A young Irish woman heads into town to hear one of her favorite bands. She quickly makes some new friends who invite her back to their house for an after-party. Once there, things don’t stay friendly for long. Det. Sam takes us inside the investigation to find out what happened to young Anne Marie.
The Detective: Detective Sam was a police officer in Northern Ireland for 28 years. He spent 24 of those as a detective involved in all aspects of criminal and terrorist investigations from basic theft to murder, both domestic and terrorist-related. “Northern Ireland is a small country with major political issues. Police officers have to perform many roles and make sacrifices in order to protect themselves and the community as a whole.”Read Transcript
Sam: [00:00:02] At that stage, they make up their mind, “Let’s take her upstairs and we’re going to basically do whatever we want to.” But she is going to get a beating. The girls downstairs know that this is going to happen, but they think it’s quite funny, by the way, but the bottom line is, that is the last time that Anne Marie Smyth is seen by most of the people downstairs.
Yeardley: [00:00:28] Hi, I’m Yeardley. This is Detective Dan.
Dan: [00:00:32] Hey, there.
Yeardley: [00:00:32] And his identical twin brother, Detective Dave.
Dave: [00:00:35] Hello.
Yeardley: [00:00:36] And this is Small Town Dicks.
Dan: [00:00:40] You will hear detectives from small towns around the world discuss their most memorable cases.
Dan: [00:00:44] We covered the intimate details of what went wrong and what went right.
Yeardley: [00:00:48] As these dedicated men and women search for justice and crack the case.
Dan: [00:00:53] Names and certain details have been changed to protect the privacy of the victims and their families.
Dave: [00:00:58] So, please join us and maintaining their anonymity out of respect for what they’ve been through.
Unison: [00:01:02] Thank you.
Yeardley: [00:01:09] Today, on Small Town Dicks, we have the usual suspects. We have Detective Dan.
Dan: [00:01:16] Hello, everyone.
Yeardley: [00:01:17] Hello, Dan. [laughs] He is looking at me like I’m a dope. And we have Detective Dave!
Dave: [00:01:25] Great to be back.
Yeardley: [00:01:27] It’s great to see you. Small town fam, I hope you’re sitting down because we have once again crossed the pole because I’m in Los Angeles and bopped on over to Northern Ireland to welcome a new guest to the podcast, Retired Detective Sam.
Sam: [00:01:48] Good afternoon from Northern Ireland on a bright and sunny day, which is unusual.[laughter]
Yeardley: [00:01:54] It is. We are so, so thrilled to have you, and we’re meeting by zoom. In that case, you may hear signs of life, like lapping dogs, meowing cats, garbage trucks, who knows? You know the drill. All right, Sam, I’m just going to hand it over to you. Tell us how this case came to you.
Sam: [00:02:18] Okay, so first of all, can I say thank you very much for having me and giving me this opportunity. I do listen to the podcast and I find it extremely interesting.
Yeardley: [00:02:27] Thank you.
Sam: [00:02:29] I’m going to give a bit of background about myself first so that that sort of sets the scene.
Yeardley: [00:02:33] Perfect.
Sam: [00:02:34] So, I first joined the police in Northern Ireland in 1976 as a part-time officer, and it was really to assist the local police and dealing with local issues in the area in which we lived. In 1978, I joined the regular force, which was at that time, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, and I’m very biased and loyal to that force. I did a total of 28 years in that force, 24 years of what I spent as a detective in various guises. I interviewed, I ran cases, and as promotion came, I was in charge of various different units, combating ordinary crime, terrorist crime. You basically name it, we were jack of all trades, probably, as they say, master of none.
[00:03:26] Growing up in Northern Ireland, for those of you who don’t know, and I would dare say a lot of people, especially in the US, and then sort of the wider world, Northern Ireland’s a very, very small country. At this moment in time, I think the population is 1.75 million. From 1968 until 1998, we unfortunately were involved in a strife here as it’s being described. Some people have described it as a war, but it was a religious war. And it was a war where we had two sides vying for the upper hand, and not one side wanted us to leave Great Britain and become part of a United Ireland, and the other side wanted to remain as part of Great Britain.
What we have on one side, we have the Republicans who wanted to be a part of Ireland. On the other side, we had the loyalists who were mostly Protestant, and they wanted to remain part of the United Kingdom. As a result of that, from 1968, until the signing of the peace treaty in 1998, there was a conflict. The word ‘conflict’ doesn’t do it justice, because as a police officer, and I’m sure other police officers will agree with us. When you sign on the dotted line to be a police officer, or a sheriff or a highway patrolman, your duties are basically policing duties. They’re not to lift a rifle every day and go to war, like a soldier. Unfortunately, for us, in certain parts of Northern Ireland, that’s what it was like. We were almost like soldiers because of the way we dressed, because of the armaments we had to carry at all times.
[00:05:13] Every time we went out on duty, it was a threat. But this was not prevalent throughout Northern Ireland. The really bad areas in Northern Ireland where the most terrorism was being affected probably would only have been about 10% of the country. You could call it a small minority, but they really did know how to hurt people. So, as I say, I started 1976 in uniform, then joined regulars in 1978.
