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Have secret files solved 85-yr-old murder mystery? NEW CLUES TO WAR OF INDEPENDENCE MURDER.

Byline: By ANDREW BUSHE

THE riddle of a missing ex-Royal Irish Constabulary cop who vanished 85 years ago could finally be solved.

Gardai believe secret files, released for the first time, prove the dead man's body is buried on the farm of an ex-Fianna Fail TD.

Michael Williams, 37, was taken prisoner by five Irregulars - soldiers who supported Eamon de Valera during the Civil War - as he left mass on June 15, 1922.

He was accused of the brutal murder of Cork Lord Mayor Thomas MacCurtain on March 20, 1920. Mr MacCurtain was shot dead in his own house in front of his wife and children by members of the RIC.

New reports claim his wife, an eyewitness to the killing, identified Williams as one of the assasins - and that he died for his crimes.

But his family always insisted he had NOTHING to do with it.

Williams' sister Harriette admitted he was in Cork the night of the murder but claimed he never set foot outside the house.

She said: "He stopped with me at my lodgings on the night in question and was not out at any time in the city upon that night."

Now thanks to 200 previously secret files handed over to the National Archive office by former Justice Minister Michael McDowell gardai may finally solve the riddle of his disappearance.

They believe Williams and another prisoner ended up on the farm of Cork TD Martin Corry, where they were executed for their role in the murder.

The RIC was the police force in Ireland before Independence.

Although some Irish people joined the police, they were loyal only to Britain and the crown and were despised by their fellow Irishmen. In 1919, future Taoiseach de Valera introduced his famous policy of "social ostracism".

All Irish people would ignore the RIC, refusing to speak to them, visit their houses or even wave to them.

Williams served for a massive 13 YEARS in this hated group before leaving when the RIC was disbanded in May 1922 and going to live with his parents in Stradbally, Co Laois.

But his service in the RIC was not forgotten. Gardai now believe the ex-cop was executed on a Cork farm in a grisly hanging.

And his family are pointing the finger of blame at republican hero Martin Corry.

Corry fought in the War of Independence and served for more than 40 years as a Fianna Fail TD before his death in 1979.

But in September 1924, Williams' family solicitor Horace Turpin said in a letter to the Department of Justice, "by all accounts this farm (Corry's) is a veritable cemetery".

He claimed an anonymous letter received by Williams' mother was proof the Corry farm was a MASS GRAVE.

It says: "It is well known about here that your deceased son Michael was taken to Martin Corry's house near Knockraha, Cork, and court-martialled along with another poor man, by this Corry and others, and sentenced to death by hanging.

"The rope was then procured, the victims bound, and the rope fastened on their necks, the executioners throwing the end of the rope over a beam, pulled and pulled for hours, while the unfortunate victims struggled and struggled in their desperate agony.

"Oh God, what a death. The executioner Corry, and his accomplices having enjoyed the inhumane sport for some hours, retired for a rest and a drink, and left the unfortunate and unhappy victims struggling in their half-strangled condition.

"When the executioners returned their victims were riddled with bullets, and then buried on Corry's farm, where many other victims of his (Corry's) lie buried."

And an October 1924 memo from Chief Supt P Fahy in Cork said he had received "reliable information" that Williams had been taken to Corry's farm as a prisoner "on Tuesday evening shortly after the Truce between the Government and the Irregular Forces".

The murdered mayor's wife was to be a key witness at his trial.

Chief Supt P Fahy said: "He was seen passing that evening in a lorry and the prisoner and his escort were covered in dust and appeared to be after coming a long journey.

"On the following day he was courtmartialled, found guilty of taking part in the murder of Lord Mayor MacCurtain of Cork and sentenced to death.

"Sean Hegarty of Cork acted as President of the Court. Mrs McCurtain was a witness there."

The memo adds James Murphy, Rainslough, a local Irregular, informed another man that Williams was buried "in the corner of the second field on the right-hand side of the lane leading from the rear of Corry's house.

"A spy was buried in the same corner about a fortnight previous".

He said he had further information there was a body buried near the "boundary fence of Corry's farm and an adjoining acre".

Williams was too tall to hang, so his killers were forced to shoot him. And Mr Fahy believed he was not the only enemy to be buried on the Corry farm.

He said: "It is further stated locally that Constable Williams was sentenced to be hanged, but that being a tall man, the scaffold was too low, and he had to be taken down and shot.

"There is a quarry on Twomey's land at Ballinbritty and our informant was of the opinion that there are bodies buried there also."

He never saw who had sent the anonymous letter - signed A Sympathetic Mother - to Williams' mother.

Fahy added: "But the prisoners at the period mentioned were brought to Corry's openly, and it was well known by the local people what they were brought there for."

Successive Irish governments have tried to find the ex-cop's body, with no success.

CAPTION(S):

At rest... Lord Mayor of Cork Tomas Mac Curtain who was murdered by the R.I.C; Questions... Martin Corry TD, pictured right in Cobh with President Eamon de Valera, left, is accused of taking part in executions at his Co Cork farm; Files.. Michael McDowell; Ruthless... Files say Corry enjoyed carrying out many of the executions
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 1, 2007
Words:1009
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