On Friday, the 9th of October, 2009, 30-year-old Rebecca French was savagely beaten to death at a house in Ard na Dara; a housing estate in the Clonard area of Wexford Town. The mother-of-two was then transferred to the boot of her own car, before being brought to Codd’s Lane; a small back road on the outskirts of Wexford. Later, it would be revealed that Ms French had a plastic bag tied around her head and that her wrists had been bound together with a plastic cable tie.
Just after 4PM, passersby in Codd’s Lane came across the sight of blue Opel Corsa that had been set on fire. By the time the emergency services managed to reach the area, the fire had turned into a blaze. It was only after the fire had been extinguished that the body of Rebecca French was discovered.
A post-mortem examination of Ms French’s body found that she had three fractures on the back of her skull and five broken ribs on the right side of her body. The absence of smoke in her in lungs indicated that she had died before the car had been set on fire. It was the opinion of State Pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy that Rebecca had died as a result of blunt force trauma to the head and that the plastic bag had been used to try and contain the blood from her head injuries.
According to the prosecution, Rebecca had been kicked and stamped on, and the fractures on the back of her head had been caused by heavy blows from a golf club.
Roughly one hour after passersby had come across Rebecca’s burning Opel Corsa, Gardai arrived at the scene of the crime in Ard na Dara. Upon entering the house, they discovered five people – four men and a woman. Two of the men, Ruslanas Minekas and Ricardus Dilys (both Lithuanian nationals), had no trousers or shoes on.
While examining the house, the An Garda Síochána discovered the remnants of cable ties, rubber gloves and pieces of women’s jewellery in the ashes of the fireplace. They also noted that the cover of one seat had been removed and that it had been recently placed into the washing machine. An examination of the legs of some of the stools inside the house revealed speckles of Rebecca’s blood. Golf clubs seized from the house were also found to have Rebecca’s DNA on them.
Although Ruslanas Minekas and Ricardus Dilys were both charged with the murder of Rebecca French, the case soon fell apart because of a legal mistake. When the two men in question were arrested, they were intoxicated, and a doctor was called in to certify whether they were fit for questioning or not. The doctor specified that the two men were intoxicated and that questioning could resume in the “AM” (morning). However, by writing “AM” instead of specifying an exact time, it meant that the precise requirements of the Criminal Justice Amendment Bill 2009 had not been met. This in turn meant that men’s detention past 11.45pm was deemed to be unconstitutional.
As a result, the prosecution team were forced to enter a nolle prosequi (unwilling to pursue).
In December of 2010, the two men, along with Patrick O’Connor and Piotr Pasiak, pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of impeding the prosecution. Although this charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years, Mr Justice Barry White decided to sentence them to ten years in prison, with the final two years suspended. The final two years were suspended because the defendants had entered a guilty plea.
Helen Connors, who had also been charged with impeding the prosecution, was acquitted in June of 2012. During her trial, she provided her own personal account of what had happened on that fateful day. According to Ms Connors, the six of them had been drinking alcohol at the house in Ard na Dara when Rebecca and 26-year-old Ricardus Dilys started to argue with one another. At some point, this argument boiled over into a physical altercation when Dilys began to repeatedly punch Rebecca in the face. After the assault, Rebecca threatened to report Dilys to the Gardai. In response to Ms French’s threat, Dilys, who was described as being ‘mad and paranoid’, called the other three men into the kitchen. At this point, Connors said that the four men were talking amongst themselves and that she could hear one of them saying the words “gloves gloves gloves”.
After their meeting in the kitchen had concluded, the four men returned to the sitting room, where they began their vicious assault on Ms French. As one of the men locked the front door, Dilys kicked Ms French in the face, knocking her to the floor. Ms Connors told the court that Patrick O’Connor sprayed gas in Rebecca’s face before Dily’s started to repeatedly strike her with a golf club. The four men continued to assault Ms French as she lay defenceless on the floor, kicking her and repeatedly hitting her with the golf club in question. During the assault, Patrick O’ Connor instructed Helen Connors to burn the rubber gloves that the men had been wearing.
After the assault had ended, one of the men checked for Rebecca French’s pulse. He couldn’t find one. It was at this stage that Connors realised that Rebecca was dead. Patrick O’ Connor then told the other men that he knew the location of a river that they could dump Rebecca’s body into. Helen Connors, who told the court that she had feared for her life, attempted to clean the scene of the crime while the four men disposed of Ms French’s body.
During the investigation, Helen Connors told gardai that she had delivered ‘two poxy little kicks’ to Rebecca’s chest. “God forgive me. I didn’t want to do it. I was told to kick her. They held me while I kicked her. I thought I’d be killed if I didn’t.”
Ms Connors also admitted to swinging the golf club. During questioning, Ms Connors told gardai that one of the men handed the golf club to her before instructing her to strike Ms French. However, Ms Connors said that she missed Rebecca and that she had hit Piotr Pasiak instead.
In 2015, an inquest into the death of Rebecca French came to a close, with the jury returning a verdict of unlawful killing at the request of County Coroner Dr Sean Nixon. Afterwards, Dr Nixon extended his sympathy to the French family on their ‘very, very sad and very, very tragic loss’. The murder of Rebecca French will be remembered as one of Ireland’s most notorious criminal cases, not just because of the brutal nature of the crime, but also because of how the subsequent murder investigation was handled.
Other criminal cases:
– The disappearance of Fiona Sinnott.
– The murder of Garda Seamus Quaid.