Authors: John Mooney
Tags: #crime, #prison, #Ireland, #death, #Dublin, #violence, #Noor, #immigrant, #kill, #Scissor Sisters, #Kenyan, #Torso in the Canal, #life sentence, #dismemberment, #murder, #murderer, #immigration, #gardai, #killing, #sisters, #Linda Mulhall, #Torso, #ballybough bridge, #John Mooney, #royal canal, #forensic, #Farah Swaleh Noor, #croke park, #Mooney, #Kenya, #Charlotte Mulhall
The Torso in the Canal
The Inside Story on Ireland’s Most Grotesque Killing
For my parents.
Death is not the worst thing that can happen to men.’
She was, she
later remembered, always in the wrong place at the wrong time. Life had thrown her blow after blow; good luck and fortune had never visited her.
Linda Mulhall often said her life had been a downward spiral of depression and hopelessness for years. There is no doubt that this affected her life in every way. She had turned to drugs as a form of escapism when she was in her teens, and left school early. She went on to have four children, but the relationship broke down. Her next relationship had proved equally disastrous. Her partner physically abused her children. It was, she would later recall, the lowest point in her life.
Eventually this partner was charged and convicted; now she lived as a single mother. In many ways, she was an emotionally damaged woman. Those who know her say she craved love and contact. This revealed itself through little idiosyncrasies in her character; if she hugged someone, she would not let go. She would often embrace strangers in a very personal way, never breaking eye contact with them, and holding them tightly.
The only stabilising influence in her life was her four children, whom she loved, cared for and cherished, as best she could.
Linda, though, was not bitter; she quelled the monotony of life by drinking and taking drugs, including heroin. She rarely went out because she always had difficulty finding a babysitter. That’s why the morning of 20 March 2005 was different.
On that morning, she was lounging around the house when her sister Charlotte asked if she would like to meet their mother Kathleen that afternoon. The two sisters were both staying in the family home in Kilclare Gardens, a sprawling housing estate in Fettercairn in Tallaght, the giant suburb that lies at the foothills of the Dublin Mountains.
Linda’s first reaction was to say no to her little sister, who she fondly called Charlie. She was looking after her children and, in any event, she was too busy and too tired to go drinking. But Charlotte persisted: ‘Come on, we’ll have a laugh.’
Linda thought for a brief moment, before she asked if she could bring one of her sons along. She didn’t expect Charlotte to understand why she wanted to take the boy, but she knew by the way she looked at her that this wasn’t really an option. Charlotte wanted to have fun; that meant drinking.
At that moment, their father John came into the room. He was the breadwinner of the Mulhall family, which had seen more than its fair share of human agony. For a start, he had separated from his wife Kathleen after she left him for an African immigrant whom she met through Linda; his name was Farah Swaleh Noor. In the social context of life on a working class estate in Tallaght, the news that Kathleen had left him for an immigrant was crushing. It was something that few people could comprehend, least of all him. He had married Kathleen when they were in their teens but the relationship went nowhere from the start. He was deeply violent to his wife in the beginning. He had been a heavy drinker and watched films with strong scenes of violence.
Kathleen had remained at his side for years but fell for Noor soon after meeting him. She had initially moved her young boyfriend into the family home, forcing her husband to leave and move out for over a year, though he eventually returned when they moved to Cork. He had gotten on with his life as best he could.
Though he no longer cared for his wife, he had overheard the conversation and offered to mind Linda’s children in order to give his daughter a rest. He probably thought she needed to unwind and relax. Linda didn’t need any encouragement and thanked her father. The two sisters went upstairs to get ready.
Although it was early in the afternoon, they drank some vodka. They then left the house about an hour later and caught the No. 77 bus into Dublin city centre.
The streets were thronged with tourists and revellers who’d come to partake in the St Patrick’s Day festivities, though it was far from a carnival atmosphere. There were people drinking everywhere, which gave an edge to the ambience.
When they stepped off the bus, Charlotte called her mother on her mobile phone. She could hear that Kathleen was in high spirits. She said she was wandering around with Noor on Upper O’Connell Street, and asked if they would walk towards them. The best place to meet, Kathleen suggested, was the McDonald’s restaurant on Upper O’Connell Street.
