Pearl’s Murder

As the moth is drawn to a flame, every year at this time I feel an inner compulsion to return to the sad story of the murder of young Pearl Gamble …

The preliminary hearing of the accused Robert Andrew McGladdery was heard in early April 1961 and the Newry Reporter of that week contained details of the evidence. I quote liberally from that.

‘Yesterday after a hearing lasting seven days in which fifty seven witnesses were called for the Crown, Robert Andrew McGladdery (aged 24 years) was returned for trial on a charge of murdering 19-year-old Pearl Gamble of Upper Damolly on January 28th 1961 …’

Much of that day’s evidence centred on whether, at that stage, the lawyer for the Crown Mr Babington might have leave from the RM to treat Mrs McGladdery, mother of the accused as a ‘hostile witness’, though she was named as his own witness. His argument was that she had given two contradictory statements. Leave was not given. It would entail the cross-examination of a witness which was the preserve of a trial proper, if one should be held. This was merely a preliminary hearing and it would be up to 6-8 months before the trial, if any, might commence.

He got to make his point nevertheless.

Interviewed by police soon after the grisly murder, Mrs McGladdery had testified that her son Robert had been ‘getting out of bed’ when she returned from work in Damolly Mill at 11.20 on that fatal Saturday morning. [It was in the very early hours {2.20 -2.50 am} of Saturday 28 January 1961 that Pearl Gamble met her death. This was concluded not just from forensic evidence (to follow) but from the testimony of the two friends who had offered her a lift and dropped her off just yards from her home at about or within that time frame]. In a later statement Mrs McGladdery testified instead that her son had been ‘sitting on the bed’ on her entrance.

It was not a moot point. Earlier on that morning, others had seen Robert up and about.

‘Vera Ashe (17

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