11 October 2007


Hunched over a hot drink last night, I perhaps wasn't initially as intrigued as I ought to have been when my Dad showed me a supplement from the Irish Times. Lots of old articles, I thought. Interesting, but so what? And then I realised what he was showing me. There's a new Irish Times digital archive, with exact reproductions of every article from 1859 to 1996. I blinked, and rushed upstairs to see if could search for answers to something that I've wondered all my life.

When I was a child I heard stories of a horrific murder of a child by a teenager none too far from my house, and growing into my teens I decided that it hadn't happened, it was too monstrous, it was just a scary story made up by older brothers to frighten me. And then, a year after Jamie Bulger's death I read an article that referred to it. I spoke to friends in work, knowing they were from the area where it happened, and the right age to remember. And I listened, horrified and spellbound, as the great unmentioned nightmare of our parish was described.

But how much was true? How much rumour? I've never known, and always wondered.

And so last night it took just minutes to find the initial reports and the official story of what happened here on that summer day in the seventies. How the child was initially reported to have died accidentally, and then, a few days later his killer was brought to court. Details on the murder weren't published either at the initial hearing or the subsequent trial, and the killer's identity was kept out of the papers, but the dates were there, the address of the murdered child, the ages of both killer and child, the names of the psychiatrist and psychologist who dealt with the killer, and the guard who headed the investigation. But what happened? All the Irish paper of record notes is that eventually a full statement was made by the accused and all the facts were made clear. It was a different world, and the facts aren't featured. Still, the 1993 article gave the gist.

I've written it all down. Some horror stories are true.

The lad who was killed would have been the same age as my brother, had he lived. Over tea after reading the reports, I asked my brother about this. He hadn't known the boy, and had never heard of this. Was he sheltered from this? Were all his friends? And if so, how did it become a ghost story for the next generation of kids in our parish?

Nobody knows now, of course. Maybe that's for the best.

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