Parsonstown was galvanized out of its normal state of stupidity on Tuesday morning by the report that the circumstances of the all but forgotten murder of an unfortunate policeman in its streets were about to be the subject of further magisterial inquiry. Indeed for the matter of during the week past 'the lying jade' had been busy with her own solutions as the raison d'etre of the presence in Parsonstown of Mr. H.A. Blake Special R.M, and his acute aide Mr Seddall S.I. In nods and winks local quidnunce (sic) foretold secret investigations and Star Chamber inquiries with all the attendant mysteries and terrors of the Crimes Act. Kilmainham, Cork and Clare were to play second fiddle to us in the "making of history," and by a little more pressure on our imaginative resources we might have evolved a Gunpowder-Dynamite-Invincible plot before which the tale of Green-street would fade into insignificance. That the gossip-mongers were not for the first time either, out in their calculations need hardly be said, but that there is rarely smoke without fire was also evinced when rumour assumed tangible form, and an armed escort of police conveyed a prisoner into the Constabulary barracks, Cumberland Square. Then it quickly became public property that the authorities were in possession - or believed they were - of a clue to the murder of Sub-constable Browne in Townsend Street, on the Saturday night, the 12th August, 1882.
To the reader of the KING'S COUNTY CHRONICLE there is no need to recapitulate the details of that foul deed. Told in a few sentences they are thus:- On a fine summer's evening in a crowded public thoroughfare a stalwart policeman is shot dead, his assassin taking no more covert position than the door-way of an adjoining public house, which at the moment, was peopled with inhabitants and customers. From the shop door of the establishment of Mr Kieran Egan three revolver shots are fired in quick succession; Browne falls mortally wounded, his fellow policeman dazed and stupefied thinks more of his own safety than either welfare of the victim or the arrest of his assassin who quietly walks through the shop before the smoke has well cleared away from the muzzle of his weapon, passes from thence to the yard under the eyes of nearly a dozen onlookers, and thus escapes with impunity.
Arrests were of course made, inquiry after inquiry was held, witnesses of all degree were examined but apparently to no purpose as one by one the men in custody were discharged and so lately as October last, the last suspect was released. Time rolled on and to all appearances the murder of Constable Browne had been relegated to that obscurity which has unfortunately shrouded too many crimes in Ireland, and such was the position of affairs to last Tuesday morning when the authorities gave proofs that they were of a different way of thinking. The mode of procedure seems to have been this:- By early morning a large force of police drawn from Tullamore, Ferbane, Banagher, Ballycumber, Clara, etc., all under the command of County Inspector Stephens, and Sub-Inspector Lilly, congregated in the vicinity of Cloghan. The fact that a fair was being held in that village the same day probably prevented any inconvenient surmises as to their business there, and at a given signal the force divided into parties and warrants of arrest were quickly executed when the following persons were taken into custody - Wm Doorley, farmer, Stonestown; Francis Clancy, farmer, Kilamore; Laurence Slevin, bootmaker, Cloghan; and Bernard Deehan, millers assistant, High-st, Belmont. The exact connection, or alleged relationship with the murder, of all or any of the prisoners is not stated. Doorley, who was the first to be arrested, enjoys the questionable honour of being an "ex-suspect," and in addition to this he is the brother of John Doorley, who spent a considerable time in gaol on a similar charge to that now preferred against his brother. William Doorley is a strapping big man, some five and thirty years, with a foreign or perhaps it would be better described as a Yankee cast of face, upon which he grows a full black beard and moustache. He was arrested at his own house, situated within half a mile of Cloghan. Laurence Slevin is quite a different type of man, well dressed and intelligent looking, and apparently in ill-assorted company when standing beside his fellow prisoners. Clancy is a delicate looking man of the cottier farmer class, possibly fifty-five to sixty years of age, poorly dressed and proportionately fed to all appearances.
Readers of the reports of the various inquiries held after the murder will remember that Clancy was one of the two men driven into Parsonstown on the morning of the murder by Mr Kieran Egan, his companion being John Doorley, the man before referred to, and at the time considerable stress was laid on the circumstances. The fourth man looks what he is described, but more honest or ingenuous countenance it would not be easy to find than that owned by Deehan, who bears the reputation of harmlessness and industry.
The accused were brought into Parsonstown one by one and lodged in the barrack as they arrived, but strict orders were obeyed as to preventing them from communicating one with the other.
Meantime, such of the police as were not employed escorting the prisoners to Parsonstown were actively engaged searching for arms in Cloghan and its vicinity. The houses of many persons suspected of sympathy with, or complicity in some of the doings which made the name of the district notorious were carefully explored, some of the constables being supplied for the occasion, with long iron probing rods. So far as has transpired, however, the search was unavailing, nothing of any importance having been discovered.
During the afternoon, Mr Blake and Mr W.H.F. Smith, R.M., Edenderry, conducted a preliminary inquiry in the justices chamber of the court-house, but no witnesses were examined; and shortly before six o'clock Mr McSheehy, R.M., Parsonstown, took his seat on the Bench, when the four accused were brought from the barrack, each man being carefully handcuffed and escorted by a couple of constables. As in the police station they were kept far apart, and the proceedings were opened by Mr R.R. Fulton, S.I., making the following information, which is formally swore:- "I am a Sub-Inspector of Constabulary, and am stationed at Birr, in the King's County. On this day the defendant's were arrested on a charge of being concerned in the murder of Edward Browne, Sub-Constable of Constabulary which took place at Birr, in the King's County, on the 12th day of August, 1882. I pray that said defendants may be remanded, as I believe further evidence will be forthcoming against them on said charges."
By direction of their worships Mr Barlow (the clerk) read the information for the prisoners, none of whom made a single observation in reply. Mr McSheehy then made an order in compliance with Mr Fulton's request, remanding them for a period not exceeding eight days. These proceedings which did not occupy many minutes, being concluded, the prisoners were re-conducted to the police station and shortly after were transferred to Tullamore, accompanied by a large escort of police.
Such are the circumstances so far as it I possible to penetrate the veil of official mystery surrounding the case, although it is fair to recognise the departure from the beaten paths of routine made by Mr Blake, who expressed his willingness to communicate to the Press any facts that, in his opinion could be safely made known.
These facts were, however, so few in number and so unimportant in character that it might not be doing the clever R.M., an injustice to assume that this anxiety was more to prevent the publication of possibly unfounded surmises than to favour the public with an insight into the future moves in the game; but Mr Seddall, the medium of communication, such as it was, repeated 'nothing' in such a thoroughly agreeable manner as almost to delude one into a belief that he had disburdened himself of every particular connection with the case. The Sphinx is popularly supposed to have been an impenetrable sort of gentleman, but Mr Seddall could give him "a stone and a beating over any country." From this it may be inferred that, beyond that which has been stated, little else is known. That the authorities are in possession of some information in addition to what has been published from time to time may be taken for granted, and the fact that so decided a step has been taken in the arrest of these men is proof that an approver is not behind the scenes some independent evidence will be forthcoming at the right time. To anticipate more than this would be unfair to the accused as it might be misleading to the public; and an injustice to both it might be as well the narrative of this locally startling event terminated here.
A private inquiry will be held from day to day in Parsonstown
King's County Chronicle (Birr, King's County (County Offaly), Ireland), May 17, 1883.