Mark Nash trial hears ‘spectacular breakthrough’ linked him to murdered women

Man goes on trial accused of killing two women in Grangegorman in 1997

Mark Nash pictured in 1998. File Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins, Dublin

Mark Nash pictured in 1998. File Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins, Dublin


“A spectacular breakthrough” led to the DNA of two women, found dead at their sheltered accommodation in Grangegorman 18 years ago, being found on the jacket of a man on trial accused of their murder, a trial has heard.

Mark Nash (42), who has last addresses at Prussia Street and Clonliffe Road in Dublin, has pleaded not guilty at the Central Criminal Court to the murder of Sylvia Shields (60) and Mary Callanan (61).

Mr Nash is charged with the murders of the two women who lived in a house attached to St Brendan’s Psychiatric Hospital in Grangegorman, Dublin 7 between March 6th and March 7th, 1997.

Opening the prosecution case, Brendan Grehan SC told the jury that this was a case which dates back to 1997, and the fact it was 18 years ago was “a factor in this case”.

Mr Grehan pointed out to the jury of seven men and five women that the offences “occurred quite a considerable time ago and for that reason you will not hear from some witnesses who have in fact died”.

He also outlined there would be matters in the course of the trial “that occurred in Roscommon and there would be a reference to a Dean Lyons who is since deceased”.

Outlining the facts of the case, Mr Grehan said that a bloodstain found on a lower button on the sleeve of Mr Nash’s jacket in 1997 could not be developed as a DNA sample.

However, Mr Grehan told the court that in July 2009 a “spectacular breakthrough” was made with new tests and DNA from Ms Shields and Ms Callanan was found on the black velvet, stripy jacket.

The jury was told t Mr Nash had confessed to gardaí that he had carried out the Grangegorman murders, after being charged with the double murder of Carl and Catherine Doyle at their Roscommon home in August 1997.

On August 16th, 1997, Mr Grehan said Mark Nash was arrested by gardaí outside Galway city in relation to the Roscommon murders.

During the course of his retention in Mill Street Garda station, the court heard Mr Nash volunteered he had committed the Grangegorman murders. When being transported to Mountjoy prison, he even pointed out the house in Orchard View in Dublin 7 where the murders had happened.

Mr Grehan outlined to the court that at the time Mr Nash made this admission to the gardaí, they had no interest in the Grangegorman murders.

“As far as they were aware the crimes had been solved and a Dean Lyons had confessed to these murders on July 26th. He had been charged and was in custody for these murders,” said Mr Grehan.

Lyons, who had originally admitted the Grangegorman murders, was later exonerated.

Mr Nash subsequently withdrew his admissions and said he was shocked his statement was taken seriously saying he was “in a serious mental anger and distress due to the day’s previous events”.

Mr Grehan told the court: “He said he would like to state for the record, he had nothing to do with (the Grangegorman) murders, it was the ramblings of an unstable man and he would have taken the rap for killing the Pope.”

The court heard how Mr Nash made contact with gardaí through his solicitor and wrote a letter saying he sought to take back what he had said about the Grangegorman murders. He wanted to apologise to gardaí for wasting their time and withdraw any statements and diagrams in relations to it.

Mr Grehan told the court that apart from Mr Nash allegedly “admitting” he had carried out the murders, there is “in addition completely independent, objective and scientific evidence by way of DNA analysis which the prosecution say, can only be rationally explained by pointing to Mark Nash for these murders”.

The jury, under Mr Justice Carroll Moran, also heard about the “badly mutilated bodies” of the two women which were left partially clad after being abused using serrated blades, a knife, a large carving knife and a carving fork.

These implements are believed to have originated from the kitchen of the house in Grangegorman. It has been demolished to make way for the new DIT complex.

Both women had been inpatients in Grangegorman but in more recent years had moved into a community-based residential facility or sheltered housing, operated by what was then the Eastern Health Board.

Ms Shields had at “least 17 separate injuries afflicted to her body, some 10 separate wounds to head and neck area”.

Ms Callanan had a “severe facial and knife wound through her mouth and lips, her throat been severed with 36 strokes”. Both had also sustained serious genital injuries.

The jury was also shown a video taken of the scene at Orchard View, and heard from two security guards from Grangegorman who were among the first on the scene on the morning of March 7th, 1997.

The trial continues.