Belfast Telegraph

True crime series revisits Northern Ireland horror killing after charity barn dance

Marian Beattie, who was murdered shortly after leaving a dance near Aughnacloy
Marian Beattie, who was murdered shortly after leaving a dance near Aughnacloy
Her brother Gerard
Brett Campbell

By Brett Campbell

A new podcast presented by Stephen Nolan explores the unsolved murder of a young woman who was dumped in a quarry after disappearing from a charity barn dance in Co Tyrone.

The true crime mini-series with Vinny Hurrell retells the chilling story of Marian Beattie who plummeted 100 feet to her death shortly after leaving a Save the Children fundraiser near Aughnacloy 46 years ago.

"One fella with long blonde hair came over to ask Marian to dance - she got up and I never actually seen her going out," her best friend Nuala Wilson recalls in the new podcast. "Some man came up and asked me to dance and I said no thank you."

She never saw Marian again.

The next time Nuala saw the man who asked her to dance was in the police station where he worked. He was quizzing her about the last movements of her pal who was found dead at 6am on March 31, 1973 just yards from Hadden's Garage.

"I thought he's bound to know who we met there," she recalls while visiting the crime scene for the first time.

"Aughnacloy isn't that big of a place - but he didn't."

True Crime author Robert Giles describes how Marion was seen leaving the club with a man in his late teens shortly after 1am. They walked in the direction of the quarry.

"The signs are that when they reached the top... there was some sort of struggle, as a result of which Marion fell to the bottom," he said.

The unknown man then came down to where she lay either dead or dying and partially removed her clothes.

Burnt matches were later found nearby.

Marion's older brother Isador stumbled upon her lifeless body while out searching for her with police.

A BBC news report at the time said that her watch had stopped at 1.50am during what detectives described as a "vicious and cruel murder" with a "sadistic overtone".

"The grief we experience when a loved one dies can often be unbearable, but when it's through murder the pain and suffering can almost be impossible to comprehend," Nolan tells listeners.

No one can relate to those words more than Gerard Beattie (60) who has spent nearly five decades trying to find out who robbed his sister of life. He sobbed as he reflected on the devastating impact his sister's murder has had on his family.

"The death of Marian was the death of my mother and father as well," he says.

Gerard remembers playing football outside the family home in Portadown when he was called inside. "Dad was sitting by the window," he recalls. "I turned around and all I could see was the white collar... I thought my mum had passed away.

"He said, 'Your sister was found dead this morning' [and] the ground might as well have opened."

Still in search of answers all these years later, he made a heart wrenching plea directly to his sister's killer. "You need to finally do the right thing and tell the truth."

Marian should have been looking forward to turning 65 later this year. Her killer, if still alive, is not much older.

Next Wednesday's episode of the weekly Nolan Show podcast will focus on the elusive killer.

The podcasts will be published weekly on a Wednesday, starting on the 5th of June at 9am. The links will be available at bbc.co.uk/nolan, and you can download all Nolan podcasts in the BBC Sounds App. Search for 'Best of Nolan'.

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