Yeardley: [00:05:43] What’s the Regulars?
Sam: [00:05:44] When I first joined the police, you could join part time, it was called a reserve force. So, we had part-time reserve where you worked in your own community as a backup to the local police. And then you join the regular force was being a constable.
Yeardley: [00:06:01] How many detectives in your agency that you worked out of?
Sam: [00:06:04] There were two main stations in the center of Belfast and I was in the smaller one. We would have had 12 detectives, the main station we’d have had about 16, but then in the outlying areas of Belfast, you would have had maybe 10 other offices. For Belfast detectives, you may have had, for the whole of Belfast, maybe about 200. So, 1982, I became a detective. I was involved in the investigation of many, many cases. A lot of them were to do with terrorism, some were to do with, we would call them domestic murders. But what I’m going to talk about today is actually a sectarian murder.
Yeardley: [00:06:43] Can you say what that is?
Sam: [00:06:45] Sectarianism, it’s religious fervor in that one side hits the other, and if they commit a crime against the other side, it’s like the Roman Catholic and Protestant. Most live in peace over here, but the real diehards that really don’t want the coexistence, any crime committed against the other side is sectarian.
Yeardley: [00:07:05] Uh-huh. It’s a hate crime carried out in the name of religion. And in Northern Ireland at that time, that meant these crimes were between the Roman Catholics and the Protestants.
Sam: [00:07:18] That’s right.
Yeardley: [00:07:19] Did that carry a special enhancement?
Sam: [00:07:23] Absolutely. It’s classed as terrorism. For interview purposes, you wouldn’t be interviewed in a normal police establishment. We have a specific holding center for sectarian crimes.
Really to set the scene, 1992, it’s a Sunday, it’s in the month of February. A young girl called Anne Marie Smyth, she’s 24 years of age. She’s a single mother and she has two children. She lives in a coastal time, about 40 miles from Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland. On that Sunday, she has her parents babysit for her, and she goes to see a local group that she follows, who are doing a gig in her local town.
Yeardley: [00:08:10] Like a local band?
Sam: [00:08:12] Yes. Everything’s fine and dandy, and she goes and she sees the group. They finish playing, say, half past six, it’s an afternoon gig, and she still has a babysitter. The group know her, and basically say, “Listen, we’re going to do a second gig here up in Belfast.” As I say, Northern Ireland is small, but I’m Anne Marie Smyth had never been to Belfast. It was only 40 miles away, but she’d never been there, because country people just don’t like to travel.
Yeardley: [00:08:41] [chuckles]
Sam: [00:08:42] She decided that she would follow the group and she went with them in their van, and they were playing at a local sports club in Belfast that was affiliated to your local soccer team, and that was just an affiliation to them as a supporter’s club. Basically, what happens is she’s had a few drinks at the first gig. She goes to the second gig. While she’s there, the group were playing their roadies, everybody’s intermingling, and they’re intermingling with the people who attend this social club every week.
Unfortunately, for Annie Marie Smyth, a lot of the people that attended that were paramilitaries. They were part of the loyalist paramilitary groups. As things would progress during the evening, she was dancing. She loved to dance, and she was dancing on the floor. Some of the girls akin to the paramilitary groups went and danced with her. They asked her a couple of questions, and by virtue of her answers, they immediately identified her as a Roman Catholic.
[00:09:47] Now, this is a really simple thing. If in Northern Ireland, you’re asked to spell your name, for example, your name is Harry, one side of the community will spell that AITCH-A-R-R-Y. The other side will spell it HAITCH-A-R-R-Y, and that was basically how she was found out. And this is a common thing over here. It’s so simple to identify people, but because she has had a few drinks, the girls, to say the least, befriended her. And between dances, they went back to the guys at the table and said, “This girl is a Roman Catholic. We think she’s a Republican.” Now, because you’re a Roman Catholic does not make you a Republican, does not make you a terrorist. Let’s get that out of the way. This girl was a really decent girl and she had no enemies, or so she thought. But these girls said, “Why don’t we bring her to the party tonight in the house? And what we’ll do is, we’ll give her a beating, just because she’s a Roman Catholic.”
Yeardley: [00:10:52] Did they ask her that identifying question on purpose to ferret her out to see which side she fell on?
Sam: [00:10:59] Yes, absolutely. People over here are quite territorial. And the people in that club would have been extremely territorial.
Yeardley: [00:11:06] And they knew she didn’t belong?
Sam: [00:11:07] Oh, absolutely. They knew she was with a group she didn’t belong, and by virtue of some of the answers to her questions, she inadvertently set herself up as a target, which shouldn’t happen in a normal society, let’s be honest about it. You should be free to speak about whatever you want and hold any view you want, so long as that sort of is almost within the law.
Basically, the dance goes on, and she has more drinks, they buy her drinks, and they start to introduce her to the concept of not leaving with her friends and coming to the party, and they would get her home the next day.
[00:11:46] In between times, the guys that were involved in this group, there were five of them, and there were a number of girls, they already had made their mind up, that if they got her to the party, she was going to get a beating because she was a Republican.
Sam: [00:12:14] What they do is they get one of the guys, and we’ll number them all, one, two, three, four, five.
