Judge denies `sexual affair' with the accused


The judge at the centre of claims in the trial of Mrs Catherine Nevin has denied he ever had an "irregular sexual affair" with her. He also said he had never stayed overnight and at no time had he a set of keys to Jack White's Inn.

Judge Donnchadh O Buachalla, a judge of the District Court for 10 years, gave evidence yesterday to the trial of Mrs Catherine Nevin in the Central Criminal Court. Mrs Nevin has pleaded not guilty to the murder of her husband, Tom, at Jack White's Inn, Ballinapark, Co Wicklow, on March 19th, 1996, and has also denied three counts of soliciting to murder.

The judge said he came to know the inn and its owners, Tom and Catherine Nevin, when he was assigned to the Wicklow and Wexford areas in 1993. He said he had "an excellent relationship" with both.

In other evidence yesterday, the jury heard a specialist in plastic surgery explain that an operation on Mrs Nevin's eyelids in September 1991 temporarily left her with what would appear to the layman as "black eyes".

Judge Donnchadh O Buachalla was called shortly after the court sitting began yesterday. He told Mr Peter Charleton SC, prosecuting, that he had been a judge of the District Court for the past 10 years, and was assigned to Wexford-Wicklow in 1993.

This was how he came to know Jack White's Inn, he agreed. "Yes, indeed, I came to know it very well and found myself knowing both Tom and Catherine Nevin very well," he said, "and had an excellent relationship with both of them."

He agreed that he was aware of their desire to attract "golfing people" to Jack White's. He said around 1994 he was very much involved in golf and at the time there were prominent golf clubs around the area.

Jack White's was renowned with them. It became very well known as a centre for eating, and for its bed-and-breakfast provision, he said.

"There were times when I would be calling in there possibly two or three times a week," he said. This would very much have depended on what was going on, and whether there were golf functions and prize-givings. He said the inn's shower facilities would be used by golfers.

Mr Charleton asked Judge O Buachalla if he ever had occasion to stay overnight at the inn. "No, I never stayed overnight," he replied.

Asked if he had ever had a set of keys, he said, "No, at no time whatsoever had I any keys." Nor had he seen any keys, he said.

The jury had heard evidence from two former staff members at the inn relating to keys. Ms Liz Hudson said that Mrs Nevin asked her for the loan of her set of keys one night, saying somebody else had hers. Ms Hudson said Catherine Nevin told her it was "Judge O Buachalla" who had the keys. She agreed he was well known on the premises. Another former worker, Ms Bernie Fleming, told the trial of a conversation she said she had with Mrs Nevin when she noticed a set of keys were missing from their usual position near the front door to the private part of the inn.

Ms Fleming said that when she asked Catherine Nevin where they were, Mrs Nevin told her "the judge had them". This happened six to seven weeks before Mr Nevin's murder, the witness said.

In evidence last week, another former worker at the inn, Mrs Jane Murphy, was asked if "the judge from Arklow" she had referred to had ever come to visit or stay. "He did, yes," she replied.

Judge O Buachalla was asked in evidence yesterday when was the last time he was in the pub. He said he was there for a meal with his wife and family and his in-laws on the Saturday night of the weekend Tom Nevin was murdered. In fact, Tom Nevin had joined them at their table for around 10 minutes, talking about "some very general matters".

Mr Patrick MacEntee SC, defending, began his cross-examination of the judge by saying: "It has been suggested here that you were having some sort of affair . . . " His question was interrupted by Mr Charleton, who disputed that it had been suggested. Mr MacEntee disagreed and the jury were asked to retire for legal argument.

When they returned, Mr MacEntee resumed his cross-examination by telling the judge that "evidence has been given by Mrs Hudson and Ms Fleming from which it may have been implied that you were having some sort of irregular sexual affair with Mrs Nevin".

"It is not so. That is totally untrue," Judge O Buachalla replied. Did anything ever happen that may have given rise to that suggestion? Mr MacEntee asked. "No, nothing that I am aware of," the judge replied.

He said he had had "an excellent relationship" with both Tom and Catherine Nevin. They were excellent hosts and very hospitable to himself, his wife and his family, who were regular attenders at the inn over the years.

He said the inn had a fully licensed restaurant, the atmosphere was very cordial and there were a lot of people coming and going. In those days there were few places one could get food and drink every day, he said. "The staff were very friendly and courteous - and the management," he said in answer to Mr MacEntee's suggestions.

In other evidence, a chartered accountant and member of the Garda, Det Garda Patrick D'Arcy, told the court he examined the books Tom Nevin had been working on at the time he was shot dead in his kitchen early on March 19th, 1996. Det Garda D'Arcy said the accounts revealed that the total cash takings for the inn over the period from Sunday, March 10th, to Monday, March 18th, was £11,848.27.

A sales representative at Boss Systems, of Dorset Street, Dublin, Ms Peggy Kelly, said she examined till rolls taken from cash registers in the bar and lounge at the inn. These revealed that Tom Nevin sold his last pint of ale at 12:02 a.m. on March 19th and that the last transaction on the tills was at 00:56 a.m., when a till total, known as an X1 report, was printed.

Dr Michael Earley, a specialist in plastic and re-constructive surgery, currently attached to the Mater and Temple Street hospitals, told the trial he knew the accused and had operated on her three times. He agreed he had previously worked in St Vincent's Private Hospital and Hume Street hospital.

Dr Earley said his first operation on Mrs Nevin, liposuction, was in July 1990 at the Mater Private Hospital. The second, in February 1991, was an operation on the abdomen commonly called "a tummy tuck". This operation was at St Vincent's Private Hospital.

The third operation, in September 1991, was surgery on Mrs Nevin's upper and lower eyelids after which both eyes would have appeared bruised. In some instances, the bruising could track down on to the cheeks, the surgeon said, and the eyes would appear to the lay person as "two black eyes".

The time period this bruising would last was variable. It could be a week, it could be two to three weeks.

The trial has heard from Mr John Jones, one of the men who has alleged Mrs Catherine Nevin solicited him to murder her husband, that on one occasion Mrs Nevin came into the Sinn Fein advice centre in Finglas "with dark glasses on, and her hands were bandaged". Mr Jones said she had removed the glasses to reveal black eyes and had claimed her husband had done it to her.

Sister Mary Baptist, also known as Patricia Summers, told the court that in her capacity as the former chief executive and former sister-in-charge of St Vincent's Private Hospital she responded to a subpoena requiring her to bring hospital records to the court relating to Mrs Nevin's admissions.

She told Mr Charleton that from May 3rd to May 11th, 1990, and from October 25th to October 31st, 1990, Mrs Nevin was admitted as a patient to a private ward. Between February 20th and 27th, 1991, Mrs Nevin was a patient in a four-bed ward.

The jury has heard an allegation from Mr William McClean, of Harold's Cross, Dublin, that some time in 1990 he visited the accused in a private room at St Vincent's Private Hospital, and that there she had asked him to get someone to kill her husband.

The trial continues today at the Central Criminal Court before Ms Justice Carroll.