The walk took Linda and Charlotte no more than five minutes. When they met their mother, they noticed she was holding hands with Noor. Linda interpreted this as a good omen. It was no secret that Noor often beat Kathleen and subjected her to extreme violence. Kathleen had told her daughters about the domestic abuse she suffered on more than one occasion.
As they embraced, Kathleen noticed Linda’s upper lip was swollen from a piercing she had inserted. Linda was her favourite daughter, and always had been. She held Linda’s face in her hands and examined the swelling.
Noor had said nothing until now. He too commented on the swollen tissue and blamed the swelling on the quality of the metal used in the piercing. He thought for a moment, then suggested they go to a shop where Linda could get a replacement piercing, something made from a superior metal. He pointed them in the direction of Lower O’Connell Street.
Noor stood out as he walked with the two sisters and their mother. He was a Kenyan immigrant, with an athletic build, but that wasn’t what attracted attention; it was his girlfriend.
For a start, he was much younger and black; she was a white, middle-aged woman—visibly older than her boyfriend, though she still retained some youthfulness. The age difference between the two tended to draw unwanted glances from passers-by.
Most of the time Noor didn’t notice strangers looking at him; much of his life was spent in a drunken stupor. And that day was no exception.
Noor led them straight to an off-licence in Dunnes Stores on Talbot Street, rather than the jewellers’ shop he had mentioned. He rarely, if ever, drank in bars as he drank spirits by the litre. Instead he walked around the streets drinking from a bottle, or sometimes took beer back to his flat. On that afternoon, Noor wanted to drink vodka straight, so when he emerged from the shop, he slurped from the bottle. Kathleen and her daughters looked on, deciding what to do next.
None of them fancied drinking vodka straight, so Kathleen bought three bottles of Coke, which she handed out. They would use these as mixers to dilute the vodka. On any other day, they would have been stopped by gardaí and arrested for drinking in public, but the streets were full of people drinking beer. They blended in with the crowds.
Noor did eventually find the piercing shop, enabling Linda to buy a new lip piercing for €7. Holding her lip, she inserted this into her skin, which eased the pain a little. She then drank some more alcohol.
When they emerged from the shop, the streets were thronged, too thronged for what they planned to do next.
Linda was not a recreational drug user; she took drugs whenever possible to escape from the monotony of her life. She had brought some ecstasy tablets to help her unwind. She didn’t want to risk taking the pills in public, so she wandered towards the boardwalk, which overlooks the River Liffey, as it runs through central Dublin.
The boardwalk was erected by the city authorities for the benefit of tourists and office workers, but it soon became a hangout for the city’s homeless, drug addicts and winos. These intermingled with the tourists. As far as Linda was concerned, this made it an ideal place to drink and take some drugs.
As far as she was concerned, both she and Charlie were now having fun. Slightly drunk and a bit raucous, she slipped one of the tiny white tablets to Charlotte. She had brought about 10 with her—plenty for a good night.
Although Kathleen was slightly drunk, she noticed Linda passing the tablet to Charlotte, and asked what it was. Linda told her.
Why Kathleen didn’t express horror at her daughter’s decision to take drugs is unknown; on the contrary, ecstasy didn’t seem to have criminal connotations for the middle-aged woman.
In such an environment anything went, so, according to Linda, Kathleen asked for one of the tiny white pills. This was the kind of behaviour that most women her age could never have dreamed about, but Linda duly obliged. Noor was the only one who declined the offer of a free pill. He said he wasn’t in the mood.
Soon after they swallowed the pills, the sisters became giggly; they were loved up. The effects of the drug on Kathleen were not so obvious.
It was at this point that the atmosphere changed. Noor began to argue and bicker with Kathleen for no apparent reason. Linda couldn’t help but overhear them rowing but she found it hard, almost impossible, to understand the Kenyan’s accent. In fact, she had never really understood it since they first met. Noor spoke with a heavy accent, which she could not decipher no matter how hard she tried.
Anyway, she didn’t want to listen to them argue; she was there to have a good time. Instead she listened to some music on her mobile phone. This was one of her many ways of switching off.
The atmosphere soon deteriorated. While the ecstasy made Linda and Charlotte feel more euphoric, Kathleen’s mood turned sour. Moments later, she said she’d had enough, and decided it was time for them to move on.
