Irish actor arrested after woman's death says police made a mistake

 

AN IRISHMAN who was questioned by Italian police in connection with a murder inquiry in Tuscany said last night he was the subject of an unfortunate mistake.

Paudge Behan, who lives for part of the year near the Tuscan village of Arcidosso, near Grosetto, was held by police for 17 hours over Saturday night in relation to the murder of 72-year-old Silvana Abate.

Ms Abate, who lived alone near Arcidosso and who was the widow of a well-known local businessman, was found dead on Friday night, having been knifed to death. Although her death was discovered on Friday, investigators believe that she was killed last Thursday.

Mr Behan's involvement in the investigation is linked to the fact that he made two visits to the casualty ward at the Castel del Piano hospital near Arcidosso, firstly on Thursday evening and then last Saturday night.

Mr Behan, son of former IRA chief of staff Cathal Goulding and of Beatrice Behan, widow of playwright Brendan Behan, said he went to the hospital for a tetanus injection because he had cut himself in the thigh while unpacking furniture and other objects that had arrived from the USA.

Unable at first to find the correct casualty ward, he became frustrated and expressed his annoyance at the manner in which the hospital was run as well as at the lack of proper signposting. Handicapped by his lack of good spoken Italian, Mr Behan says his behaviour was misunderstood by a hospital workers who decided that he was acting "suspiciously".

Furthermore he had requested treatment for a knife wound on the very night of Ms Abate's death.

When he returned to the hospital two days later for a tetanus injection, he was met by five policemen who took him into the Arcidosso barracks for questioning. Mr Behan claims he had no idea what was happening at first and the police had no interpreter in the barracks. His house and car had been sequestered and subjected to forensic examination.

It was only after 15 hours when a magistrate from Grosseto arrived that he was provided with a lawyer and an interpreter.

It is understood he is no longer under "suspicion" as he has been allowed back into his house and has been given back his car.

Speaking last night, Mr Behan said he had undergone a "nightmarish" experience and was concerned about the nature of the police work that had led to his "arrest".

He was, however, very keen to point out last night that his Arcidosso neighbours and friends had been supportive, saying: "I've been coming to this area on and off for the last 15 years but I have only lived here since 2006. People who know me have been very good, one old woman wanted to go down to the barracks with me and declare that I could not possibly have murdered anyone."

Mr Behan had parts in the films Veronica Guerinand Conspiracy of Silenceand more recently in Wake Upand A Lonely Sky.