Accused said he had never spoken to Phyllis Murphy

 

The former Army sergeant on trial for the murder of Kildare woman Phyllis Murphy over 22 years ago told gardaí investigating the murder at the time that he could not remember ever speaking to her.

Her naked body was found in a wooded area close to the Wicklow Gap on January 18th, 1980. In the Central Criminal Court, Mr John Crerar (54), a father of five from Woodside Park, Kildare, has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Philomena Murphy. The prosecution alleges that the re-examination of blood and other samples taken at the time of the killing "points" to his guilt.

At the time of her death, Phyllis Murphy was living in digs in Rathangan, Co Kildare. On December 22nd 1979, she had spent the day in Newbridge buying Christmas presents for her family and having her hair done. She was about to get the bus back to Kildare when she "vanished" between 6.30 and 6:45 p.m., according to counsel for the DPP, Mr Michael Durack SC.

Yesterday, her brother Mr Michael Murphy told the court that he identified her body at Naas general hospital on the evening of January 18th, 1980. Her brother Mr Gerard Murphy told how Phyllis visited him at his house in Newbridge shortly before she disappeared. She told him she had Christmas presents "for the kids" and was going to call to the Luker's house before she got the bus to Kildare.

She said she did not have time to sit down because she wanted to get the 7.10 p.m. bus.

He said that when he last saw her, she was "in great form".

The following day, his other brother Patrick and his brother-in-law arrived at his house to tell him Phyllis had arranged to meet Ms Barbara Luker in Kildare but she did not turn up. Later, family friend Mr Michael Martin and himself decided to report the matter to the gardaí in Newbridge.

Retired Det Sgt Joseph Higgins told the trial he interviewed a number of people in the course of a major Garda investigation into the killing. On January 16th, 1980, in Kildare Garda station, he and his colleague Det Garda John Canny took a statement from Mr John Crerar, who was then a security guard at the local Black and Decker factory. In the statement, Mr Crerar said, "I do not know Phyllis Murphy to speak to. I know her father and sisters Claire and Patricia."

He said he knew Patricia because she worked in the Jet station in Kildare when he and his family were living in a caravan on the Dublin Road.

"I cannot even remember speaking to Phyllis Murphy in my life", Mr Crerar told gardaí.

Mr Higgins agreed with defence lawyer, Mr Roger Sweetman SC, that at the time, he had also taken a statement from Mr Brian O'Leary in which Mr O'Leary referred to Mr Crerar being in his pub, having won a turkey and having bought a beer between 10 and 11 p.m. that night.

Earlier, Mr Sweetman put it to retired Det Sgt John McManus that an August 1999 reconstruction he carried out of a trip to and from the location where Ms Murphy's body was found was "of little or no value", because the original journey would have been in darkness, on a winter night and on a road surface that had since been greatly improved.

Mr McManus disagreed. "It's the same distance," he said.

The trial continues before Mr Justice McKechnie.