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The Mary Lynch murder trial: Crime of passion or retribution?

Where was Leary Lynch?

 This tragic story unfolded in the No 1 Home Circuit Court with the then Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn prosecuting. She now holds the substantive post of director.

A mixed jury of 12, after hearing this heart-wrenching tale of a woman who made the biggest mistake in her life, had no option but to find that she maliciously ended her husband’s life. Thus, she ended up with a death sentence!

And sadder still was the fact that the husband, whose life she had destroyed, had made a will making her the beneficiary of almost all he had — an estate worth some $40 million; his only other asset, a Mercedes Benz motor car, was left for his only sister. Mary Lynch, therefore, upon conviction, forfeited all rights to her deceased husband’s estate.

Luckily for her, in this country women are never hanged; even before 1988 when the last convicted person went to the gallows at Spanish Town, St Catherine.

The year is 1993. All appears well.

Leary Lynch, one of the National Commercial Bank’s (NCB’s) executive officers, is residing in affluent Jack’s Hill, St Andrew, with his tall, attractive, young and vivacious wife, Mary. Hailing from the rural district of Linstead, St Catherine, Mary had been a bank clerk with NCB previously, but had won the favour of, let us say, her ‘Prince Charming’; and had gone off, after a fabulous wedding, to live happily ever after. Or so it seemed.

But then, slight ripples began to appear in the land where lovers sit holding hands under moonlit stars, dreaming of never ending the dream. For suddenly, they wake up to find the real world — the world you and I make for ourselves.

Rumours began to swirl in bank circles that being a rural girl and not being as qualified as her husband, she was finding it difficult to adjust to “the social circle”. It was alleged that on many occasions when the bank hosted cocktail parties, at which the couple attended, Mary would throw tantrums if it appeared to her that any female bank employee was paying undue attention to her husband. In the end, it was said, Leary Lynch stopped taking his wife to bank functions. She became resentful.

At the same time, Leary Lynch, according to the bank, devoted his time to the organisation. He was regarded by the top echelon of the bank as a responsible officer, punctual and efficient. It was said he never missed a board meeting.

He was known to visit his farm in Linstead on weekends, accompanied by his handyman. He reared horses and other animals there. He also grew oranges and cashew and was known to use the fleshy part of the fruit — the cashew — to brew a very potent drink. That is the script given to the police.

Come a new week. The sun is shining. The doors of the bank are opened early. Business is brisk. The officers of the bank are already in the conference room. But one officer is missing. It is Leary Lynch. Several calls to his house go unanswered, till finally, Mary answers.

Where is Leary?

“Oh, he has gone to Kentucky (race track in the USA) to gamble on the horses.”

It was common knowledge to persons inside the bank that Leary Lynch loved horses and horse racing, but as to leaving for Kentucky without informing his seniors at the bank, that was so out of character. No one believed it.

More time passed and the police were called in. Surveillance of the house started. It was locked up tight; no one was in sight.

Finally, at about 9:30 one night, a white car drove up slowly. Mary alighted and was creeping towards the premises when she was held, put in a police vehicle and whisked away to the Constant Spring Police Station.

A team of policemen, headed by then Detective Senior Superintendent Isadore ‘Dick’ Hibbert, later Asst Commissioner for Crime, took charge of the investigation. Other members of the team were: Det Inspector Lester Howell, Inspector John Gauze, Inspector Trevor Chin (deceased); and Sergeant Campbell. All these policemen were later promoted; Det Insp Howell has since retired.

The journal of Snr Supt Isadore Hibbert

We headed to the Lynch residence in Jack’s Hill expecting to find Mrs Lynch. No one was at home. This was after I personally met with top officers of the bank, had discussions with them as well as the bank’s top security officer at the time and former Commissioner of Police Mr Herman Ricketts (now deceased).

The house was a three-storey structure. All doors and windows were securely locked. A ladder was found. Access was gained by forcing a window open. Inside, there was no doubt in my mind that this was a crime scene.

The flooring showed signs of being recently scrubbed; however, blood stains could be seen on furniture, in crevices on the floor and traces of blood on the ceiling of one of the rooms. In this room, pieces of furniture were rearranged. There was a cutlass on the steps of the second floor, leading to the top floor.

On the stove in the kitchen was a pot full of half-cooked or partially cooked cashew sap in preparation for Mr Lynch’s ‘favourite brew’. The air-conditioning units were going at full blast. There were signs of burning outside in the yard, beside a very high concrete wall. In the washroom outside were several partially used mops with buckets of dirty water.

I was satisfied that foul play had taken place in that house. We did house-to-house investigation and learned the following:

1. On the evening that Leary returned from his farm out in the country, it had rained heavily.

2. A schoolboy living in close proximity to the Lynches’ home told us that at about 10:00 on the night in question, he heard a ‘shriek’ coming from that house — a ‘shriek’ he described as so agonising, he would never forget it as long as he lived. He was certain it was a man’s voice. Unfortunately, because he was a minor, his mother refused to allow him to testify.

3. Neighbours saw a large fire that night by the fence of the property and called the fire brigade.

4. On the arrival of the fire brigade, Mary Lynch was reportedly seen attending to the fire; she told them all was well; she was merely doing ‘a little spring cleaning’. They returned to base.