Yeardley: [00:12:20] [chuckles] Okay. So, instead of names, we’re going to call them Mr. Number One, Mr. Number Two, Mr. Number Three, Four, Five, like that?
Sam: [00:12:30] Right. Mr. Number One, he dances with her. He’s a good-looking guy, and he pays her a bit of attention. He invites her to the party and tells her that this party goes on every Sunday night and that’s what they do. To cut a long story short, she goes to the party.
Yeardley: [00:12:46] Do Anne Marie’s friends from the band go with her?
Sam: [00:12:48] No. The group leave and head back towards their hometown. She comes to the party. There are a number of girls in this house, the house is a downstairs floor and then upstairs floor with a number of bedrooms. They all go in and she sits down and they’re playing music. The party goes on, there are a few more drinks. Mr. Number One, who is the guy that brings her to the party, he talks to a guy who will be known as Mr. Number Two, and he was the houseowner. He would have been a prominent leader in the paramilitary organization. At that stage, they make up their mind, “Let’s take her upstairs, and we’re going to basically do whatever we want to. But she’s going to get a beating.” So, that’s it.
[00:13:38] The girls downstairs know that this is going to happen, but they think it’s quite funny, by the way. The other guys in the house are probably not sure at this stage as to what’s about to happen. In between times, Anne Marie is sitting on the sofa in the main living room with the other people and she doesn’t particularly like the music. She just happens to say, “Look, I have a cassette here,” 1992, cassettes were still in use. “I have a cassette here. Can I put it into the player?” And she did and she was dancing for a while. In between the dancing and talking to the girls, Mr. Number One and Mr. Number Two invite her up the stairs for whatever reason, I’m not going to go into that. But the bottom line is, that is the last time that Anne Marie Smyth is seen by most of the people downstairs.
[00:14:32] The party goes on downstairs, and after a period of time, they can hear like a bang upstairs something falling, but they don’t go and investigate. Why should they? It’s Anne Marie Smyth, she’s a Roman Catholic. She is a Republican, she is going to get a beating. Mr. Number Two walks down into the living room. And at the time, he’s carrying a basin, and one of the girls at the party, she made a witness statement later said that there was water in the basin that had some blood in it. Not much, but what looked like blood. He comes down and goes into the kitchen and he invites two other guys to come upstairs. They leave the living room and go upstairs and the girls don’t go near it. The girls do not go upstairs. They do not leave the living room.
[00:15:17] Whatever has happened has already happened up there. There’s no sign of Anne Marie Smyth. One of the guys comes down, makes a phone call and guy Number Five. So, that’s One and Two are the first two, take her upstairs. Three and Four are the two guys that are told to come upstairs. And Number Five is a boy who calls at the house. The reason he calls it the house is because he has an estate car.
Yeardley: [00:15:41] What’s that?
Sam: [00:15:42] The best way to describe it is a station wagon.
Yeardley: [00:15:46] Oh, okay.
Sam: [00:15:47] So, he has a station wagon. Now we have five guys up the stairs. One, Two, Three, Four Five. The girls are all downstairs and they hear bumping coming down the stairs. The front door opens, closes, and the car speeds off. They don’t see Anne Marie Smyth again. They continue with their party. We don’t know what happens next.
The next day, someone is out walking in a local side street and they see what they think is a rolled-up carpet, just at an entryway or back alleyway and they go and explore and in that rolled-up carpet is the body of a female with her throat cut, almost cut right through to her spine.
Yeardley: [00:16:31] Ah!
Sam: [00:16:32] Police are called and a murder investigation begins
Dave: [00:16:36] Was Anne Marie found with identification on her?
Sam: [00:16:39] Yes.
Dan: [00:16:40] Anne Marie Smyth, she’s 24 years old. She grew up 40 miles from Belfast, and this is her first trip to Belfast. I would imagine there’s some naivete on her part. She didn’t know that she was walking into the wolf’s den.
Sam: [00:16:56] No.
Dan: [00:16:56] So, she feels free to answer these questions honestly and it ends up putting a huge target on her.
Sam: [00:17:03] She does, indeed. That’s how it was described in the local papers.
Dan: [00:17:07] Yeah, it’s so unfortunate.
Sam: [00:17:09] Inadvertently, she was the author of her misfortunes. She was naive, innocent. But there are people that preyed on that. I was part of the initial murder investigation team. This happened just on the outskirts of Belfast. Again, Belfast, very small city, population about 650,000-750,000 people. It’s in the center of Belfast, and I was working there at the time. But after about two weeks, the inquiry is going nowhere. We haven’t any clues. However, we knew that she went to the social club. And we interviewed every person that was in the social club that night, including Mr. Number One, Two, Three, Four, the four guys. We weren’t aware of the guy in the car and we interviewed all the girls. And they all had a story.
[00:18:02] “Oh, yes, we danced with her in the club. She was a really, really nice girl. It was good to see people from that side of the community coming to our club. But she left. As far as we’re concerned, she left with her friends.” The inquiry was going nowhere.
Dave: [00:18:18] I can imagine how the death notification to the family went. But that’s always a sensitive thing for law enforcement. It’s a very intimate encounter with a family when you’re delivering the worst news ever, is what kind of information? How did they receive it? I have an idea. And what kind of information were they able to give about Anne Marie’s habits.
