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Dublin: 9 °C Thursday 22 March, 2018

A murder, the IRA, and the Black Widow: Catherine Nevin and the trial that gripped the nation

Catherine Nevin died last night at the age of 67.

Catherine Nevin leaving the Central Criminal Court in April, 2000.
Catherine Nevin leaving the Central Criminal Court in April, 2000.
Image: Joe Dunne/Photocall Ireland!

TOM NEVIN WAS found dead in his pub near Brittas Bay, Co Wicklow by gardaí on 19 March, 1996.

A well-known Wicklow publican, Tom had been counting up his St Patrick’s Day takings at Jack White’s Inn – where he lived -  when he was killed by pellets from a single close range shotgun blast.

His wife – Catherine Nevin – publicly mourned him at the time.

She had told gardaí that she was awoken by someone “pressing her face to the pillow” and shouting at her for money. She was later tied up, she said, and eventually managed to sound the alarm to call the gardaí.

When they arrived, they found Tom Nevin on the kitchen floor in a pool of blood.

It later emerged that about £13,000 (roughly €16,500) was taken from the pub and the Nevins’ car had been taken and was found later abandoned in Dublin. All signs pointed to a botched robbery.

Four years later, Catherine Nevin was on trial at Dublin Central Criminal Court, accused of both murdering her husband and soliciting three other men to murder him.

Nevin pleaded not guilty to the charges, and the ensuing 61-day criminal trial and all the details that emerged would grip the nation like few have before it and few have since.

She was eventually convicted of Tom’s murder and dubbed the “Black Widow”.

Catherine Nevin died last night at the age of 67.

JACK WHITES PUB CATHERINE NEVIN BLACK WIDOW MURDER TRIALS Jack Whites Lounge and Restaurant where the Nevin family lived and worked and where Tom Nevin was killed. Source: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

The trial

Over the course of the trial, the jury heard from 170 witnesses.

New details emerged every day – there were claims and counter-claims from the defence and prosecution.

According to a BBC News report from the time, Nevin attempted to characterise her husband – who was well-liked in his community as a quiet, hard working man – as being a member of the IRA, gay and a drunkard.

On the prosecution side, it was alleged that Catherine Nevin had had affairs with a garda inspector, a judge and a convicted criminal.

The judge and inspector both denied having any affair with her and Nevin also denied the claims.

As the trial progressed, three key witnesses emerged who each said that Nevin had approached them in the past trying to arrange the murder of her husband.

CATHERINE NEVIN BLACK WIDOW MURDER TRIALS Nevin arriving at Dublin's Four Courts in March, 2000. Source: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Two of these men had hardline Republican links, which further deepened the public interest and scandal in the trial.

As a 2009 piece from the Irish Times points out, the testimony of these three men would prove vital to Nevin’s later conviction.

After all the witnesses were heard, the jury of six men and six women deliberated for nearly four days before returning with a unanimous verdict finding Nevin guilty of the murder of her husband.

The jury also returned three verdicts (each one 11 in favour to one against) finding her guilty of attempting to solicit three men to murder.

At the time, the four days were a record length in Irish criminal proceedings for a jury to deliberate. That record is now held by the fraud trial of four bankers in 2016.

The presiding judge – the late-miss Justice Mella Carroll – said to Nevin as the sentence was being handed down:

“You had your husband assassinated, and you tried to assassinate his character as well.

I hope his family will take some consolation from this verdict.

Tabloid coverage 

The intrigue and twists and turns of the trial – with its tales of murder, affairs, IRA links and deception – proved perfect fodder for the tabloid press at the time, who went into overdrive on their reporting.

Much of the focus was on Nevin herself, who remained cool and calm throughout the trial, showing little emotion at any point as every aspect of her personal life was laid out to the jury.

According to a 2000 Irish Times report by Kathy Sheridan following the trial, the tabloid media took huge interest in Nevin’s appearance and the sordid details that that emerged every day in the trial.

00007898_7898 Nevin leaving the Central Criminal Court in Dublin. Source: Paul Sharp/Photocall Ireland!

Descriptions of her as having ”scarlet fingernails” and “scanty underwear” were reported.

She was said to have used her ”silken boudoir” within her “den of sleaze” to “bed a bevy of sex-hungry men” while “plotting her husband’s murder”.

One paper described her as turning up for the final verdict smiling, clad in “a clinging black dress, slit to the thigh”.

It became so bad at one point, that Justice Carroll ordered a ban on the press commenting on Nevin’s appearance.


Nevin never accepted her guilty verdict and mounted numerous appeals to have the conviction overturned over the years.

There was no forensic evidence or eye-witnesses to the killing, with the prosecution resting on the testimonies of the three men who said she had approached them about killing her husband.

Three years after her conviction she was back in court trying to get the case thrown out.

The court of Criminal Appeal said however that it was satisfied that there was nothing in the new material that had come to light that could have assisted Nevin’s defence and it was dismissed.

In 2010, she had another “miscarriage of justice” appeal dismissed, with the Court of Criminal Appeal saying that there were no new relevant facts in her case.

In 2014 she was denied in her bid to appeal her murder conviction to the Supreme Court.

Nevin was diagnosed with a brain tumour last year. She had been on temporary release from prison and was receiving care in a hospice.

She died last night.

Read: Catherine Nevin has died at the age of 67

Read: Catherine Nevin loses ‘miscarriage of justice’ appeal >

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About the author:

Cormac Fitzgerald

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