A crime is never just about the crime. And never has that been truer than in the case of Fr Niall Molloy, whose murder in Clara, Co Offaly in 1985 remains among Ireland's most baffling cold cases.
One of the more unsettling conclusions drawn in the second and final episode of The Killing Of Father Niall Molloy (RTÉ One, 9.35pm) is that the local community pulled close the shutters and averted its gaze in the aftermath of Molloy's death.
"For many years, I never came to the village. I just felt sick," says Bill Maher, Molloy's nephew, towards the end of an absorbing if ultimately bleak film.
The suggestion made by the documentary is that the circumstances of Molloy's killing were open knowledge from the outset – but that ranks were closed. Thereafter Clara went into decline. Factories went out of business , the Celtic Tiger passed it by.
And when people spoke about the village it was in just one context: Father Niall Molloy.
“An awful lot of people believe that various things happened,” says one local. “Various factories [closed]. For want of a better word, maybe there was a curse on it.”
Molloy’s body was found in the upstairs bedroom of the house of Richard and Therese Flynn’s at the end of a night celebrating the wedding of their daughter. The Flynns were a wealthy couple who had a long-standing friendship with Molloy.
As explained in part one, Richard Flynn confessed to killing Molloy. But at his trial for manslaughter the judge directed the jury to enter a non-guilty verdict after the accused's defence suggested it was possible the priest had died of heart failure.
Molloy's family have campaigned ever since for the truth to come out. A new investigation was undertaken by the Garda Serious Crime Review Team. And an independent assessment of that review was subsequently ordered by then Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter. But nobody has ever been found guilty of the killing (Therese Flynn passed way in 1993, Richard Flynn in 2017).
"I don't see any possibility that they will ever find out what happened that night," says Alan Dukes who was Minister for Justice in 1985. "[That's] entirely unsatisfactory. It's grief-inducing for them [but] that's the fact."
Angela Doyle, a crime scene specialist with Merseyside Police, examines a reconstruction of the bedroom where Molloy's body was recovered. "The crime scene is this room," she says. "What people don't realise is that Father Molloy, the deceased, is also a crime scene. Richard is a crime scene. Therese is a crime scene."
One crucial unanswered question is how Richard Flynn came to have a rip in his pyjamas and a pulled button. Forensic evidence confirms Molloy didn’t touch him.What about Therese? “She’s the crime scene that got away,” says Doyle.
The film unpacks the financial dealings between Molloy and the Flynns. An insurance policy had been taken out on Molloy’s life, in which Therese was named as his sister and next of kin.
“I heard about Therese Flynn claiming she was his sister,” says Molloy’s nephew Henry McCourt. “I don’t think she looked like him.”
Richard Flynn was in "serious financial difficulty". By 1985 he owed some £115,000, a huge figure in 1980s Ireland. Around this time, Molloy and Therese Flynn signed a contract to buy land from Richard for £35,000, with an up-front deposit of £24,000. Therese, in other words, was buying land she already owned. The deal was ultimately vetoed by the Land Commission. There is no evidence of Flynn returning the £24,000.
Molloy shortly afterwards instructed his solicitor to cut “all business ties with the Flynns”, says his nephew, Maher. And then, few days later, says McCourt, the Flynns were “going ahead with a big society wedding that they basically couldn’t afford”. And it was on the night of that wedding that Molloy died.
"People don't want to talk about it," says Brian Sheridan, a neighbour of the Flynns, as the documentary ended with chilling inconclusiveness. "It's always there as a black mark against the town."