Belfast Telegraph

'Very important people' behind infamous 1952 murder of NI judge's daughter

Patricia Curran (centre) with her family
Patricia Curran (centre) with her family
Author Kieran Fagan
Claire McNeilly

By Claire McNeilly

An Irish author believes he knows who murdered the daughter of a leading Northern Ireland judge in November 1952, but you'll have to read his book to discover the killer's identity.

Kieran Fagan, who was seven years old when Patricia Curran was killed, has spent the past three years investigating and writing about the case, which was riddled with inconsistencies from the outset.

The 19-year-old Queen's University student was stabbed 37 times in the grounds of the family's palatial home, The Glen in Whiteabbey, Co Antrim, in a frenzied attack that shocked Northern Ireland.

Her body was discovered 40 yards from her home hours after her death by her father Judge Curran and her 26-year-old brother Desmond, who moved her body to a nearby doctor's house, telling a policeman she was still alive despite one arm already being stiff with rigor mortis.

Iain Hay Gordon, a young Scottish RAF technician, was later found guilty of the killing, but he was cleared in 2000 after the case against him was exposed as a tissue of lies. Mr Fagan (74) said his book would reveal all when it is published next September.

In the meantime, the author is hoping to "flush out some photographs" of the Curran family with which to illustrate his publication.

"I remember being at home from school with measles when the trial into Patricia Curran's murder took place in 1953. I was bored and I devoured every line in my father's newspapers about it," he said.

"It was only when I finished writing my first book, The Framing of Harry Gleeson, that someone suggested that this would be a good topic, so I jumped at it.

"The idea was in me, but I needed somebody to poke a stick at me and get it out."

The former Irish Times journalist and ghost writer said his book is a work of fact propelled by his "curiosity" over what happened. While writing it, he spent time in Whiteabbey, Antrim and Belfast for research purposes.

"I was in Northern Ireland twice a month for the last three years," he said.

"I'd take the train from Dublin to Belfast in the morning, talk to people, do some research and write up my notes on the train coming back."

When asked who he thinks killed Patricia Curran on November 12, 1952, he replied that he didn't "want to say exactly" but promised that he does offer up a theory in his book. He said his work deals with the conviction of Gordon - thought to be one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in recent history - and said "he was lucky not to be hanged at the time"

"There was a sense almost immediately in official circles that they'd got the wrong guy, so he was sent to an asylum immediately," he added.

"Then in 1960 he was told to change his name and clear off back to Scotland. His conviction was eventually set aside."

Mr Fagan said his research "unearthed quite a bit of documentary evidence which isn't in the public arena", adding: "I think people will be interested in that."

He also believes "the people who carried out the murder were very important people and that's why they were protected".

The Dublin-based writer revealed that "one of the things that bothers" him is the "sense that Patricia was promiscuous and that in some way she brought it on herself - and that's absolutely not true. The autopsy showed that she was a virgin".

"I believe she was killed in the escalation of a very minor row. It was a real tragedy. I don't think anyone intended to kill her," he added.

  • If you have any photographs of the Currans, please email cmcneilly@belfasttelegraph.co.uk See Letters, page 30

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