Evidence disappears in Store Street Garda station Wheelock case

Date:

In July the Garda Ombudsman announced that it will begin an inquiry into the arrest and death of Terence Wheelock following injuries sustained in custody at Store Street Garda station in June 2005. This announcement follows two years of silence, denial and cover up by the Gardai and the political establishment.

Terence was ‘discovered’ injured and unconscious in his cell several hours after being arrested. Although Gardai would like us to believe that his injuries resulted from a suicide attempt, there’s a wealth of evidence to suggest otherwise. Garda records say he was in fine physical condition when brought into custody, yet photos taken at the hospital clearly show that Terence’s body was covered in bruises and lacerations. Where did these mysterious bruises come from?

Not only this, but Gardai decided to stage an impromptu renovation of the cell before allowing anyone to access it; blatant cover up or home improvement? When we add to this the facts that a witness saw Gardai assaulting Terence while he was being arrested, custody records were altered to remove the names of the arresting Gardai, and the Gardai refused for over a year to release Terence’s clothes to his family for forensic investigation, it should be very obvious that something fishy is going on.

Faced with silence from the Gardai and the political establishment, Terence Wheelock’s family launched a campaign for an independent inquiry into his death. The Summerhill community, no stranger to wanton intimidation and corruption from the boys in blue, has rallied around them, and forced this to become an issue.

Gardai responded to this community- based campaign with their own campaign, one of intimidation and harassment, to the extent that Terence’s parents have been forced to leave their family home. Meanwhile, Gardai created a token enquiry into Terence’s death. This was carried out by Garda Oliver Hanly, who had served for over fifteen years in Store Street. Unsurprisingly he found no evidence of Garda wrongdoing.

The Wheelock family refused to recognise this self-investigation and maintained their demand for an independent inquiry. Last year another investigation began; it was carried out by the Coroner’s Court and concluded in July. This investigation refused to hear independent evidence commissioned by the family, relying instead on the evidence of State Pathologist Marie Cassidy, who argued in favour of her Garda chums.

This independent evidence would have blown the Gardai and Marie Cassidy out of the water; forensic evidence from Terence’s clothes points to injuries that could not possibly be caused by a hanging attempt, while another report shows that photographs of Terence’s cell are inconsistent with the Garda story and, in fact, indicate reconstruction of evidence.
It’s hard to tell whether the Ombudsman’s inquiry will get to the bottom of what happened to Terence at Store Street, it’s certainly not a full and independent investigation. Most ikely it will only make some small complaints, if it does find against the Gardai it will probably only be ‘one or two bad apples’ who will be sent off on early retirement and a full pension. What the investigation will not touch is the culture of silence, corruption and cronyism that pervades the Gardai and allows them to literally get away with murder.

The fact that this issue has not been forgotten is a real victory for the campaign, the Wheelock family’s courage and persistence is an inspiration to all of us. We need to continue to spread these facts as widely as possible and continue the demand for a full and independent inquiry into Terence’s death. The silence of the political establishment has shown that the State does not like to discipline its own enforcers; in circumstances like these it’s up to ordinary people to organise and demand justice for themselves.


From Workers Solidarity 99, September October 2007

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