Sam: [00:18:42] Obviously, we do a full background. We do, I suppose a standard of life, etc., into all victims. I don’t know how you do it there, but in each of our forces in each of our areas that we work in, we would appoint the family liaison officer, and the family liaison officer would be the sole contact with the victim’s family. And we think that that’s a good way of doing it. In other words, they have a single point of contact, where they’re not constantly being bombarded by different detectives asking different questions. The information that they would have been given if the body of their daughter was find, the state of the body at that stage would not have been revealed to them, obviously because we didn’t know the cause of death. It later transpired that the cause of death was strangulation and that her throat was probably caught postmortem.
[00:19:32] So, they give the background and basically, she’s a good girl. She has two kids. What are we going to do? And you can imagine, where this happened, this is a sectarian murder. It was reported in the press here as a sectarian murder. This is a Roman Catholic girl in a Protestant area. She’s found murdered, she was just going to watch a band play.
As I say, going on from that, we do all the interviews, but we have no suspects. There are no aspects at all, because all these people are giving plausible alibis if you like. But having said that, if you look deeply into them, they all alibi each other. The inquiry continues.
[00:20:10] One night, a mother brings her daughter to a police station. This young girl at this stage is 17 years of age. Basically, her story is, “I was there. I was one of the females. I can’t live with this. I have to tell you what I know.” She then recounted the story of Anne Marie Smyth coming to the house. The story in the social club beforehand where the girls befriended her, and they decided they were going to take her back and give her a beating, she recounts all this. She then says that everybody knows everybody else. She named everybody that was in the house, and we had already interviewed them, Mr. Number One and Number Two. They were the main perpetrators. They took her up the stairs, but she did not witness any killing, she did not see Anne Marie Smyth when she left that room.
[00:21:06] And as a result of her information, it became pretty obvious that she was basically taking her own life in their hands, and as a result of her information on her statement and her willingness to attend the court, she was initially put into witness protection.
Yeardley: [00:21:24] Oh, wow!
Sam: [00:21:25] To this day, she still remains in witness protection. As a result of her story, four guys and three girls are arrested. Mr. Number One, Two, Three, and Four of the guys, the girls have only ancillary parts, and I’m not going to go into them, but it’s the four guys are the main perpetrators, Number One and Two being the main ones.
Dan: [00:21:46] When this witness comes forward, this 17-year-old female, and she starts giving you guys information about suspects one through four, how does that go down when you start rounding these guys up?
Sam: [00:21:57] Well, before we even went for them, they already knew, the jungle drums had started and that she had went to the police. The night after she gave her statement, her house was petrol bombed. This was before we arrested them. We thought that she was safe. From that, we moved her and our family out of the house, and she never went back there. We go and we’re detailed to interview these guys. I was given Mr. Number Three, and that was the one I had to interview. Another team was on Number One. We had four different interview teams. But the statement that this girl made, and I have read some statements in my time from various atrocities in Northern Ireland and really heinous crimes, this was one of the most haunting statements I ever read, because it gave you the details of an event, but no facts. She couldn’t say what happened upstairs, but she knows that she never saw Anne Marie Smyth again.
[00:22:57] She heard a bump, but what she was able to tell us was that it was funny that the next day, Mr. Number Two who owned the house called everybody back to his house. They completely redecorated the downstairs room, the hallway, and the bedroom that Anne Marie Smyth was eventually in. They completely redecorated, but we didn’t know this at the time, because we had no reason to search the house. So, this all went on and we’re suspicious.
Dan: [00:23:29] Number Two, when he invited everybody back over to the house the morning after, does he start making threats?
Sam: [00:23:35] No, he doesn’t have to.
Dan: [00:23:36] They just know. It’s understood.
Sam: [00:23:39] He was an evil, evil person. So, he would not have to make a threat. Everybody would know that if they crossed him, well, that was good night.
Dan: [00:23:47] That’s pretty amazing to me that that 17-year-old, in light of all that, still can’t live with the knowledge of what she knows what happened upstairs and she has to come forward. I think it’s incredibly brave.
Sam: [00:24:00] Yeah.
Sam: [00:24:15] So, anyway, we commence the interviews, and I’m interviewing Mr. Number Three. And the information from her statement was that he was one of the ones that had to go up the stairs was called up to see what had happened.
Yeardley: [00:24:27] This is the statement from the 17-year-old witness?
Sam: [00:24:30] Yes. When he came down, he made a phone call and he got the guy with the station wagon. And that’s all she knew, she didn’t see the carpet going out, she didn’t see Anne Marie with her throat slit. She did not see Anne Marie again. We get them in and we start to interview all the suspects. Basically, how it works is, at that stage they were all brought into what we would call a terrorist holding center, and the legislation we use then was the Prevention of Terrorism Act because this was not a normal murder. This was a sectarian murder linked to terrorism.
Yeardley: [00:25:03] Did you already know that, that she was murdered because she was a Roman Catholic?
