The brutal murder of grace livingstone remain unsolved

Grace Livingstone, a 56-year-old Irish woman, was murdered under brutal circumstances on December 7th, 1992. Her killer remains unidentified, and no motive has been determined. Grace resided in Malahide, Dublin, with her husband James and their 20-year-old son, Conor. Their 22-year-old daughter, Tara, was living in France at the time. On the morning of the murder, Grace saw James off to work around 8:25 am, and Conor left with him to O’Connell Street. James picked up his colleague, Art O’Connor, on the way to work at the Revenue Commissioners at Setanta House in Dublin city centre. James was known for his role in investigating tax evaders, including IRA smugglers and criminals.

Afterward, Grace attended a 9 am Mass, visited the local supermarket, and returned home. She briefly spoke to a neighbor in the driveway before heading inside just before midday. Shortly before 2 pm, another neighbor, Anne Watchhorn, spoke with Grace for about 20 minutes before they parted ways. At around 4:30 pm, a 17-year-old neighbor, Ena Brennan, noticed a young man in a beige trench coat, large black boots, and with blond shoulder-length hair walking into the cul-de-sac. Ena and her friend, Hilary Maguire, provided identical descriptions of the man. Ena later saw the man outside houses number 39 or 41 before he vanished.

Neighbor Ann Egan, at number 36, heard a loud booming noise around 4:30-4:40 pm while packing away her Christmas shopping. Another neighbor, Margaret O’Sullivan, also heard the noise but dismissed it as a firework. James arrived home at approximately 5:50 pm to find the house in darkness, with no smell of cooking, which he found odd. A sweeping brush was propped against the wall, and a pile of dust was nearby. Upstairs, he found his .22 hunting rifle propped against a door. In the bedroom, he discovered Grace lying on the bed, gagged and bound with thick black insulating tape, with a large wound to the back of her head and blood everywhere.

James alerted a neighbor, Margaret Murphy, a nurse, while calling emergency services around 5:58 pm. Margaret and Dr. Barry Moodley suggested Grace had been dead for around 2 hours, but the state pathologist disagreed, estimating her death around 6 pm. Grace was found wearing an apron, two cardigans, black trousers, and a silk camisole, with a dress and shoes laid out on the bed. A hammer was also found on the bed, and James’ shotgun was missing but later found discarded in the garden hedge, free of prints.

Four neighbors reported hearing a loud booming sound around 4:30 pm. Several motorists saw a young man matching the schoolgirls’ description driving a small red car erratically around 5 pm. A local gardener saw a young man in a long coat standing in the Livingstone’s front porch around 4:50 pm. Despite these witnesses, the Garda dismissed their statements, focusing instead on James as the main suspect.

James cooperated fully, providing his clothes for forensic examination and a list of people he was investigating for tax evasion, some linked to the IRA. However, Garda doubted IRA involvement, believing they would have targeted James, not his wife. Two alleged high-ranking IRA members were questioned and denied involvement. Gardaí focused on James, claiming Grace died at 6 pm and that the murder weapon was his. However, no gunshot residue was found on his clothing, and a fingerprint on the insulating tape did not match him. Tests showed it was impossible for James to have arrived home by 5:36 pm, as his colleague confirmed being dropped off at 5:50 pm. Co-workers confirmed James had been at the office all day.

On March 3rd, 1993, James was arrested for unlawful possession of a firearm but was released without charge after being shown photos of his wife’s body and subjected to harsh interrogation. In August 1993, Garda released a report naming James as the chief suspect without evidence. Deputy Commissioner Tom O’Reilly and Detective Superintendent Tom Connolly reviewed the case, finding the initial investigation flawed. They questioned the absence of a firearm odor, which would have lingered for about 1.5 hours, indicating Grace was likely killed around 4:30 pm.

Dr. Moodley, who inspected Grace’s body at 6:35 pm, stood by his initial estimate of her time of death around 4:30 pm, corroborated by Dr. John Harbison, the state pathologist. Connolly concluded James was not the killer, pointing to the man seen by the schoolgirls and gardener as the culprit.

In 1994, more witnesses came forward after a TV reconstruction. A motorist had given a hitchhiker matching the suspect’s description a lift the day after the murder. Despite this, Garda did not follow up. The suspect was eventually tracked to the UK but ruled out as his fingerprints didn’t match those at the scene. Connolly emphasized the importance of the man seen by the gardener as the prime suspect, criticizing the initial investigation for dismissing key evidence.

In 2008, James and his children sued the State for the flawed investigation and his wrongful arrest. Gardaí denied the allegations, but the case was settled out of court, with a statement affirming James’ innocence. During the trial, the court heard how Gardaí had asked the grieving family for blood samples and questioned Tara, who was pregnant, reducing her to tears with intrusive questions about her parents’ marriage.

Nearly 32 years later, Grace’s murder remains unsolved. The case is still being examined by the Garda, with hopes that fresh evidence will eventually bring closure to James and his family. James, now 78, remains close to Grace’s family, spending Christmas with her sister, his children, and grandchildren, teaching them how to fish on the River Shannon.

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