Extract from Legends of the Burnt Soul: The Facts and Fictions by Thomas Adams, Published 2008
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‘The diary was found during the search of Sweeney’s apartment. It was hidden in a false board behind his bed. Sweeney obviously guessed his life might be in danger and so took steps that, should the worse happen, would allow the identity of the Burnt Soul to be revealed. However, the diary promptly vanished before anyone could examine it thoroughly. The world at large believed Paul Sweeney was the Burnt Soul. The Gardai, already pilloried for their inept handling of the case, were more than happy to put the whole sordid affair behind them.
He would have got away with it. He had the know-how, the authority, the understanding of the system. No one would have known. After all, he managed to hide his connection with Sarah McBride throughout the investigation. But he could not hide the truth from himself. It is difficult to ascertain whether he read the diary often before his death, but my suspicions lead me to another conclusion. I believe he kept the diary, unread, in the house. He was unable to bring himself to read the words of his beloved niece, the inspiration for his rampage.
So he went to work each day as normal. Everyone I interviewed who worked with him commented on that. They all mentioned how ‘normally’ he behaved. Same as always. No tell tale signs of mental illness, or guilt. They of all people, given their profession, should know how cold calculating mass murderers act. They always appear on the outside to be calm. You see, they do not see their victims as human. They see them as walking, talking pieces of meat. That is how he saw his victims, the dregs of Ballyrunner. He had little pity for them, and clearly felt no remorse for killing them.
But his niece was different.
Perhaps the curiosity built up inside him until he could not stop himself. He had to read it. He had to read her words. Only then, did he realise what he had done. Only then, did he really understand. Only then, was the madness that had controlled him for the previous six months finally broken. Her words must have had quite an effect on him. He did not turn up for work the next day. Or the day after. Or the day after that.
His colleagues were concerned. They rang his house but no one answered. Eventually, after four days, a squad car was sent to his house. No one answered the door. Fearing the worst, they broke into the house. It hit them like a wave as soon as they entered. The stench was so strong that one of the policemen ran out of the house and vomited on the street outside.
The source of the smell was located quickly enough. She lay in her bed, hands placed carefully on the sheets in front of her. Sarah McBride had been dead for over a month. An autopsy by the State Pathologist revealed that she had been killed by an overdose of Ecstasy tablets, a hard drug. It soon became clear what had happened.
After he had dealt with Sweeney, he had arrived home, furious. He knew who had tipped Sweeney off. She had betrayed him; after all he had done for her. So, he procured some Ecstasy tablets, a very dangerous and lethal illegal drug. He got them from a stash seized by Gardai in a raid a few days earlier. He ground up the tablets and placed them in a pot of hot tea. Then he went in and gave the cup to his niece.
She must have drunk it all down, believing soon she would be saved. She had only told Sweeney so that he would help him. She thought Sweeney would try to hold her, prevent her from returning to the house, which would alert her Uncle. So, she arranged to meet him by a certain public bin in a public place and left her diary and a note there. She must have urged Sweeney in that note to get help for him. She never guessed that Sweeney would call him and try to talk him around personally. This proved to be a fatal error, for both Sweeney and poor Sarah.
Her death must have been terrible to behold. But when it was all done, he must have placed her head gently back on her pillow. And then, as I said, he went back to work as if nothing had happened.
But the guilt, no matter how far we bury it, invariably surfaces at some point. For him, it was the moment he read the diary and truly understood what he had done.
They found the body in a chair beside her bed. He had shot himself. The Burnt Soul was dead. Fintan McGrath was dead.’
End of extract.
Many thanks to all who read the series and espeically to Washer and Elphaba who have been a great source of support throughout the series.