Outright fear or blatant hostility. That is what will greet rapist Larry Murphy should he return to his hometown of Baltinglass upon his release from prison next month. It is a town filled with fear and loathing over the proposed homecoming of the rapist and suspected serial killer.
He is seen as a stain on the character of this small community. Many people in the area and surrounding communities in Carlow, where he snatched and raped his victim before trying to kill her in a forest, say he would be a brave man to return to the area. But Baltinglass and the nearby village of Stratford is the only place Murphy has ever called home. Some believe his return is inevitable. There is speculation he is due to move in with his brother Tom, who lives in Kyle, a few miles from Baltinglass, and who has renovated a garage at the front of his home that locals expect is for his only brother to move into.
Murphy is 45 years old, a man with much of his life still ahead of him. During his 10 years in prison for the abduction and rape of a Carlow businesswoman in her 20s, he has told no one about why he carried out his horrific crime. Senior gardaí say he is one of the most perplexing criminals they have ever encountered. "Getting into his head" has been impossible because he refuses to engage with them, or anyone else. He is housed at Arbour Hill, which has state-of the-art rehabilitation programmes for sex offenders. Murphy has consistently refused to participate in any of them. He barely speaks to the other inmates or prison guards. In fact, he rarely speaks to anyone. His last visitor was his brother Tom, who went to see him five months ago in February. Gardaí have visited him several times over the years after he emerged as a suspect in the disappearance and suspected murder of three other women: Deirdre Jacob, Jo Jo Dullard and Annie McCarrick.
That Murphy may be the country's only suspected serial killer has stoked fears in Baltinglass. He has become almost a mythical character. Many people knew him, but no one knew him particularly well. One of seven children – he has five sisters and one brother – Murphy showed an average academic ability. He excelled at woodwork in school and early on it was clear he could have a promising career in carpentry. When he was 16, he decided to leave school after his father retired from the construction industry with a disability. His father is now dead but his mother is still alive. His former woodwork teacher took him under his wing and for six years, the two men worked together making salad bowls and other wooden tableware.
His other main passion was hunting, a hobby which led him to become familiar with the terrain around Baltinglass and the Wicklow mountains. In the 1990s, Murphy branched out from woodwork and started working as a freelance carpenter and roofer. The jobs took him all over the midlands and east of the country, meaning he was constantly on the road. "I knew him all right. He was a gifted carpenter," says a local man in Horan's pub in the town. "He was always a very strange man, he was very quiet. The women around here are very concerned about the prospect of him coming back. I don't know if he will. People would attack him on the street. There's still a lot of suspicion about him. A soon as he went to prison, no more women disappeared."
The community is Baltinglass is extremely protective of Murphy's wife Margaret and their three children. Margaret visited him when he was taken to prison after he was arrested and charged with the rape and abduction of the Carlow woman in February 2000. He initially assured her he was innocent but Margaret cut all ties shortly afterwards when he pleaded guilty. She has not visited him in the 10 years since.
Margaret works locally in Baltinglass and lives a few miles out of the town with her children, where they raise chickens and live a quiet life. Whether Murphy wants to forge relationships with his three children upon his release from prison remains to be seen. "She's a lovely woman and very well thought of," said a local woman. "That family has been through a lot, too, as well as his victim of course. His wife and children are innocent in all of this. It must be difficult to be known as 'Larry Murphy's son or daughter' when you're growing up. I know those three children have gotten a hard time."
Before he committed the crime that defined his life, Larry Murphy had form for attacking women. On the rare occasions that he socialised, he had a reputation for homing in on a particular woman and making her feel uncomfortable by staring at her all night. And not long before he raped and nearly killed the Carlow woman, he attacked his wife's best friend. He was giving her a lift home one evening when he took her down a remote lane and stopped his car, according to a source. He tried to grab her but she struggled and managed to get away from him by running from the car. He caught up with her and begged her not to tell his wife. The woman did not inform gardaí about what happened.
