Public servant and pillar of the church. guilty of the nation’s most gruesome ever ritual murder


08/14/2011 — Mail on Sunday

This respected public servant and pillar of the church… guilty of the nation’s most gruesome ever ritual murder

WALKING on a London street, dressed in a mixture of safe blues and blacks, Lorcan Bale all but merges into the background of slate, stone and concrete.

He looks like any other middle-class, middle-aged man – the sensible grey slacks, blue socks and black shoes denote an office job; the peaked cap, rucksack, scarf and outdoor jacket suggest a man who likes to get around on foot.

Everything about him seems sensible, safe, normal. It’s difficult to imagine that 54-year old Bale was in fact responsible for one of the most gruesome murders in Seventies Ireland. It’s harder still to imagine that he was behind the only Satanic killing ever recorded in this country.

Today, Bale works as an environmental services manager for Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council, organising the upkeep of one of London’s poshest areas.

He is also deeply involved in his local Anglican church. Soft- spoken, his calm demeanour matches the quiet life he lives these days.

It’s a far cry from the horror he created in Palmerstown, west Dublin, 38 years ago.

Then, aged 16 and having just finished a school exam, occult- obsessed Bale lured his young next-door neighbour, seven-year-old John Horgan – who was being babysat in Bale’s home that day – to a brutal and shocking death.

It was a dark, premeditated murder that Bale coolly and unemotionally told Gardai he had planned while resting in his bedroom that afternoon. In his statement, Bale recalled having a cup of coffee with his grandmother and sister before going to his room for an hour. While lying there, he thought about how he would ‘get’ John and gathered together rope, a sack and the weapon he would later use.

In a series of events reminiscent of the Jamie Bulger killing, Bale lured the little boy to a nearby field and bludgeoned him to death with a club.

Unusually, little was reported of the case in the Irish media at the time. It was as if staunchly Catholic Ireland couldn’t publicly countenance such an evil murder.

When one considers the public outrage that followed Jamie Bulger’s murder in England in the Nineties, it seems incredible that Lorcan Bale’s actions went virtually unreported here.

But earlier this year, it emerged that the inquest into John Horgan’s killing had been adjourned in 1973 and never reconvened.

As a result, no death certificate had ever been issued. The case was, in effect, still open.

The discovery was made by award winning journalist and TV producer David Malone, whose book about the murder, The Boy In The Attic, will be published in October.

According to Malone, who previously worked on the Late Late Show and has contributed to the BBC’s One Show, only small fragments of this extraordinary story have emerged to date.

What is known is that, on June 14, 1973 – a sunny Thursday afternoon – Bale returned to his home at Hollyville on the Lucan Road after sitting a third year exam at his school in the centre of Dublin city. The home he shared with his parents, grandparents and four siblings was one of a small terrace of Sixties’ houses situated just a few hundred metres from King’s Hospital school, on the then main Dublin to Galway road.

It was afternoon. John Horgan was playing in the Bales’ back garden when Lorcan offered to take him to a nearby field to catch rabbits. Once in the field, Bale spotted a rat hole and told John he’d see a rabbit there. When John stooped down to look into the hole, Bale hit him repeatedly over the head until he was unconscious. Bale then tied the little boy’s legs and arms up and put a gag over his mouth. He put the body into a sack and tied it.

He then returned home to get a haversack, recalling to Gardai that when he tried to put the sack with John’s body into it, it wouldn’t fit properly. John Horgan was a slight child but Bale complained in his statement that his body was heavy to carry. In any case, he hauled the load back home, taking it first to the garage. Even though his father, grandmother, brother and sister were in the house, he managed to move the body up to the attic unnoticed.

There, he placed John on a sinister ‘altar’ that he’d erected a year earlier. He lit candles and arranged a chalice and Communion wafers around the body.

‘I got the body, I took it out of the sack. I tested his heartbeat to see if he were dead or alive and when I was satisfied that he was dead, I loosened the ropes that were around his hands,’ Bale later said in a statement to the police.

‘Then I got a thicker rope, a red rope, and I tied him to a beam that was going across the roof. I secured him there. I tied one hand at each side separately, outstretched. I secured his legs to the upright beam. I then had his body in an upright position. I then left him there. I then put out the candles and I left and I came downstairs.’ Tied to the attic rafters, the little boy’s body was left in the form of a crucifix.

Bale made a show of getting involved in the frantic search for John but not before having a cup of tea. When asked by his worried and nervous granny if he had seen the missing child, Bale replied that the boy was probably playing in one of the further fields. Bale was the last person known to have seen John and on visiting his house, gardai became suspicious when he was vague and evasive during questioning.

A member of the Garda team said they would ‘search the house from the rafters to the cellar’, at which point Bale suddenly confessed to the killing. ‘It’s in the attic,’ he told them. Bizarrely, in between taking part in the search for John and confessing to Gardai, Bale claimed he had returned to the attic and cut the boy’s clothing off with a scissors.

According to the State pathologist who examined John Horgan’s body, the late Maurice Hickey, there was no evidence of a sexual assault but the horrific scene that awaited Gardai in the attic that day was of a naked boy surrounded by religious artefacts in what looked like a Satanic killing.

Although his neighbours didn’t suspect it, Lorcan Bale had become obsessed with witchcraft and had stopped going to church. Friends from the time recalled how he used to catch and kill mice and rats, then wear the skulls around his neck. He also told them that he thought the Devil was similar to other angels but ‘was just living in a different house to God’.

Bale pleaded guilty to the killing and as a minor, was never named in court. He never explained why he carried out the horrendous killing.

Sentenced to life imprisonment, he began his sentence in St Patrick’s Institute for young offenders. However, he was released and allowed to begin a new and successful life in England where he lives on licence and remains in contact with police.

If it wasn’t for Bale’s actions, John Horgan would now be 44, probably working and rearing a family. Bale, despite his horrific actions, got the chance to start over again and has lived and worked in London for years without anyone knowing about his evil past. Questioned by reporters, the concierge at Bale’s apartment complex said he wasn’t surprised to hear of his past, that he was cold, distant and unfriendly but had never caused any trouble. Yet Bale is said to have found God and is very involved in his local church community.

In the course of researching The Boy In The Attic, David Malone has spent a limited amount of time with Bale, who he described as soft-spoken but a nervous, slightly jumpy character. ‘The one thing that struck me about him was his normality,’ he says. ‘In the course of my TV work, I have come across many killers and that’s the one thing that always strikes me about them, their normality.’ Despite reports that Bale is single and lives alone, one informed source says he is married. There have also been reports that he had made preparations to leave England if the spotlight was ever turned on him, as it has now been following the recent belated inquest into John Horgan’s murder. However, one person who knows him says: ‘He has a respectable job and lives a quiet life. It would be very hard to picture him doing a runner.’ The inquest has dragged up painful memories for both the Horgan and Bale families. Bale’s family long since moved away from Hollyville in Palmerstown. John Horgan’s family was not present at the inquest and have not wanted to comment on the case, which has haunted them for almost four decades.

One can only wonder what motivated a 16-year-old Dubliner to carry out such a chilling murder in a country where murder was then quite rare. ‘Only one person knows the answer to that and that person, Bale himself, has never explained,’ says David Malone. ‘You could speculate and say that he has got very involved in the church because he’s remorseful for what he did and has decided to devote his life to God. But to get the answer to why he did it, you would have to get inside his head.’ ? The Boy In The Attic will be published by Mainstream Publishing on October 6

‘I tied one hand at each side, outstretched. I put out the candles and left him’

‘Why did he do it? Only one person knows the answer to that’

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