Case over inquest on baby's death 34 years ago settled

Fri, Mar 12, 2010, 00:00

A LEGAL row over an inquest jury’s verdict that a dead baby found in a Dún Laoghaire laneway in 1973 was the child of Cynthia Owen, who alleged the child was conceived following rape and sexual abuse, has been settled at the High Court.

The settlement terms include an acknowledgement by Dublin County Coroner Dr Kieran Geraghty that the verdict does not implicate Catherine Stevenson, a sister of Ms Owen, in any wrongdoing whatsoever.

Ms Owen had alleged the baby was conceived by her following sexual abuse in her family home in Dalkey and was stabbed to death there in April 1973.

The body of the infant was found days later in a Dún Laoghaire laneway, wrapped in newspapers and packed into a plastic bag.

Ms Stevenson had brought judicial review proceedings seeking to overturn the unanimous jury finding at an inquest held by Dr Geraghty in February 2007.

Ms Stevenson claimed that Ms Owen’s allegations of the murder and disposal by a family member of the baby were completely untrue and that there was in fact no baby.

Following talks on the third day of the case yesterday, Mr Justice John Hedigan was told that it had been settled.

He was told the case could be struck out on the basis of a statement by the coroner acknowledging that the inquest verdict did not implicate Ms Stevenson in any wrongdoing whatsoever.

Luán Ó Braonáin SC, for the coroner, said that statement could be lodged in court.

Mr Justice Hedigan said the settlement represented a good day’s work and he agreed entirely with the statement, acknowledging that the verdict did not implicate Ms Stevenson.

Ms Stevenson had claimed that the inquest jury’s decision meant it was accepted the infant was murdered by the women’s late mother Josephine Murphy and other family members and that Ms Stevenson was somehow involved in that act.

Ms Stevenson alleged the coroner failed to adopt fair procedures and failed to provide conflicting statements from Ms Owen to the jury which, it was claimed, would have raised issues about her credibility.

The coroner denied the claims and said that he had acted fairly at all times.

He had decided to reopen the inquest, 34 years after it had been adjourned indefinitely, following discussions with gardaí and because Ms Owen’s story appeared so convincing.

The inquest jury was told that Ms Owen alleged she was raped repeatedly from the age of seven or eight into her teenage years by four different people.