Not long after that, there was another incident. Murphy was in the Glen Lounge pub in Donard when he made an aggressive grab at a woman. There were other patrons in the pub so it did not escalate. But the woman never forgot Larry Murphy's face. Shortly afterwards, she was out with her brother and his best friend, a man named Trevor Moody, when she came across Murphy in another pub in the town. She pointed out Murphy to her brother and his friend. Moody would remember his face too. Not long after that, Moody would catch Murphy in the headlights of his Land Rover when he was out hunting deer with Ken Jones. Murphy was attempting to strangle the Carlow woman with a plastic bag after he had abducted and repeatedly raped her. Had the two hunters not stumbled upon this scene, the woman would not have survived. "He brought her there to kill her, there is absolutely no doubt," says a garda source. "If those two men had not have interrupted him, she probably would be another woman who disappeared without a trace."
But the woman did survive. Now in her 30s and recently married, the two men who saved her life ten years ago were invited to her wedding. She now runs her own business in a town near Kilkenny. The imminent release of Murphy will have a profound effect on her. The prospect of bumping into him will evoke memories of the terrifying ordeal.
Women all around Baltinglass and the surrounding area say they do not feel safe at the thought of Murphy being out and about in the community. "The general feeling is that he will do it again. The fact that he has shown no remorse and refused rehabilitation says a lot about the type of man he is," says a local woman. "A lot of women are saying they wouldn't go out for walks in ones or twos anymore when he's out. A lot of people are saying he'll get lynched. I think he will come back here. He has some support from family in the area. I know that he's done his time. But no one ever wants someone like Larry Murphy living next door."
Having served his time, Murphy's release after 10 years of a 14-year sentence is in accordance with the law. But this hasn't stopped people from voicing their sense of outrage that he will soon be a free man. The Facebook site, 'Don't Let Larry Murphy Out' has attracted 10,517 members, many from the southeast. He is described on the webpage as "Ireland's biggest threat to the safety of women" and thousands of people have left comments condemning Murphy and the judicial system.
The release of Murphy from Arbour Hill prison on 11 August (a date which could be subject to change) will provoke a media circus. He can expect to be hounded by journalists and photographers for the rest of his life.
Garda management has decided it cannot take any chances with someone as potentially dangerous as Murphy. He will be monitored by undercover surveillance detective teams indefinitely. Preparations for his release are being handled by the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Unit from within the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation. Because it is considered he has a high risk of re-offending, it has been decided at a senior level that he must never get that opportunity. Murphy will have to abide by the provisions of the 2001 Sex Offenders Act. He must inform gardaí where he plans to live and whenever he plans to move or leave Ireland. "Regardless of the cost, Larry Murphy will not be let out of our sight. Imagine if he attacked another woman?" says a garda source. "The public backlash would be unbelievable."
Does the prospect of constant garda surveillance provide much comfort to the people of Baltinglass? "I would question whether it really would be indefinite," says one local man. "You'd also wonder, will the garda surveillance be for other people's protection or Larry Murphy's?"
Deirdre was last spotted in front of her family's home in Roseberry, Co Kildare, in July 1998. Larry Murphy was working in Newbridge, Co Kildare, on that day. His route home from this roofing job would have taken him right past her house in Roseberry and along the roadway where she was last spotted.
Jo Jo had been hitchhiking from Naas to Callan in Kilkenny when she disappeared in November 1995. The last known location for her was in Moone, where she had called a friend from a phone box. She hung up suddenly and said a car had pulled up. She was never seen again. Moone was the spot to which Larry Murphy took the Carlow woman to rape her for the first time. Gardaí suspect his decision to take the Carlow woman to this spot might be linked to Jo Jo.
The American student went missing in March 1993 after she took the bus to Glencullen, in the Dublin mountains, for a day's walking when she disappeared. Larry Murphy was also known to have been working in Glencullen around this time.