High Court asked to halt damages action brought by Sylvia Roche Kelly’s widower

Defendants deny Clare woman’s murderer was out on bail when he should have been in custody


The State has asked the High Court to halt an action for damages brought against it by the widower of murdered mother of two Sylvia Roche Kelly.

The body of Ms Roche Kelly, from Sixmilebridge, Co Clare, was found lying face down in the bath of a hotel room in December, 2007 after she met her killer while out celebrating her 33rd birthday. She had been violently beaten and strangled.

Gerard McGrath (24) Ballywalter, Knockavilla, Co Tipperary, was sentenced at the Central Criminal Court five years ago to life imprisonment after admitting murdering Ms Roche Kelly at The Clarion Hotel, Limerick, on December 8th, 2007.

McGrath was on bail at that time on a charge of assaulting a female taxi driver in April 2007.

Lorcan Roche Kelly, on behalf of his two children, has sued the State and Garda Commissioner for damages, alleging his wife’s killer was “free to commit the crime of murder when he should have been in custody”.

The central issue in the action is the fact the killer was on bail at the time of the murder.

The President of the High Court, Mr Justcie Nicholas Kearns, heard legal argument today before reserved judgment on the matter.

In its pre-trial application seeking to halt the case, the State parties contend it is “bound to fail” on grounds including there was no special relationship between Ms Roche Kelly and her killer.

They argue gardaí owed no special duty of care to Ms Roche Kelly other than their normal duty of care to the public and they could not have foreseen McGrath would kill her when he was let out on bail.