5. No one saw Mrs Lynch leave the premises or return since Leary turned up missing. Her car was nowhere in sight.

6. The Water Commission had been instituting water lock-offs in the area during that period; it was clear to me that was what resulted in the poor attempt at ‘cleaning up’.

Where is Leary Lynch?

Important questions needed to be answered, among them:

a) Where was Mrs Lynch?

b) Why did she disappear from her residence?

c) What had happened to Leary Lynch?

The house was put under surveillance. Instructions were given that should Mrs Lynch turn up at the residence, she should be detained and I should be informed immediately. About 10:30 that night I received a telephone call that she had been detained whilst attempting to enter her home. As instructed, she was escorted to the Constant Spring Police Station. I arrived there within minutes.

Mrs Lynch was escorted to the CIB Office. She appeared haggard, restless and untidy. I observed that she was suffering from a severe incised wound on the top of her right foot. The foot was swollen and appeared septic.

Since the report made to me was one of a ‘missing person’, and whilst there was suspicion of murder, no body had been found. We questioned her as to her whereabouts over those several days. She gave the name and address of a young lady friend with whom she said she had stayed.

Asked how she came by the wound on top of her foot, she said that a drinking glass fell, broke and caused the wound. When asked if she knew the whereabouts of her husband, her startling reply was:

“You asking me ’bout husband? Me hungry. I could eat a good Chinese food from Jade Garden (the top-flight Chinese eatery) right now.”

Mrs Lynch was, at that stage, advised that her husband had been reported missing and that it seemed to me that she was not anxious to assist us in finding him. The lady said she was tired and not feeling well. We ended the interview.

The following day, she was medically examined by the Government Medical Officer (police). He found that the wound was self-inflicted, consistent with a machete wound; also it was consistent with having been inflicted on the date Leary returned home from his farm.

That same day, the police party, along with a team of experts — including forensic scientists — checked the car belonging to Mary Lynch for blood stains and other clues. The house was checked for blood stains. Human blood was detected on fragments of burnt carpet and clothing; mops and buckets with water used in the cleaning process. A number of items were seized and taken to the forensic laboratory for further tests.

Now we were further convinced that Leary Lynch was murdered. However, in order to establish murder, the body had to be found. Where was Leary Lynch’s body? That was the big question.

Help was sought via the news media — radio, TV, newspaper advertisements — appealing for information about this ‘missing person’. A reward of $100,000 was offered. We received a number of tips concerning burnt skeletons. Some turned out to be human, some animals; but nothing of Leary Lynch.

Another interview was scheduled for Mrs Lynch at the Constant Spring Police Station. She had, by then, secured the services of a team of attorneys, headed by Anthony Pearson. The interview was aborted after her lawyers advised that she was not feeling well.

I sensed they were stalling, buying time.

I later received information that some person/persons who were said to practise obeah or voodoo could offer evidence in the case.

With this bit of information in hand, I caused inquiry to be made near and far, in order to find those obeah practitioners.

Three were located — two brothers from the parish of St Mary in rural Jamaica and a woman from Vineyard Town in Kingston. All three were brought to the CIB headquarters in Kingston to be interviewed by me. They were kept separately in the Flying Squad office downstairs. My office then was on the upper floor. I decided to interview the younger brother first.

He was clean-cut, immaculately dressed; well-spoken and cheerful. He told me of the large number of people who came to see him from time to time; that on Sundays, people in cars from all over Jamaica arrived and lined up on the road where he lived, in order to see him. He described business as “flourishing”.

However, he did not know Mary Lynch or anyone fitting her description to have visited him recently. He was allowed to leave.

I sent for the other brother. He had to be helped to my office. He was unkempt, untidy, with a long, matted grey beard. His finger and toenails appeared as if they had never been cut; they were like claws. He appeared nervous and was shaking. I presumed he thought he was being interviewed in connection with practising obeah.

I greeted him cordially and tried to put him at ease. He said: “Officer, me sick with me heart,” apparently, seeking sympathy.

I informed him I was aware that he was an obeah man and that people came to him from time to time, seeking help. I asked him if a woman named Mary Lynch had been to see him recently.

He said many persons came to see him, both male and female, but he could not recall anyone named Mary Lynch. He then went on to relate to me and my team, his many experiences. We had a good laugh and I told him he could go.

Believe it or not, the man got up and walked towards the door, looking fit and strong, even more ‘zippy’ than his younger brother.

The obeahwoman died of fright!

The female obeah practitioner was downstairs, awaiting her turn to be interviewed by me. I phoned downstairs and instructed an officer to escort her to my office. The officer in charge of the Flying Squad advised her that the assistant commissioner would be interviewing her concerning Mrs Lynch and the death of her husband. He was about to cause her to swear on the Bible to tell me ‘the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth’.

But suddenly one of the detectives rushed to my office in a frenzy, saying: “ACP Hibbert, the woman is dead.”

I thought he must be joking and said so. The reply was: “No sir. From the moment we told her she was going to your office to be interviewed, she started perspiring and beads of cold sweat appeared on her forehead. She said she was feeling bad, collapsed and died.”

I gave instructions to have her rushed to the Kingston Public Hospital where a doctor pronounced her dead. The post-mortem report indicated that she died from a heart attack. So much for obeah and obeah practitioners.

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