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Nora Sheehan An Garda Síochána
Courts

Jury in 'cold case' trial find Noel Long guilty of murder of Nora Sheehan in 1981

Long had pleaded not guilty to murdering 54-year-old Sheehan between 6 and 12 June 1981.

THE STATE HAS been successful in pursuing the oldest murder prosecution in Irish history with a jury this morning finding a 74-year-old sex offender guilty of murdering vulnerable Cork woman Nora Sheehan 42 years ago.

The panel of seven men and four women unanimously accepted the prosecution case that Noel Long, who has a 1972 conviction for sexual offending and multiple previous assault convictions, is guilty of murder.

The jury agreed with the State’s case that the evidence in the trial all pointed to the “inescapable conclusion” that the mother-of-three had met her death in June 1981 at the hands of Long.

The 11 jurors rejected the defence put forward by Long’s legal team, who had argued that the State had failed to prove the intent required for murder and that in those circumstances, the most they could consider was a verdict of manslaughter.

The trial, which began on 13 July, heard evidence that a partial DNA profile generated from semen found in the body of Sheehan and preserved for decades had matched DNA found on clothing taken from Long in 2021.

There was also evidence that Long had been in the same area as Sheehan when she went missing, that fibres recovered from the victim matched those taken from the carpeting of Long’s car and that paint fragments removed from the victim’s clothing also matched paint taken from the same vehicle.

Long, a former British Army soldier with an address at Maulbawn, Passage West, Co Cork had pleaded not guilty to murdering 54-year-old Sheehan between 6 and 12 June 1981 at an unknown place within the State.

Her naked and bruised body was found by forestry workers at The Viewing Point, Shippool Woods in Cork six days after she went missing.

Senior counsel Brendan Grehan, for the Director of Public Prosecutions, told the jurors they were being asked to infer that after Sheehan was last seen alive she came to be in a car, was badly assaulted including sexually assaulted and was ultimately killed in the course of a vicious assault or to cover up her murderer’s “misdeeds”.

In his closing speech, Michael Delaney SC, for Long, told the jury that one of the most significant issues they would have to decide is whether “what happened here was a murder at all”.

Former State Pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy, who was called by the defence, said the victim’s cause of death was unascertained.

Delaney said the State couldn’t precisely say how Sheehan met her death and that Dr Cassidy’s evidence was important in their decision as to whether the case was “anything more than an unlawful killing; whether there was an intent to kill or cause serious injury”.

Delaney asked the jurors to consider if there would have been a motive for someone to conceal Sheehan’s body if she had died from a heart attack in the course of a physical and sexual assault.

Verdict

The jurors today found Long guilty of murder by unanimous verdict after five hours and 32 minutes considering their verdict.

They had the option of returning three verdicts in relation to the murder charge against the defendant, namely; guilty of murder, not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter or not guilty.

Following the murder verdict, Mr Justice Paul McDermott thanked the 11 jurors for their service and application to the case. The judge exempted them from jury service for ten years.

Grehan asked for a recess of 20 minutes and told the judge that the prosecution would probably be in a position to proceed to sentence in a short while. He said the jury was entitled to come back to court for this.

It is expected that Mr Justice McDermott will hand down the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment to Long later this morning.

It is also expected that the Sheehan family will have an opportunity later this morning to make a statement to the court about the impact Nora’s death has had on their lives.

Comments are closed as legal proceedings are ongoing. 

Author
Alison O'Riordan