On Friday, the 10th of July, 1931, a 65-year-old woman called Elizabeth Reck was savagely beaten to death near her home in Castlebridge, County Wexford. Ms Reck, who was unmarried, lived with her brother Francis Reck at their 40-acre farm in Crory – a few kilometres to the northwest of Castlebridge village.
For several years, an ex-soldier called Henry Carty had been employed by the Reck family – working on their farm as a general labourer.
On the morning of Friday, the 10th of July, Henry Carty arrived at the farm at roughly 8:15AM, fifteen minutes later than usual. That morning, Carty assisted Francis Reck in loading a grubber onto a cart, before heading into the Reck household so that he could eat his breakfast (a daily routine of his).
Later on, Francis called to Carty and asked him to ‘hurry up’, as he wanted to travel to Crossabeg and weigh his pigs. As Francis was heading in the direction of the public road, Carty caught up with him and remained silent. In order to try and break the silence, Francis asked Carty to guess the weight of the pigs – the idea being that they would both make a guess and see who was the closest.
Suddenly, Carty, who had maintained his silence, struck Francis in the face with a heavy object, knocking him to the ground. He then proceeded to kick Francis in the face and strike him on the head. When Francis managed to regain his composure and stumble to his feet, Carty began to throw stones at him.
Over the next 20 minutes or so, the two men continued to struggle with one another, as Francis attempted to retreat back to his house. During the course of the fight, Carty attempted to bite Francis a number of times. Carty continued with his vicious assault until Francis managed to strike him on the head with an ashplant walking stick.
After Carty had retreated, Francis made his way back to his house. Once there, he asked his sister Elizabeth to walk over to their neighbour William Shiggins’ house so that she tell him to call for the An Garda Síochána. At 9:30AM, Elizabeth set off for Shiggins’ house, which was roughly 1/4 of a mile away.
When Elizabeth informed William Shiggins about the assault on her brother, Shiggins grabbed his bicycle and headed off towards the garda barracks in Castlebrige. Elizabeth, in the meantime, left to return back home to her injured brother.
Later that day, when his sister Elizabeth had failed to return home, Francis Reck set out to search for her – heading in the direction of Shiggins’ house. Along the way, he came across the wife of William Shiggins, who informed him that his sister had been found dead on Crory Lane.
Elizabeth Reck’s lifeless body had been discovered about 200 metres from the entrance of her farm by postman Michael Neville and local man Martin Breen. When the two men happened across the lifeless body of a woman lying on the side of the road, they called out and asked her if she was OK. They received no reply.
Although both men personally knew Elizabeth Reck, they were unable to identify her because of the extent of her injuries. According to eye-witnesses, she had been beaten to a pulp. It wasn’t until later that Mrs Shiggins was able to identify her.
While all of this was unfolding, William Shiggins was in Castlebridge, reporting the initial assault on Francis Reck to the garda barracks. Garda Sergeant Keating, who was in the barracks at the time, agreed to return with him to the Reck farm.
As Shiggins and Sergeant Keating were cycling back towards Crory, they they came across a local man called John Murphy. Murphy told the two men that Elizabeth Reck had been found dying on the side of the road and that he was going to fetch a priest for her.
Shiggins and Sergeant Keating continued towards the scene of the crime. Five minutes down the road, they spotted Henry Carty, who was walking in the direction of Castlebridge. His face, hands and clothes were covered in blood.
When Sergeant Keating asked him where he was going, Carty responded: ‘I am going to Castlebridge to give myself up at the barrack. I have done the job.’
Sergeant Keating then proceeded to ask him if he had killed Elizabeth Reck. Carty admitted that he had, saying: ‘She’s as dead as stone in Crory Lane.’
Later, it would be reported that Francis Reck had discovered that his sister’s room had been ransacked and that it appeared as though somebody was searching for money. According to Francis, he and Carty had previously spoken about his wages. Francis also noted that Carty had taken longer-than-usual to finish eating his breakfast that morning.
While Henry Carty was in custody, he told his interrogators that he did not kill Elizabeth Reck ‘willfully’. Moments later, he added: ‘You are going to hang me.’
In November of 1931, a judge found that Carty was “unfit to plead”. Because there is very little information on Carty’s fate following the hearing, we can only presume that he was detained in a psychiatric hospital. Being found “unfit to plead” in those days meant that you were detained at the ‘pleasure’ of the Governor-General of the Irish Free State. i.e. You were detained until it was felt that you were no longer a threat to society.