Larry Murphy was a carpenter by trade, a quiet unassuming man, apparently happily married with a young family and a pregnant wife. He lived in the stunningly beautiful Wicklow Mountains in Ireland.
In the year 2000, two hunters came across him in an isolated area trying to push a young woman into the boot of his car. He had put a plastic shopping bag over her head. They rescued the young business woman, who was in her 20s, and horrified by the tale she told them of having been repeatedly raped, called the Gardai.
The Gardai duly arrested Murphy and he was sentenced to 15 years in jail for what was a particularly heinous rape. The allegation that he had been intent of suffocating her was never proved; he was only sentenced for the rape. The severity of the sentence duly reflecting the severity of the rape.
That is the extent of the FACTS in the case as established by a court of law.
In Ireland, as in England and Wales, remission of a third of your sentence for good behaviour is the norm. I can appreciate that it is necessary for the maintenance of good discipline in prisons that there remain some further sanction for bad behaviour, such as losing remission. However, since the opportunity for behaving badly in prison is limited, given that it is an environment where you are closely monitored, and the monitors retain all the power, automatic remission as a reward for not losing control of yourself completely does seem excessive. Against this point, we must allow that judges are perfectly aware that a third of the sentence can be remitted and will take this into account when sentencing.
There are other pertinent facts to be considered in this case, however, they are emphatically not facts that have been proven to involve Murphy. There had been three other young women who had ‘gone missing’ in the area, suspected murdered. No trace of them has ever been found, there is nothing other than suspicion to connect Murphy to their disappearance. Whilst Murphy was in prison, no other young women went missing. This may be coincidence; it may be that suspicion of Murphy’s involvement is correct.
One of the young women was Annie McCarrick, an Irish-American, so the Irish Gardai invited the American FBI to get involved. They identified that the profile which they had drawn up of the ‘probable’ serial killer responsible for the disappearance of these young women – note probable, since their bodies have never been found, it remains supposition that there even is a serial killer, matched Larry Murphy. This information was released to the public.
There was suspicion, oft stated as fact, that Murphy was working in the same area of Newbridge when one of the girls went missing – the Newbridge Garda have quashed that rumour – they simply don’t know where he was on that date.
Murphy bizarrely was discovered to have attended the same school, in the same class, as another notorious sex attacker, David Lawler, who did strangle his victim. The Garda helpfully revealed that:
“Both men carried out violent sexual assaults. Both men were very quiet, unassuming sort of fellows. They would have been around the town together when they were growing up. Both were married with children when they carried out the horrific crimes. Both of them held down secure jobs and they both ended up pleading guilty to raping their victim.”
There is no indication that the two of them had remained in contact, indeed Lawler had left the area and moved to Dublin when he left school, but the implication was clear.
Whilst in prison, Murphy refused to talk to police in respect of the missing girls. This might be because he was unwilling to incriminate himself, it could also be that he was annoyed at having been labelled a possible serial murderer by the police and wanted nothing more to do with them. We simply don’t know his reasons for refusal. Needless to say, there are thousands of people filling Face-book pages with their absolute assurance that this is a sure sign of his guilt.
Whilst in prison, Larry Murphy refused specialised treatment available to sex offenders. This could be because he had an evil wish to go on offending on his eventual release. It could also be that he was only ever guilty of one rape however heinous and felt that his ten year incarceration had taught him the error of his ways. We simply don’t know, however there are an ever growing number of Face-book pages which see his refusal as evidence of his evil intent, and sifting through the comments which call for his automatic castration, disembowelling, and all points west of that, are various comments demanding ‘automatic attendance at sex offenders therapy classes’ before remission is available – although the value of a forced attendance at such therapy for someone who is unwilling to attend is hard to see. It is as though their merely having been in the same room as a specialised therapist is somehow going to make us all safer.
Last month there was a rumour that ‘suspected serial murderer’ Larry Murphy had been released from prison and was living in a probation service halfway house in Wicklow, the rumour proved to be untrue. Not before the Garda had been forced to set up road blocks in the area to protect the inhabitants of that halfway house from possible danger.
Fine Gael’s new justice spokesperson, Alan Shatter has demanded that Murphy not be released and that the public should be protector from ‘predators such as Murphy’. It’s a great soundbite, but there is no proof yet that these girls have even been murdered, never mind whether Murphy was involved – should a spokesperson for the justice department being adding fuel to the rumour mill? Alan Shatter is also an advocate for the ‘mandatory treatment for sex offenders’ movement.
Needless to say, there is now mass hysteria in Murphy’s home town of Baltinglass, and it is impossible not to have sympathy with the residents, even Murphy’s own brother has said it is ‘his instinct’ that Murphy was ‘intending to murder’ that young woman.
“There’s nobody gone missing [since] and I find it difficult now to believe that he wasn’t involved. I can’t put my hand on my heart and say he didn’t do it or that he did do it,”
The residents are terrified that a serial killer is going to be walking amongst them – but what is the alternative?
Is Murphy to be driven out of his hometown by rumour and suspicion; rumour and suspicion that is being fuelled by the media, the police, and politicians? It may well be that he is a dangerous and pathological serial killer – in which case he is going to be a damn sight more dangerous in an area where he is unknown, rather than surrounded by the people who have known him all his life.
Only today, the Spanish police have revealed that they are receiving ‘more than one a day’ requests from the UK police to track sex offenders who have been given permission to go ‘on holiday’ in Spain, and who promptly disappear into the ex-pat community there, and create a new identity.
What concerns me more is that a lot of the comment is driven by Chinese whispers, not fact. There are frequent mentions on the face-book pages of the ‘paedophile Murphy’ – there is no evidence whatsoever that he has been involved in any sexual act with an under age girl – but already it is taken as received wisdom that he is a paedophile, and thus the public is fully entitled to take the law into their own hands, ‘because the law is failing to protect our children from these murdering paedophile monsters’.
Rape is a terrible crime, and I have no sympathy with rapists, however, if it is the case that Murphy is ‘only’ guilty of that crime, who could blame him if he takes advantage of a curious anomaly under the Irish Sex Offenders Act 2001? Murphy has to notify the Gardai of his current address within seven days of his release – and is perfectly entitled to state that as ‘No Fixed Abode’. There are currently 1,100 offenders on the Irish sex offenders register – and 15% of them have given their address as ‘No Fixed Abode’ thus allowing them to roam at will – the Gardai simply don’t have the man power or the financial resource to effectively track 150 men of no fixed abode.
The media, with their willingness to whip up moral panic and print titillating rumour, have effectively ensured that a man who may very well be a severe danger to the public is driven into a situation where it is impossible to supervise him – nor will it be possible to protect him from the lynch mobs who are quite certain that they, and they alone, know the ‘truth’ of the matter and are quite willing to dispense summary justice.