Sam: [00:25:07] Yes. Oh, absolutely, because when we established who the main perpetrators were, they were all known to us. In fact, one of them was known before, and had been interviewed by myself, and then someone else for another murder, which he didn’t admit, and he was never found guilty of. As I said, Northern Ireland is small, so you really do know these people.
Dave: [00:25:28] This group is what we would call frequent fliers over here in the States. Were these guys employed?
Sam: [00:25:34] Most of these people don’t work.
Yeardley: [00:25:36] How do they make their living?
Sam: [00:25:37] State benefits, robbery, drug dealing. Basically, any underhanded way to make money, they’ll do it.
Yeardley: [00:25:47] And if they were dealing drugs, were they also using drugs?
Sam: [00:25:50] Oh, good God, yes. Yeah, I’m not being flippant about it, but yes. Drugs, alcohol, yeah, they were. Anyway, we start to interview Number Three. And as is common, the first thing you’re going to do is explain why they’re there. There is no legal representation in the interview room. At that stage, in 1992, the interviews are not recorded. They are all completed on contemporaneous notes. So, it’s pages, and pages and pages of interview notes. Myself and the guy that did the interview with me, who was also a friend of mine, and we got on fairly well as interview partners and as detectives, police officers, you sort have to gel with the partner you’re interviewing with, and be able to know when the other person is lacking something that you need to jump in. But it’s about taking good notes, and just listening to what the person says, and then developing your questioning strategy from that. But this guy came in, and he was quite cocky.
Yeardley: [00:26:51] Mr. Number Three was?
Sam: [00:26:52] Right. We initially arrested them for three days. Under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, we could hold people for up to seven days without charge, but we initially went for three, then we would go to court and ask for another two, and if necessary, go back to court and then would be granted, provided there were sufficient grounds.
We start interviewing this guy, Mr. Number Three, and very cocky. “I know nothing about this. Yes, I remember a girl there,” etc. We’ve got a bit of background on him when we had a basic intelligence brief on him. We knew that he was affiliated to one of the paramilitary organizations. He would not have been a prime member, but he was a member nonetheless.
[00:27:37] His story was that, “Yes, that Sunday night, I did what I did every Sunday night,” and this was a few weeks after the event. “And what was that?” “Yeah, well, I left the house in and around 11 o’clock, I walked home, in the front door, to the side of the front door is our living room. I went, then my father’s watching the late movie on TV, which is what he does every Sunday night.” “Fair enough. That’s great.” So, this goes on, and there’s a lot of other ancillary questions. And this goes on over a period of a number of hours. So, after the first day, we have basically him tied to his alibi, which is very important, because you can’t see it, it becomes harder and harder.
Yeardley: [00:28:22] Right, because every time he changes his story, that’s not good for him. Mr. Number Three is going all in on this alibi, where he watched the Sunday night movie on the BBC with his dad?
Sam: [00:28:33] Yeah.
Yeardley: [00:28:34] Got it. And, Sam, how are you faring through all of this?
Sam: [00:28:39] Well, I remember that night, I used to call in and see my mom and dad who lived about six miles from the holding center, and it was on my way home. So, I call in to see my mom and dad as a dutiful son. My mom, she was in bed or making us a cup of tea or something like that, but I remember my dad, we’re sitting talking, and he said, “What are you working on?” I said, “Anne Marie Smyth.” “All right. Okay.” “Yeah. Oh, there you go.” Didn’t tell him anything about it, but he knew what I was working on. It’s sort of common knowledge.
Yeardley: [00:29:13] Because by now it’s a pretty high-profile case.
Sam: [00:29:16] Yes. And he made a throwaway comment to me that night and his comment was, “Oh, by the way, did you see the snooker the other Sunday night?” And I said, “What snooker?” He said, “Well, the World Championship was on TV.”
Yeardley: [00:29:30] Like pool?
Sam: [00:29:31] Like pool, only over here we play pool, and we also play snooker which is more balls in the table, harder to play, bigger table, but anyway. He said, “Did you see it?” And I said, “I must admit it I didn’t. I can’t remember what I was doing, but I didn’t see the snooker that night.” And then, I thought to myself, “Hold on. What night was that?” And that was the Sunday night that Anne Marie Smyth was murdered. And he said, “Oh, brilliant match. It actually went on to about 1 o’clock or 2 o’clock in the morning, and the BBC televised the whole lot.” “Are you sure about that?” He says, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. I stayed up and watched it.”
[00:30:07] So, now I have an alibi from Number Three. His alibi is, he was in his house that night at 11:00 and his father was watching the movie on TV, on the BBC, because that’s what they do every Sunday night. Unless there’s a snooker competition on, in which case, the movie is taken off, and it ends up that they play the snooker right through to the end.
Next morning, I go to the bosses and I say, “Our friend’s alibi, I think I’ve shot it to hell. Actually, I didn’t shoot it to hell, my dad did.”
Sam: [00:30:43] Just an inadvertent comment. By the way, my father had nothing to do with the police. In fact, he hated the fact that I joined the police until he saw me in uniform the first time and he said, “Okay, I’m proud of you.” And that’s it.
