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Thursday 7 December 2023 Dublin: 11°C
An Garda Síochána Nora Sheehan was killed between the 6 and 12 June 1981.
nora sheehan

Forestry workers initially thought woman's body was a dead animal in 'cold case' murder trial

Retired Garda Sergeant John O’Sullivan told the trial how he was the only garda on duty in the station when the body was found.

TWO FORESTRY WOKERS were searching a rural woodland 42 years ago for dumped rubbish when they found what they initially thought was a dead pig before realising they had discovered the body of a woman, the Central Criminal Court has heard.

Retired Garda Sergeant John B O’Sullivan (83) today told the trial of Noel Long, who denies murdering Nora Sheehan, how he was the only garda on duty in the station at Innishannon village, in Cork, when the workers arrived – so he deputised his wife to accompany him to the scene.

O’Sullivan said John Collins and Denis McSweeney arrived at Innishannon Garda Station in a tractor at about 3pm on Friday 12 June, 1981.

They said they were forestry workers and had “a report to make and that it didn’t look too good at all”. O’Sullivan said the men appeared to be upset.

“They said they were after finding something and at first they thought it was a pig but then found it was a body,” he said.

O’Sullivan and his wife then went to the scene, directed by Collins and McSweeney. They pulled up about two and a half miles from Inishannon, at Shippool Woods beside the Bandon River.

The body was not visible from the road but O’Sullivan could see a navy coat lying in briars that had grown to waist height about 20 yards from the road.

There was a steep slope down to the river and the garda used a hurley to make a path through the briars. He could see where the grass and overgrowth had previously been flattened but circled around that area to avoid disturbing potential evidence.

When he saw the body, he noticed a “stench” and bluebottles circulating. The woman’s head was pointing down the slope towards the river and was completely covered by her clothing.

It seemed as though the clothes were “partially pulled off” and O’Sullivan could see nylon tights or stockings on the end of the left foot. He noticed a bandage on the woman’s left hand and a cut to the neck.

There was blood but it appeared not to be congealed and there were scrape marks on the torso.

O’Sullivan waved the bluebottles away with his hurl before going back to the road. He had no walkie talkie or other communications device so he asked his wife to take the two men away in the car and to contact Gardaí in Bandon to tell them what he had found.

O’Sullivan remained behind to ensure nobody interfered with the body.

As he waited, he noted that the top had been knocked off some barley grass growing on the road side of a low stone wall. There was only a narrow verge for a car to pull in on the river side of the road but on the far side there was a wider area, he said.

The coat, he said, was further down the bank than the body.

Noel Long with an address at Maulbawn, Passage West, Co. Cork has pleaded not guilty to murdering 54-year-old Nora Sheehan between 6 June and 12 June, 1981 at an unknown place within the State.

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

Laurence Baron (76) told Grehan that he was a detective with the Garda Technical Bureau in 1981. He arrived at the scene the day after the discovery.

He noted that the body was lying on its right side and the head was covered with a blue floral dress that was caught under the jawbone and neck.

Maggots and rodents had “attacked the body” and he described various areas that had been damaged by wildlife. He also noted a pair of nylon tights and a summer shoe with straps and a buckle.

The trial continues in front of Judge Paul McDermott and a jury of eight men and four women.