Man jailed for murder committed while on day release


A man who was on release from prison when he killed a second person was jailed for life for a second time at the Central Criminal Court yesterday. Thomas Murray (37), of Cloonlyon, Ballygar, Co Galway, was sentenced to life imprisonment yesterday after pleading guilty to the murder of Ms Nancy Nolan (80) at her home at Bleannagloos, Ballygar, Co Galway, on February 14th last.

On February 22nd, 1982, Murray was found guilty by a jury in the Central Criminal Court of the murder of William Mannion. He had been refused leave to appeal at the Court of Appeal on February 24th, 1983.

While serving a mandatory life sentence for Mr Mannion's killing, Murray had been granted temporary release from Castlerea Prison. During one of his monthly releases, Murray was found guilty of exposing himself indecently on July 15th, 1998, was sentenced to six months and was returned to custody.

Murray's regime at the prison subsequently changed to a day-release programme. He was on temporary release when he killed Ms Nolan. The victim was known to the prisoner and the pair had spoken to each other two weeks before the killing.

On the day of the killing, Murray took a lump hammer from his home and inflicted repeated injuries on Ms Nolan at her home, causing head trauma and her subsequent death.

Mr Eamonn Leahy SC, prosecuting, said Murray changed an earlier story and confessed to the killing. Murray told gardai the location of spectacles belonging to the deceased and of the murder weapon.

Mr Patrick Gageby SC, defending, told the court the prisoner wished to apologise to the family of the deceased and to express his deep remorse. Mr Justice Carney, presiding, ruled that the sentence was to run from June 1st last.

The Department of Justice told The Irish Times it will review the case of Thomas Murray's temporary release, to "ensure any lessons can and will be learned in the future".

A spokesman for the Department said: "unfortunately the outcome in this case has had the most tragic consequences, which are, naturally, deeply regretted".

Before a prisoner is granted temporary release, a widespread consultation among prison staff is standard practice.

Fine Gael's spokesman on justice, Mr Alan Shatter TD, said: "The tragic death of Nancy Nolan has illustrated, in a very stark way, the dangers that result from the current haphazard and non-structured early and temporary-release system.

"There is an urgent need to provide for a statutory parole system administered by an independent parole board," he said.

The Labour Party's spokeswoman on law reform, Ms Jan O'Sullivan TD, said: "On the evidence of what happened, there are serious questions to be asked about how the man could walk into this person's house without supervision".