Family win leave to appeal Owen verdict


The family of a woman whose baby was found stabbed to death in a laneway more than 30 years ago was today granted leave to appeal an inquest ruling.

The High Court ruled that four people could challenge a Coroner's Court verdict that found Cynthia Owen was the dead baby's mother.

Mystery surrounding the identity of the newborn ended in February when a jury at Dublin County Coroner's Court unanimously found she was Ms Owen's daughter.

The court ruled the baby had died at her family home at White's Villas in Dalkey, Co Dublin, on April 4th, 1973, and was then dumped in Lee's Lane, Dún Laoghaire, with afterbirth wrapped in newspapers and a plastic bag.

The infant had died as a result of shock and haemorrhage due to multiple stab wounds when it was just hours old. However, an open verdict was returned on the child's death as the jury could not apportion blame to any person due to the Coroner's Act of 1962.

Ms Owen maintained the baby was a result of sexual abuse in her family home and testified that she was repeatedly raped from the age of seven or eight into her teenage years by four different people. The inquest heard that a number of female relatives who were brought up together had also alleged sexual abuse.

Ms Owen, who now lives in Britain with her husband, told the court she was 11 years old when she witnessed a woman stabbing the infant to death. Two clinical psychologists who examined her found her account to be credible.

But numerous members of the Murphy family have disputed she was abused and

insist the baby was not hers. Her father, Peter Murphy snr, and three of her sisters - Esther Roberts, Margaret Stokes and Catherine Stevenson - applied to the High Court for leave to bring judicial review proceedings in which they will seek to overturn the jury's verdict.

The case is being taken against Dublin County Coroner Dr Kieran Geraghty.

Despite Minister for Justice Michael McDowell refusing a request to exhume the baby's body, on grounds that up to 100 infants were buried in the mass grave in the Little Angels plot in Glasnevin, the inquest was resumed. A death certificate was later issued in the child's name.

Caroline Kelly, BL for the family, said if the incident was to be believed, individuals could be implicated in very serious criminal conduct. She said relief was being sought on grounds the coroner was biased, that the investigating gardaí and original pathologist had since died, and that the inquest was resumed outside the provisions of the Coroner's Act.

In an affidavit, Ms Stevenson also claimed Dr Geraghty was sympathetic towards Ms Owen, shielded her when giving evidence and was selective over which statements the jury saw.

Mr Justice Michael Peart granted leave to appeal and listed the case for mention on June 12th. He said other members of the Murphy family not taking action, An Garda Siochána, the Coroner's Office and the Chief State Solicitors' Office had to be served notice of the proceedings.