A tragic death, a murder trial and a 170-year-old mystery - but what really happened?
Shortly after Maria Kirwan died in a lonely inlet on Ireland's Eye, it was decided that she had drowned accidentally during a day spent with her husband on the picturesque island. This inquest verdict appeared to conclude the melancholy events that consumed the fishing village of Howth, Co Dublin, in September 1852.
But not long afterwards, suspicion fell upon Maria's husband, William Burke Kirwan, as whispers of unspeakable cruelty, an evil character and a secret life rattled through the streets of Dublin.
Investigations led to William's arrest and trial for murder. The story swelled into one of the most bitterly divisive chapters in the dark annals of Irish criminal history. Yet questions remain: does the evidence stand up? What role did the heavy hand of Victorian moral outrage play? Was William really guilty of murder, or did the ever present 'moral facts' fill in gaps where hard proof was absent?
Now, this compelling modern analysis revisits the key evidence, asking sober questions about the facts, half-facts and fantasies buried within the yellowed pages of the Ireland's Eye case files.