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Tribunal hears whistleblower's partner withdrew statement about his behaviour

The tribunal is looking at interactions between An Garda Síochána, Tusla and Garda Harrison.

Garda Keith Harrison with his partner Marissa Simms arriving at the Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle.
Garda Keith Harrison with his partner Marissa Simms arriving at the Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle.
Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

THE CHARLETON TRIBUNAL has heard details of a statement made by the partner of garda whistleblower Keith Harrison outlining his obsessive and irrational behaviour.

The statement made by Marissa Simms in October 2013 outlined how whistleblower Garda Harrison would persistently phone and text her “asking me where I was or who I was with”. The statement was withdrawn in early 2014.

The tribunal is looking at interactions between An Garda Síochána, Tusla and Garda Harrison.

Simms withdrew the statement three months later, saying she was put under pressure to make it.

Inspector Goretti Sheridan told the tribunal today that Simms came to the garda station in Letterkenny and made the statement voluntarily.

“The phone calls and texts were still as persistent as ever but I think that as time went on, I became more accepting of it because I was used to it and didn’t see it as strange or obsessive,” Simms said in the statement.

The statement also outlined messages from other women which Simms found on Garda Harrison’s phone. The statement said he became “vile and aggressive verbally” when he was drinking.

“Since we moved into Woodbury House, there are at least three different occasions when Keith put me out of the house,” Simms said in her statement.

Inspector Goretti Sheridan told the tribunal that she did not know anything about Garda Harrison before she was transferred to Donegal in 2013, following her promotion to inspector.

Inspector Sheridan had by then been a garda for 20 years, all of which she spent stationed in Dublin.

The inspector said she first became aware of Garda Harrison in May 2013, when he was involved in a road traffic accident.

Later that year, as a result of a report from Sgt Jim Collins, she learned of a report from Paula McDermott that her sister, Marisa Simms, had been “verbally threatened” by her partner, Garda Harrison.

Inspector Sheridan said that after a discussion with Chief Superintendent Terry McGinn in one of the corridors in Letterkenny garda station, it was suggested she go to see Simms’ mother, Rita McDermott, who had previously spoken about Garda Harrison to Detective Sergeant David Durkin.

“We believed children were at risk, we believed it was appropriate to go out and see her mother and talk to her,” Inspector Sheridan said.

Inspector Sheridan said the visit to Rita McDermott was a cold call. “We just drove out to see if she was at home,” she said.

Sergeant Jim Collins, who had previously been stationed in the area, also travelled to Raphoe.

When Rita McDermott was not at home, they called to her mother’s house.

As they were turning near the house, they saw McDermott and her mother arriving. Asked if Rita McDermott seemed “flustered”, Inspector Sheridan said that she found her to be “fairly personable and chatty”.

“We went in and the first thing was she put on a kettle,” Inspector Sheridan said.

McDermott made a statement outlining how she had been told of threats allegedly made by Garda Harrison. The inspector gave Mrs McDermott her number to forward to Marisa Simms.

The inspector said that McDermott said Garda Harrison had “anger management issues” related to drinking.

Simms called the inspector the following day, which was also the day before a wedding.

“Marisa did inform me that she had issues with Keith and she was willing to make a statement,” Inspector Sheridan said.

The following day, Marisa Simms attended her sister’s wedding, where she was a bridesmaid. The day after the wedding, she arranged that she would call to Letterkenny garda station on Sunday 6 October, where she made her statement.

Inspector Sheridan said she wished that there had been a video or audio recording of the taking of the statement from Simms, and if there had, she would not have had to come to the tribunal.

Inspector Sheridan the words in the statement were “absolutely 100 per cent” those of Simms.

“Everything that is in that statement is a true reflection of what she had told us,” Inspector Sheridan said.

Withdrawn

The statement was withdrawn in early 2014.

In the January 2014 statement, Ms Simms said: “I want to say that everything I told them on October 6, 2013 and that recorded in the statement is true.”

“These things did happen and I was honest in what I told them at the time,” the statement said.

“Today, January 11, I wish to inform you that I not longer want to pursue a complaint about Keith Harrison. I wish to withdraw the statement I made on October 6.”

Inspector Sheridan said it was not true that she had a pre-prepared statement for Ms Simms.

The Inspector also said it was “totally incorrect” that she told Ms Simms to “think of her children” when told that Ms Simms wanted to withdraw her statement.

“Marisa is a lovely girl and I have no doubt she is a good mother so I have no concern of her as a mother,” Inspector Sheridan said.

In an email to Chief Supt Terry McGinn and other officers in 2014, Inspector Sheridan said that Ms Simms and Garda Harrison had got back together at Christmas and were “giving it another go”.

Inspector Sheridan told the tribunal that a conference in October 2013 had considered what to do in relation to the complaint received from Ms Simms.

There was a debate about referring the statement to GSOC, and whether this would be done under Section 85 or Section 102 of the Garda Síochána Act.

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Gerard Cunningham

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