English duo were State's first serial killers

 

John Shaw and Geoffrey Evans stalked the roads to rape and murder young women, writes Conor Lally

On the balmy summer days of 1976 two serial killers stalked the roads of Ireland in their Ford Cortina looking for young women to abduct, rape and murder.

John Shaw and Geoffrey Evans claimed the lives of two young women as they went about trying to fulfil their shared fantasy of raping and killing one "bird" every week while in Ireland from their native Lancashire. They dumped the naked remains of their victims in a lake in Co Galway and in the sea off Wicklow. Their heinous crimes, coming as they did in an Ireland altogether more innocent than today, shocked the nation and introduced us to a new phenomenon; that of the serial killer.

Both men were on the run when they came to Ireland in 1976. They were being sought for questioning in connection with three rapes in the UK.

They decided Ireland would prove far enough away to keep them beyond the reach of the British arm of the law. On arriving in Ireland they quickly went on a crime spree in Co Wicklow. They carried out a series of burglaries in the county before being caught, convicted and sent for a short time to Mountjoy Prison.

They emerged from jail at the same time and later told gardaí they had decided to embark on an unprecedented and macabre programme of abduction, rape and murder.

They twice carried out their plan to conclusion and were about to strike again when arrested by members of the now disbanded murder squad in Galway.

On the night of August 28th, 1976, Ms Elizabeth Plunkett, a 23-year-old office clerk from Ringsend, Dublin, had the misfortune of crossing paths with the killers. She was holidaying with friends at a caravan park in Brittas Bay, Co Wicklow.

On the night she disappeared she left the group she was with at McDaniels Pub, near the caravan park. She was not seen alive again.

A week after her disappearance her shoes, bra and watch were found at a sandpit at the back of McDaniels. Her badly decomposed and naked body was found off the Wicklow coast, south of Brittas Bay, by a local man on September 28th, some 32 days after her disappearance.

On the night of September 22nd, Ms Mary Duffy, a 25-year-old shop assistant and part-time cook from Belcarra, Co Mayo, disappeared when she was due to take a lift home from her brother after a late night shift at a coffee shop in Castlebar.

She was drugged and repeatedly raped as she was held captive by the men for days at a caravan park in Galway where they were staying. Ms Duffy was then smothered and her body dumped in Lough Inagh, Co Galway.

Her remains were discovered at the lake on October 10th by a civilian diver. The body was recovered in 25 ft of water in a crouched position. An anchor had been attached to the remains, along with cement cavity blocks and a sledge hammer.

Shaw told gardaí during questioning: "God help me. It was the Devil made me do it. Keep him away from me."

He claimed, in statements to gardaí, that after raping Ms Duffy he wanted to let her go but Evans insisted she would have to be killed.

"I wanted to let her go and Jeff said we couldn't. I got a cushion out of the car and put it over her head and put my hands around her neck and killed her.

"We threw her into the back of the car with her clothes. Jeff said he had picked a spot to dump her."