Sam: [00:30:55] But, again, going back to it. So, this an inadvertent comment gives me a new gusto to go into the interview room. Myself and the interviewer, we say to Number Three, “Right, so your alibi. Could you go over that again for me, if you don’t mind, please?” And the notes are there, “Yes, I did that, and I went home,” and blah, blah, blah. In between time, we had sent detectives to his house to interview his father. His father’s story was, “Yes, I remember him coming in, but he just went up the stairs. He didn’t come in to me. And the next morning, he walked out carrying a bag, and he had a cap on.” This was the father story.
[00:31:35] We talk to Number Three and say, “Right, your alibi, please go over that again?” “Yes, I went home 11 o’clock, I then saw my dad, he was watching the movie.” “Could you tell me what the movie was?” He mentioned what the movie was. And I’m writing all this down, and the guy beside me, he’s actually nudging me, as if to say, “Let’s get on with this. We have this guy over a barrel.” It’s not just as simple as that, you have to play it out. You want to get the facts as the suspect sees them on paper first. We’ll say to him, “Right. We’re just going to have a break now, but I want you to consider what you’ve just told me. By the way, I’m going to read the notes out to you.” So, as was our common practice, at the end of every interview, we read the notes out to the suspect. We let them read them if they wanted. And if they chose to, they can sign them.
Yeardley: [00:32:26] You’re checking for accuracy, yes?
Sam: [00:32:28] Yeah. We have this guy, he has given this alibi on numerous occasions, and we now know it’s factually incorrect, and it can’t be correct. We come out and we have a cup of coffee, a little joyous cup of coffee, because we’re going back in to say, “This is what your father said. This is the fact.” Went to him, and start the interview off. “Hi, how are you? Can I get you anything? How’s your health in general? You had nothing to do with a murder,” of course, blah, blah, blah. And we go through the preamble and say, “It’s about your alibi.” “What’s wrong with it?” “Well, we’ve just blown that completely out of the water. We have a statement from your father.” This is it. We showed them a copy of the statement. This father had made this statement innocently, by the way, it was because to try and help his son, ended up not helping him that much.
[00:33:20] What happens then is, we said like, “Statement from your father. Yes, your father says you come home the Sunday night. He didn’t see you. You went out of the house the next day, you were wearing a cap and carrying something. Oh, and by the way, the movie that you saw wasn’t on. Snooker was on.” And he made a sort of grunt, and he said, “No, that can’t be right.” “We have checked with the BBC. We have actually checked with the British Broadcasting, that happened. Your alibi, it’s a load of–“
Dan: [00:33:52] You can say it.
Yeardley: [00:33:52] (chuckles) “It’s a piece of shit.” (laughs)
Sam: [00:33:54] “–it’s the biggest load of shit I’ve ever heard, basically. Maybe you want to reflect on this for a few moments and take a breath because the next words coming out of your mouth are probably going to assist you in the life sentence here. We know that you were in the house. We know that this is what happened. We know that you went up the stairs. We know you made this phone call. I’m not saying you murdered on Anne Marie Smyth, but you were part of it.”
He takes sort of a step back and sits there, reflects very briefly. And he said, “Look, I’ll tell you what I know.” “Okay, we’re going to take that,” that’s all sounds awfully simple, but it’s over a convoluted period of time.” And he said, “Yes, I was at the club. She was a Republican. We were taking her back to the house. We’re going to give her a hitting.” But then, he told us what he did. He was called up to the bedroom. This is the first time who is someone leaving the living room.
[00:34:53] He walks up to the bedroom, that’s Number Three, along with Number Four. He walks into the bedroom and it’s quite a small bedroom. There’s a double bed in it. And to the side of the double bed between the double bed on the wall is the body of Anne Marie Smyth, and quite evident she’s dead. They don’t go into what happened. The guys say, “Look, we don’t know what happened to her.” There’s no confession from them to him.
Well, one of the things I asked him to do was again to authenticate what he was telling me was, “Would you draw a sketch for me?” And I gave him a blank piece of paper. And he said, “I’m not very good at art.” I said, “You don’t have to be good at art. Just draw me a stick person. You mark where the bed is, whatever it is.” And he drew a map onto the side, he drew this little stick person, and he said Anne Marie Smyth. I said, “No, do me a favor. The time is and the date is, would you write that down and sign it?” Again, for authenticity, and then myself and my colleague, we signed it.
[00:35:56] We then had his version of what happened. But what happened after that was he said, “Yes, I had to come down and make a phone call to Number Five who had the station wagon. We wrapped her up in a carpet and we were going to dump her in a side street in Belfast.” He is not one of the ones that goes out in the car. There are three of the guys who were Number Two, Four, and Five, go out with her in the car. And as a result of what happens there, we then find out that she has her throat slit through the back of her spine.
But during the other interviews of these people, there are no other significant statements made. Nobody gives any other admissions, but we have his story. So, we charged them all with the murder. But Number Four, when he’s being interviewed, says to his interviewers, and it’s the only significant statement they made, and he said, “Is it possible to murder a dead body?” And he laughed as he said it.
Yeardley: [00:37:00] Oh, my God!
Sam: [00:37:01] And this was the guy that we suspected had slit her throat.
Yeardley: [00:37:05] After she had been strangled to death?
