Irish kidnap victims shot at close range

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The Independent Online
The three people kidnapped and murdered in western Ireland - including a three-year-old boy - all suffered massive head injuries from single shotgun blasts fired at point-blank range, post-mortem examinations have shown.

Imelda Riney, 29, her three- year-old son Liam, and Fr Joe Walsh, 37, are all thought to have died soon after they went missing.

Irish police yesterday faced growing claims that they reacted too slowly to events leading to the weekend discovery of the bodies near Whitegate, Co Clare.

A 20-year-old Galway man pleaded guilty in court yesterday to firearms and false imprisonment charges, and to hijacking two cars.

The Irish media has questioned why gardai kept insisting the case was a missing persons inquiry and not an abduction for three days after Ms Riney's disappearance, despite evidence of a rushed departure.

Some Whitegate residents have told reporters the Garda failed to respond to the disappearance ofthe artist and her youngest son on 29 April. They were accused of viewing her as part of a shifting artistic community, believing there was nothing suspicious about her leaving home without telling anyone. Local people also complained of delays in acting on sightings of a man seen in the back of her car.

The abductions occurred in two counties with separate Garda centres. At the end of last week two senior officers from outside the area were brought in to run the inquiry. Senior gardai rejected claims of mismanagement but it is understood the Garda Commissioner, Patrick Culligan, will review the operation.

Examination of Ms Riney's body showed she died after being shot through her left eye as she faced her killer. Her arms were around the dead child when found in woods two miles from Whitegate. Liam was killed by a single shot through his left ear.

Ballistics tests are being made on the bullets to see if the same gun was used in all three killings. One theory being considered is that Fr Walsh died after the killer confessed he had shot the mother and child, but then decided after taking him to the scene to shoot him too.

At Loughrea District Court yesterday Brendan Patrick O'Donnell admitted abducting a student, Fiona Sampson, 17, in Whitegate last Saturday, and falsely imprisoning her and a farmer, Edward Cleary.

He also pleaded guilty to illegal possession of a .22 rifle and 84 rounds of ammunition with intent to endanger life. He was remanded to appear in Birr District Court on Friday.

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