Mark Nash trial: State pathologist had never seen such injuries

Court hears that women’s wounds were outside John Harbison’s experience in 26 years

Former State pathologist John Harbison had reportedly never seen wounds like those suffered by Sylvia Shields and Mary Callanan, who were found dead in Grangegorman in 1997. Photograph: Ronan Quinlan/Collins

Retired State pathologist John Harbison reported that injuries to women found dead in Grangegorman in 1997 were "outside" his experience in 26 years, a jury has heard.

Mark Nash (42), who has previous addresses at Prussia Street and Clonliffe Road in Dublin, has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Sylvia Shields (60) and Mary Callanan (61) between March 6th and March 7th, 1997.

The two women were living in sheltered accommodation in a house attached to St Brendan's Psychiatric Hospital in Grangegorman.

The first witness of the day called by Una Ní Raifeartaigh, acting for the State, was Det Garda Eugene Gilligan, since retired, who was attached to the Garda Technical Bureau at the time.


Mr Gilligan arrived at Orchard View, Grangegorman on the morning of March 7th, 1997. He told the court how he first identified the body of Mary Callanan, who was found in her bedroom.

Two electric carving knife blades were found in her bedroom, one beside her neck and another on the floor. A third kitchen fork with a red handle was also found protruding from her body, the court heard.

The jury was told by Mr Gilligan that Sylvia Shields’s body was found lying on her back across her bed with her feet on the ground. Ms Shields had sustained neck, head, chest, abdominal and vaginal injuries.

Mr Gilligan said two knives were found in her bedroom.

The lengthy reports by Prof Harbison were read to the court by Brendan Grehan, acting for the State, concerning the postmortems where he described the serious genital injuries to both women as “injuries outside my experience in 26 years”.

Throat cut

Reading the report, Mr Grehan read aloud that Prof Harbison had said that Ms Callanan had died from a stab wound to her left lung, the cutting of her throat and three superficial stab wounds to her heart.Ms Shields had died from bleeding into her chest.

“A quick death, in view of massive bleeding from the aorta,” read Mr Grehan.

Det Sgt Christopher O’Brien, now retired, also attached to the Garda Technical Bureau at the time, told the court all the knives were taken into possession and were examined for finger and palm marks but produced negative results.

The court has heard that Dublin man Dean Lyons had originally admitted the Grangegorman murders but he was subsequently exonerated.

The trial continues.