Sam: [00:37:07] Yes, after the event.
Yeardley: [00:37:10] Ugh!
Sam: [00:37:11] Everything’s going well, but we can’t put Marie Smyth in the house.
Yeardley: [00:37:16] You can’t?
Sam: [00:37:17] We have only got hearsay.
Yeardley: [00:37:18] Oh, and the suspects had also done that so-called remodel of the house to erase any trace of Anne Marie at all.
Sam: [00:37:27] Yeah.
Yeardley: [00:37:28] Ooh!
Sam: [00:37:29] There’s no fingerprints. There’s no DNA. There’s nothing to associate her with the house. To try and tie up all the loose ends, we go back to our original witness, who’s the young girl who gave the initial statement. I say, “Look, we can prove she was in the house. Is there anything else you can remember?” Now in between times, we have searched this house. That’s how we found out that had all been redecorated. And it was perfect. It was a real forensic cleanup. And she said, “No, I’ve told you everything I can, but there was one thing it didn’t tell you. She was sitting on the sofa. She didn’t like the music, so she changed it and she put a cassette into the cassette player.”
Yeardley: Oh, my God! She left the tape in the cassette player.
Sam: [00:38:27] Yeah. So, we immediately send the search team back to the house, and the music that she had put in was the song by Bryan Adams, (Everything I Do) I Do It for You. The search team goes to the house and they go to the music center, and they open it up. And lo and behold, still in the music center, not cleared out of it, is the cassette. On that cassette when we forensically tested is Anne Marie Smyth’s fingerprints, so we can now tie her to the house and we can now charge them. All five are charged.
Mr. Number One and Two, when we go to court, they fight it. They fight it tooth and nail in court, obviously pleading not guilty. The young girl that gave the evidence was in the witness box for a long time and they try to shake her story, that she wasn’t a particularly good young girl. In fact, she had a previous conviction for theft. What the defense counsel said was, “How can we believe your story? You have got a previous conviction for theft.” She said, “I may be a thief, but I’m not a murderer.” And she pointed to the guys. “Those are the guys that murdered Anne Marie Smyth,” which I thought was very brave of her at that time.
[00:39:40] In all terrorist cases, there was no jury. It’s a judge only. Northern Ireland, because of the Troubles here, you couldn’t get a jury that wouldn’t be tampered with, and in some cases intimidated, and possibly even killed. We had a thing called Diplock courts, where a judge based on the evidence they entered give the verdict. The judge had no trouble, he found them all guilty and convicted all five of them with the murder. Number One and Two were the main perpetrators. The other three were accessories to murder after the event. But the bottom line was, they were all convicted, they all get 25 years with a stipulation that they have to serve, say, 15 years.
[00:40:25] This was 1993 was their trial. In 1997, I think it was, they all appealed their sentences, because they said, “Well, we should never have been convicted of this. We didn’t admit this.” So, they went before the Supreme Court in Northern Ireland. Number One and Two, he upheld their convictions. In other words, your conviction for murder stands. The other three, he absolved their conviction for murder, but convicted them of lesser offenses. So, that was it. They got their sentences reduced to eight years. That was 1993.
[00:41:00] Unfortunately for us in 1998, we had the peace agreement signed here. That was the deal that was done between the British government, the Irish government and half of the world, to say that it was going to be peace in our time in Northern Ireland. The IRA were going to lay down their weapons, the Protestant paramilitaries were going to lay down their weapons, and this was going to be the land of milk and honey. One of the sops was that anybody convicted of terrorist offences would be released from prison.
Yeardley: [00:41:30] No!
Sam: [00:41:31] Seriously. They were all released. Some of them had done longer than others. We had murderers who were basically released onto the streets. And I have to say, I don’t know if you know it or not, but the prime movers in the peace process to be signed in Northern Ireland was the prime minister of the UK, Tony Blair, and a certain president name Bill Clinton.
Dan: [00:41:55] Yep.
Sam: [00:41:56] Who came to Belfast and turned our Christmas tree on and Christmas 1998 peace in our time, etc.
Yeardley: [00:42:04] Sam, I just want to outline this and make sure that I’m following along with you. Anne Marie Smyth’s murder was a sectarian murder, which made it an act of terrorism. But if everyone convicted of terrorism has been let out of jail, that means every sectarian crime–
Dave: [00:42:22] Then, this peace treaty gets that block of convictions thrown out.
Yeardley: [00:42:27] Every single one, and it wasn’t just the Republicans, by the way, got released. It was both sides of the community. So, basically, our jails opened and people serving a 25-year sentence, and maybe only started three years before, “Well, here, out you go. It’s Christmas, let’s go out there and enjoy yourself in the community.” And a lot of them have reoffended because they don’t know anything else. So there, a part of the story ends.
[00:42:55], the guy that slit her throat, and we always knew he did it. He was a prominent paramilitary and he went to live in a local town here and he was a drug dealer. Unfortunately for him, he crossed the wrong people and gets shot dead one Sunday night in a local bar. Let’s go back to karma again, and I’m sorry for being cynical. And I know people listening to this will say, “He’s evil.” I’m not. But he did, he gets shot, and the rest of them are sort of living lives of ignominy no better than scum of the earth. But the bottom line is, Anne Smyth’s two kids are still growing up and they’re being looked after, I would assume, they’re well grown up, but at the start they have to be looked after by her parents, so a young girl didn’t need to die, but it just showed how cheap life was in Belfast at that time.
