FAMILY MEMBERS of the late Patrick Nugent have issued a plea for an independent investigation to be carried out into the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death.
In March, The Clare Echo reported that the Nugent family were seeking a full public inquiry or an investigation by the body outside of An Garda Síochána into the unexplained death. Now, they have confirmed they will not be engaging with a cold case team who are re-examining Pat’s death.
While working as a banqueting manager at Bunratty Castle, Patrick was found dead in the Folk Park near the popular tourist attraction on 11th February 1984. The late William Ryan, a long-time chef at Shannon Airport who was celebrating his wedding anniversary that night, was charged with Mr Nugent’s manslaughter but was acquitted in 1985. Mr Ryan gave three different statements to Gardaí about what happened on the night.
An inquiry into the Garda actions on the night and subsequent investigation was completed and criticised in an unpublished report by retired Judge Patrick Clyne, he completed the inquiry on October 31st 2020 and this was given to the Department of Justice on November 3rd 2020. Garda Commission, Drew Harris admitted to The Clare Echo in October of last year that in the intervening eleven months he had not been briefed on the 111 page report.
In February, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee (FG) told Mr Nugent’s family that Commissioner Harris had ordered a fresh investigation into certain matters raised by Judge Clyne. The report was not published by the Minister as she said it might potentially prejudice the new Garda investigation.
Deirdre Nugent, a sister-in-law of Pat’s said they do not want to see “guards investigating guards” while renewing their call for an investigation by an external body. They flagged several issues with Minister McEntee and Commissioner Harris regarding the cold case investigation and its independence, “You are going back to guards investigating guards again and we weren’t happy about that.
This cold case investigation has commenced in recent weeks despite the Nugent family raising their concerns. “We said that we either want a public enquiry, similar to what they did with Maurice McCabe, or we want there to be a commission of investigation so that people have to answer questions. It would mean that we would be represented and that we can look for answers and failing that we want an outside agency, someone from the UK or France or Spain or anywhere other than Ireland”.
At the time of his death Pat, from Sixmilebridge, was working at an event to celebrate the 40th wedding anniversary of Bunratty head chef William Ryan. The party was breaking up at around 4am on February 10 when kitchen staff heard moans and rushed to find the 23-year-old lying on the ground.
William Ryan was subsequently accused of manslaughter, dangerous driving and leaving the scene of an accident. However, the manslaughter charge was subsequently withdrawn and he was acquitted of the other charges. Mr Ryan, who is now deceased, told a coroner’s inquest into Mr Nugent’s death that if there was forensic evidence his car hit Mr Nugent, he would accept it. Ryan denied he had anything to do with the death.
Two off-duty gardaí were at the party when Mr Nugent suffered his fatal injuries. Judge Clyne also examined internal Garda disciplinary inquiries in the years afterwards.