A "close family friend" has become the second man sentenced to life in prison, after admitting to the murder of mother-of-three Irene White in her Co Louth home.
Niall Power (47), with an address at Giles Quay, Riverstown, Dundalk, Co Louth is the second man to be given a life sentence, after admitting his part in the 43-year-old's murder 14 years ago.
The father of four pleaded guilty on Monday morning to murdering Ms White at Ice House, Demesne Road, Dundalk, Co Louth on April 6th 2005.
In January 2018, historian Anthony Lambe (35), of Annadrumman, Castleblayney, Co Monaghan, was jailed for life after he too pleaded guilty to the murder of Ms White in the kitchen of her home.
Lambe had told investigating gardaí that he carried out the brutal murder after an individual had asked him to kill Ms White on behalf of someone else. He said he later received “a relatively small sum of money” after stabbing Irene and cutting her throat.
Niall Power appeared before Mr Justice Michael White at the Central Criminal Court on Monday morning where, dressed in a grey suit jacket and shirt, he stood up and faced the court.
When the registrar read the indictment to him and asked how he was pleading, he replied, “Guilty”.
At a sentencing hearing in the afternoon, Detective Sergeant Mick Sheridan told Sean Gillane SC, prosecuting, that Ms White had three children aged 17, six and five when she was murdered. She had separated from her husband, who had moved out the year before, and she lived with her children at Ice House.
She did the school run with her three children as usual on the morning of April 6th 2005. Her 79-year-old mother, Maureen McBride, who has since passed away, lived in a mobile home to the rear of the property. She called in at 12.30pm and noticed that, unusually, the back door was open.
She found her daughter on the kitchen floor. She was lying in a pool of blood, with her head against the dishwasher.
When gardaí arrived, they saw bloody footprints around the body, leading to the front door and over a wall into the adjacent park. They also noted that there was no evidence of forced entry and Ms White was wearing orange rubber gloves. Nothing appeared to have been stolen.
State Pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy found 34 stab wounds to Irene’s front, back and arms. She believed that Irene was attacked from behind but might have turned around to face her attacker. Some of the wounds were inflicted while she was on the ground and she died from injuries to her lungs and heart. Her attacker had also cut her throat.
The accused was one of a number of people arrested in 2006. He was arrested for withholding information. However, the garda investigation “ran into the sand” and was taken over by the Serious Crime Review team in 2011.
Call from Australia
A television programme called for fresh information in July 2012, and gardaí received an anonymous call from a woman in Australia. She said that Lambe had told her that he had murdered Irene White.
Gardaí then spoke to Lambe’s former girlfriend, who told them that she could remember April 6th 2005, because she flew with Lambe to England, who was “jittery and nervous” and had an unusual amount of cash.
“A lot of man hours” went into tracking down the woman in Australia, and gardaí eventually interviewed her, the court heard.
Another appeal for information led to another woman coming forward; Lambe had also admitted the killing to her.
Gardaí arrested Lambe on January 20, 2017. He confessed from the outset, telling gardai that an individual, for whom he had worked in Dundalk, had asked him to kill Ms White on behalf of someone else. At the time, Lambe was drinking heavily.
He described knocking on Ms White’s door, telling her that her gate had swung open, and immediately stabbing her and cutting her throat before running out of the house. His sentence hearing on 29th January last year heard that he also described saying a prayer over her body.
Det Sgt Sheridan said that Power had presented himself at Dundalk Garda Station on the afternoon after Lambe was sentenced to life in prison. He appeared upset and asked to speak to a detective involved in the murder investigation.
“I’m not going anywhere until I get this off my chest,” he said, when asked if he wanted to wait. “I want to put my hands up.”
He was very emotional in interviews, where he outlined how he came to know the deceased through another man “not before the courts”.
This man had asked him in 2003/2004 to sort Ms White out. Power understood this to mean that the other man wanted her dead. He said that this man repeated this almost every day over a number of months.
He told gardaí that he was feeling under pressure as a result. He got to know Lambe through security work, told him of the request and that it “had to be done”. He said that Lambe had said that he could get it done for him.
Power also said he reported this back to the other man and described himself as “the middle man”.
The defendant said that he was in the company of this first man on the day of the murder, when he received a call from Lambe, telling him: “That job is done.” He passed this information onto the first man.
Power said he panicked after the call. He said he hadn’t known it was to happen that particular day and hadn’t known Lambe was the person who had physically done the act. He thought he was going to get “other boys” to do it.
He told gardaí that he hadn’t pulled out of it as he felt he had gone too far, felt pushed around and under pressure for months. He said the first man would be on to him, complaining that it wasn’t done and that he would then repeat this to Lambe.
The accused accepted that he was complicit in Ms White’s murder and that he had handed over money twice to Lamb. He also accepted that he had introduced Lambe to the first man on one occasion and that the first man had said: “So, you’re the man doing the job” or “getting the job sorted”.
Lambe had then received information about what time the children would be gone to school.
‘Felt like a puppet’
The sergeant agreed with Michael Bowman SC, defending, that Power had declined a solicitor and had also told the gardaí the following:
“It was like my soul left me that morning… I thought my mother and father didn’t rear me like this,” he said. “I crossed a border. I could not go back… I’m going to deserve everything I get.”
He’d said that the first individual had a certain hold over him and that he’d felt like a puppet. He had lost his family, business and home over this and had lived with his elderly parents until last Friday, when he went into custody.
Det Sgt Sheridan agreed that Power was from a very decent family and that he would be the last person one would expect to be involved in such a crime.
“He arrived into the garda station that day and, to me, he seemed like a broken man,” he said.
Mr Bowman told the court that he was instructed to offer his deepest apologies to all those who had been affected.
Mr Justice Michael White described the murder as ‘an unspeakable crime and a great tragedy’. He noted that the family had been waiting for justice for 14 years and was ‘still waiting’. He offered the family his deepest sympathies.
Power then stood and nodded as Justice White imposed on him the mandatory sentence of life in prison.