Woman married six months when body was found

Mary Gough (27) had been married to Colin Whelan for just six months when her body was found at the bottom of the stairs in their…

Mary Gough (27) had been married to Colin Whelan for just six months when her body was found at the bottom of the stairs in their home in Clonard Street, Balbriggan, Co Dublin, on March 1st, 2001.

At first glance it looked like a tragic accident, until it emerged she had been strangled.

Just over a month later Whelan (34), originally from Gormanston, Co Meath, was charged with his wife's murder. He denied the charge and his trial was set for October 13th, 2003.

However, on March 12th, seven months before the trial date, a Peugeot 206 car registered in his name was found on the Upper Cliff Road in Howth with some of his personal belongings in it.


A major sea, air and land search was carried out but no trace of the computer analyst was found. However, gardaí and the Gough and Whelan families believed he was still alive.

After he failed to return home, a legal battle over the car ensued between the Gough and Whelan families.

At a hearing in Dublin District Court last year, it was decided the car should be handed over to the State.

Then, when it appeared that the case was going nowhere, an observant holidaymaker gave gardaí the breakthrough they were looking for.

On his return from Majorca, the holidaymaker contacted gardaí to say he believed he had recognised Whelan working in a bar in the resort of Puerto Portals.

He was known to his colleagues in the Squadron Bar as "Martin Sweeney" and had told friends his parents were dead and he had no family.

He had a girlfriend and quite a few acquaintances, staff told the media afterwards.

The bar was popular with Irish and British holidaymakers.

Interpol was alerted and, with the co-operation of the Spanish police, Whelan was extradited from Spain on July 10th, 2004, to face a charge of murdering his wife.

Four years after her death, Mary Gough's family say they still do not know why the legal secretary was killed.

Speaking to The Irish Times yesterday from her home in Stamullen, Co Meath, her mother Marie Gough said the family knew little about the circumstances of the death as the inquest had not been held yet.

Mrs Gough said she was relieved the family would not have to sit through the court case.

"I am glad, yes. All we were looking for was justice. It's not a whole lot to look for, justice for everyone's sake, not just ours," Mrs Gough said. "There are no winners in this case. We've had four long years of not knowing what was going on. Then he was gone and then he was brought back."

Ms Gough was the only girl in a family of six children.

Her mother remembered her as a good and thoughtful daughter.

She said she was not looking forward to today's sentence hearing, but was glad it would soon be over.

"It will be hard, but justice is being done and that's what matters," Mrs Gough said.

Alison Healy

Alison Healy

Alison Healy is a contributor to The Irish Times