This is an excerpt from Fergus’ novel The Famine Field. Copyright is held by the author.
Killbawn, County Mayo, Ireland
Tuesday 03 September 1946
AT 10:45 am, Detective Inspector John Patrick Murphy (Murf) begins to question Barry Glen Dennagher. The suspect has the right to remain silent, so Murf starts with non-incriminating questions in order to establish a comfort zone. Glen Dennagher falls for it. The questions are posed in order to confirm Glen Dennagher’s identity. He answers questions pertaining to his name – Yes, “Barry” is short for “Bartholomew”; “Glen” is not part of his surname, “Glen” is actually his middle name but it became attached to his surname through usage when he moved in with his grandfather, Dean Stewart Glen. After a few minutes of easy questions and easy answers, Murf determines that it is time to move on.
Murf extracts three photographs from his bulky folder and slides them on the table towards the suspect like a croupier dealing a hand. But these pictures are not of a knave, a queen and a king; these are pictures of the three murder victims. Murf looks at Glen Dennagher’s face to read his reaction. The suspect registers a slight recoiling motion. Murf speaks to him. “Look at these pictures. Do you recognize anyone?”
“Who do you recognize?”
Glen Dennagher points to each in turn. “This one, this one and this one.”
“You recognize all three?”
“Are you able to put a name to each one?”
Glen Dennagher is reluctant to utter their names. Murf is uncertain as to whether Glen Dennagher is refusing to answer, or if he is too ashamed to speak their names. Murf points to the picture of Bobby Fegan. “What is the first letter of his surname?”
Murf writes on a sheet of paper — “F”. He then asks Glen Dennagher for the second letter, and so on. When he has written the name in full — FEGAN — he holds up the sheet paper and presents it to Glen Dennagher. “So tell me, what is written here?”
“And does Fegan have a first name.”
“Bobby. His name is Bobby Fegan.”
Murf points to a second picture. “What is his name?”
“And the third picture, who is this?”
“Thank you. You have correctly identified the three murder victims from their photographs. Now tell me, how well did you know each of them?”
“I did not really know them. I just saw them around at, at . . . I just saw them in some places.”
Murf notes that the suspect glanced evasively to the right before answering. “I will ask the question again. But before you answer, be advised that lying to the police in an inquiry is a criminal offence. And we have eye-witness accounts of you in the company of each of them. I should tell you that members of “An Chúilfhionn” are very tight-lipped and steadfast about keeping secrets. But their adherence to confidentiality does not extend to murder. Now, I ask you again, how well did you know Liam Tunnery, Bobby Fegan and Edmund Ludwig?”
Glen Dennagher could answer by stating “no comment.” Refusing to answer is within his rights, but to render misleading answers and/or deceptive statements is not a viable option. These are punishable offences in themselves. Glen Dennagher composes himself, coughs, and admits to knowing all three murder victims. He continues, and he proceeds to speak more easily. He gives an account of how he knew all three victims and in what capacity he engaged with them in the context of his outreach ministry. Murf permits Glen Dennagher to speak freely. The more he talks, the more likely he will trip up if he later contradicts himself. In his narrative, Glen Dennagher is admitting that as an outreach counsellor he had a close relationship with each of the three victims, albeit for a brief time.
At 11:40am, Murf grants a five-minute break. At 11:45am the meeting resumes. At this point, Murf conducts the next stage of the meeting — the interrogation. On this occasion, Murf has the sample brier-proof jacket on the table, the jacket that he previously showed to Barry Glen Dennagher. He addresses the suspect. “Mr Glen Dennagher, on Thursday 22 August, I questioned you about your jacket, the one similar to this one here and similar to the one you are wearing. At that time you told me that you lost your original jacket. Do you remember?”
“And do you remember what you told me?”
“That I lost it at the circus.”
“And did you ever find it? Or did you have it subsequent to your visit to the circus on Sunday 19 August 1945?”
“I did not have that jacket after that day.”
“That is not what I asked. Did you have your jacket, or did you know the whereabouts of your jacket, after you left the circus?”
“I do not remember ever seeing that jacket after my visit to the circus.”
“Do you remember what I said to you at the conclusion of our meeting on 22 August?”
“You said that I have nothing to worry about.” The suspect is drumming his fingers lightly on the table in tempo to his tapping heel. This behaviour is apt while listening to a céili band, but there is no music within earshot of the interview room. It is not a dance tune that is playing in Glen Dennagher’s mind.
The suspect’s fidgeting is noted by Murf. “I said to you that if your explanation checks out, you have nothing to worry about. Well, we checked, and you have some things to worry about. This file here,” Murf thumps the bulky file on the desk, “contains a lot of information on the case — indisputable evidence. What you are telling me now is at variance with the facts. Let me refer to one witness account.” Murf removes a page from the file and peruses it. He resumes speaking. “On the evening of Sunday 19 August 1945, after the last performance of the circus, you were observed in a private club in the company of Edmund Ludwig. And, at that time, Edmund Ludwig was wearing your jacket. You departed from the club together. On the next day, you purchased a new jacket to replace your lost jacket. Only your jacket was not lost. It was still on Edmund Ludwig. And Edmund Ludwig, at the time, was dead and buried in the Famine Field, hidden to avoid discovery.” Murf pauses to observe the effect this information has on Glen Dennagher. The suspect is totally taken aback and is rendered speechless. Murf continues. He thumps his bulky folder once more. “The facts are that three young men were killed callously, causing pain and anguish to them and to their loved ones.”
Glen Dennagher’s resolve collapses. He utters a feeble rebuttal to Murf’s statement. “There was no pain or anguish. They did not experience any suffering.”
“And why is that?”
“They were asleep.”