day, and he applied for a remand for the usual period.
Mr. Kelly asked that a copy of the information be supplied him.
Mr Julian replied that at this stage it was unusual to have copies of information supplied to the prisoner's solicitor, and he could not accede in this instance. However, he mistook Mr. Kelly very greatly if he had not already got a fairly accurate copy of them in his head.
Mr Kelly, while thanking Mr. Julian for his complimentary allusion, said it would be impossible for him to retain in his memory the dates and facts sworn by the witness, and in justice to the prisoners he claimed a copy of the information.
A lengthened argument ensued in which the Solicitors and the Bench took part, and eventually while refusing to part with the informations Mr. Julian conceded so far as to allow Mr Kelly to make such extracts from them as he deemed necessary. The informations and the points extracted on cross-examination were then handed to the witness who re swore and signed them. A formal remand for eight days was granted by his worship who peremptorily declined to consider the question of bail. The prisoners (with the exception of Michael Kemmy, who was discharged), were again handcuffed and escorted by a large police force to the barracks from when later on they were removed to Tullamore Gaol.
The investigation will be resumed on Tuesday next.
King's County Chronicle (Birr, King's County (County Offaly), Ireland), June 7, 1883.