Yeardley: [00:43:27] Ugh, it’s just brutal. You mentioned that the five appealed their convictions, because they said we never confessed. Do you have to have confessed in order for a judge to find you guilty?
Sam: [00:43:59] No.
Yeardley: [00:43:59] What sort of reasoning is that?
Sam: [00:44:01] The judge can find that based on the evidence beyond all reasonable doubt. And they call the evidence of the young girl into question.
Yeardley: [00:44:09] I see.
Sam: [00:44:09] I’ve seen police officers in witness boxes capitulating and saying things they shouldn’t say. It’s one of those things. It’s a scary, scary place, the witness box. I actually was one of these guys. I loved it. I just thought it was a big game. As long as you know what you have done is right, you can’t be beaten. But those scare and those who hold a certain amount of trepidation for a lot of police officers and they do make mistakes that they should never make. But this was a young girl, and I’m going to say, with a minimal education, she didn’t have high school education. She probably was only schooled until she was about 14, but she was streetwise.
Yeardley: [00:44:49] Why would she not have finished school?
Sam: [00:44:52] Couldn’t be bothered.
Yeardley: [00:44:53] Oh.
Sam: [00:44:54] So, it’s a social thing here. There are great social problems here with kids from the so-called deprived areas. And there’s a lot of unemployment pro rata to the population on both sides of the community, by the way. But some of the kids, they get more interested in stealing cars, breaking into houses, getting involved in drugs, and getting involved with gangs. Kids find that sort of as they’re growing up quite, I suppose, sexy to be part of a paramilitary organization, because when you walk in the room, you’re Jack the Lad. But you’re not really, you’re just a scared kid, but you don’t portray that. So that was it. But the convictions for the first two held, and the other ones, they were reduced, but the guy that slit her throat, as I say karma, karma is a real bitch.
Dan: [00:45:42] That was suspect Number Four, right?
Sam: [00:45:43] Yeah, that was four.
Dan: [00:45:44] And he’s the one who said, “Can you murder a dead body?”
Sam: [00:45:46] “Can you kill a dead body?” Yeah.
Dave: [00:45:49] The great thing about this 17-year-old who initially comes forward and then testifies is the truth is really easy. Like you say, if you know you’ve done everything right, being on the stand is actually fun, because you’re not going to back me into a corner. I can probably anticipate four or five questions out where you’re trying to take me if you’re trying to impeach me as a witness. And clearly the defense tries to impeach this female based on this theft in her history, but she’s got this streetwise sense and she’s got the truth on her side, and she’s got this street edginess and confidence, I can imagine, where she’s just blunt and direct. And she’s like, “Well, I may be a thief, but I’m not a murderer.”
Sam: [00:46:34] Exactly. And she pointed them out, she actually pointed to them all sitting there, and said, “They murdered Anne Marie Smyth.” This is a young girl whose whole life is in front of her and now she has had to move with her mother and sister. They have been spirited away out of Northern Ireland, and they are now fully in a witness protection program at the time of the trial. So, as I say, Northern Ireland being a small place, you can’t hide witnesses here. There’s no doubt, it just can’t be done. She’s spirited away. Obviously, if you’ve ever worked with them, once you’re in the witness protection program, there’s only certain ways you leave it. One of them is at your own request, and very few people would ever actually leave the witness protection program, because we have people who would still be involved in it from the early 1980s.
Yeardley: [00:47:25] What an incredible turn of events. And as Dan and Dave both said, the bravery of that 17-year-old can’t be overstated. What a desperately tragic story. Thank you so much for joining us today. It’s just so great to meet law enforcement around the world. Thank you.
Sam: [00:47:46] Thank you.
Dan: [00:47:47] Yes, thank you. And thank you for that snooker match.
Yeardley: [00:47:51] Yes.
Dan: [00:47:52] And your dad watching it.
Dave: [00:47:54] Sometimes, it’s the little things, and in this case, it’s you catching on to what was on the BBC that actual night, and a Bryan Adams’ cassette breaks a case.
Sam: [00:48:05] Again, it was just one of those pure flukes. Everybody says they commit the perfect crime, we did the perfect cleanup. No, they didn’t. Just a simple thing, and that’s what got them,. Yeah.
Dave: [00:48:15] I love it.
Yeardley: [00:48:16] Incredible. Thank you.
Yeardley: [00:48:27] Small Town Dicks is produced by Gary Scott and Yeardley Smyth, and coproduced by Detectives Dan and Dave. This episode was edited by Soren Begin, Gary Scott, and me, Yeardley Smyth. Our associate producers are Erin Gaynor, the Real Nick Smitty, and Alec Cowan. Our music is composed by John Forest. Our editors extraordinaire are Logan Heftel and Soren Begin. Our books are cooked and cats wrangled by Ben Cornwell.
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Yeardley: [00:49:40] That’s right. Your subscription also makes it possible for us to keep going to small towns across the country-
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