It was now beginning to get dark, which prompted Linda to ask where they’d go next. There was only one place they could go, which was the flat that Kathleen shared with Noor. In truth they had no choice; none of the bars in central Dublin would have allowed them entry.
Kathleen and Noor continued to argue in raised voices as Linda walked away, followed by Charlotte, who came from behind and linked her arm. As they walked, Linda looked over her shoulder, and glanced behind.
‘Are they still fighting?’ she asked.
At this stage, Noor was now his usual drunken self; he was aggressive and argumentative towards Kathleen. He was looking for a row and began pushing his weight around. He was unable to walk in a straight line; instead he staggered and slurred his words.
While he made his way up O’Connell Street, he accosted a young Chinese boy. In his drunken state, he thought it was his son, a boy he fathered after forcing himself on a Chinese woman years earlier.
‘Kathy, this is my son. This is my son,’ he said, holding the terrified youngster by the shoulder. Kathleen looked down at the boy, who had burst into tears.
‘That’s not your son you bleeding eejit,’ shouted Kathleen.
‘It is my son. I know my own son.’
‘It’s not your fucking son.’
The boy was no more than five years old. He screamed in fright and cried out for help, shouting to his friends to come save him. They stood watching, too afraid to go near Noor.
Linda dragged him off, berating him for frightening the boy, momentarily causing Noor to release his grip. The boy ran away, screaming for help. Noor took no notice of this because he was so drunk he could barely speak.
Charlotte led the way to 17 Richmond Cottages; the flat Noor shared with their mother in the north inner city. The party had walked no more than a few metres when Noor then stumbled into Mohammed Ali Abu Bakaar and a woman named Deirdre Hyland.
Bakaar was a Somali, and had known Noor from the fishing port of Kismayu where the two had worked together. Noor had been one of thousands of immigrant fishermen who fished near the mouth of the Jubba River, on the Indian Ocean. Noor was a Bajuni; a race of mixed Bantu and Arab ancestry. He spoke Bajuni, which enabled him to work in the port. That he should meet a fisherman from Kismayu while drunk in Dublin during the St Patrick’s weekend festivities was a one in a million chance encounter.
Noor recognised his friend, even though he was completely drunk and the words he used to greet him were slurred. Bakaar embraced him and greeted Kathleen, whom he called Katherine, before urging Noor to go home and sleep.
Bakaar would later call to mind that Kathleen took the brief opportunity to introduce her two daughters, Linda and Charlotte, to him. He was polite, and greeted them, before telling Noor to go home once more. He knew Noor of old. The remark must have annoyed Kathleen because she responded by saying: ‘Just leave him alone, he’s okay.’
The time was now 5.30pm. Although it was getting dark, Bakaar noticed how much Noor had changed since the time they first met on the fishing boats in Kismayu. He was particularly struck by Noor’s assimilation into Irish society; the fact that he was wearing an Irish soccer jersey with green and white stripes said it all.
Noor and Kathleen continued to argue as they made their way back towards their flat. There was no stopping them. They continued to bicker until they arrived home at approximately 6.30pm that evening. It was now cold and dark.
The flat they rented was located in a two storey house divided into four apartments. It was on the ground floor to the front of the house. They hadn’t been there long having just moved back to Dublin from Cork.
The vodka and ecstasy had turned what had started as a minor row into a bitter argument; the two continued to row without pausing as they walked through the front door. Linda and Charlotte ignored them; they were having a good time, and that was all that mattered. In this regard, Charlotte put on a Sean Paul CD she had given to Noor as a gift, and then sat on the couch.
She was more familiar with the living arrangements than Linda, who had never visited before.
The ecstasy in their bloodstreams had now taken full effect. Linda drifted along, not really thinking of anything in particular. She was a regular drug user so the ecstasy didn’t affect her like it did Charlotte. Linda’s body was somewhat immune to amphetamines.
At this moment, Kathleen presented Noor with a glass of lager poured from a can. The drink was a turning point in the day. According to evidence later given in court, Kathleen had spiked the alcohol with an ecstasy tablet she had crushed. Noor didn’t suspect a thing and took the glass of beer without any hesitation and began to drink.