The Poff and Barrett 1882 Case for Retrial by the BBC

Members of Castleisland District Heritage: Janet Murphy, Johnnie Roche, Tomo Burke and Noel Nash at the launch of the journal ‘Poff and Barrett: A Miscarriage of Justice’ to co-incide with the BBC 1 screening of the revisited Poff and Barrett case on Friday morning July 9th at 11am. ©Photograph: John Reidy
Poff and Barrett are led to the gallows. One of the many illustrations in the journal and the work of Brosna native, Noel Nash.

There is a great sense of irony in the modern day treatment of a near century and a half old Kerry murder case and its unfortunate victims.

A British institution, the BBC, is now looking into the possibility / probability of a miscarriage of justice in the infamous case of Poff and Barrett.

The BBC cleared the equally unfortunate John Twiss of the 1894 murder of farm caretaker James Donovan in North Cork on its Murder Mystery and My Family series on BBC1 a couple of years ago.

Ironic too that the hold-up in the John Twiss pardon process is now resting in the hands of the Irish government for the past few years.

The Case of Poff and Barrett

Almost 140 years on from their trials and eventual hanging, the case of two Kerry men, Sylvester Poff and James Barrett is being looked at by the BBC in the course of its current run of the documentary series, Murder Mystery and My Family on BBC1 on this Friday, July 9th at 11am.

The men, cousins with the historically inseparable surnames, Poff and Barrett were hanged in the grounds of Tralee prison for the murder of farmer Thomas Browne, who lived in Dromulton.

Poff and Barrett were widely believed to have been innocent of the crime.

The Call for Justice

Many generations have passed since the tragedy, but, in Castleisland, the call for justice continues.

In the summer of 2020, documentary makers for the BBC came to Castleisland to film aspects of the case for series five of Murder Mystery and My Family – which commenced screening the first of 10 episodes at the end of last month.

The programme revisits cases, where a miscarriage of justice may have occurred, with the assistance of two UK barristers, Sasha Wass and Jeremy Dein.

All Possibilities Examined

Events are re-examined from all sides and, if appropriate, the case is brought before a judge.

The tragic events of 1882 and 1883 have been put through this process and it remains to be seen what the outcome of this modern investigation will be when the episode is screened on Friday morning at 11am.

Three local families will have a particular interest in Friday morning’s outcome. The Burkes, the Curtins and the Sugrues have all lived with the shadow of what they and all around them believed was a miscarriage of justice.

Castleisland man Tomo Burke and his cousin, Michael Sugrue,Tralee  and great-grandsons of Sylvester Poff will  appear on the programme and provide a very personal perspective of an event that left three families in mourning.

Special Edition Journal on Sale

Castleisland District Heritage, based on Castleisland’s Main Street, has produced a fundraising journal, Poff and Barrett: A Miscarriage of Justice, to coincide with Friday’s screening.

It contains accounts of different aspects of the case which have been researched over the last five years, and a number of evocative illustrations, the work of graphic designer Noel Nash of Brosna, who joined the group in April this year.

Safeguarding Local History

It is hoped that funds raised from the journal will go some way to help Castleisland District Heritage continue its work in safeguarding the local history of Castleisland and its surrounds.

The journal, Poff and Barrett: A Miscarriage of Justice is being stocked now – at €12 per copy in Jackie Reidy’s Menswear and Newsagents and in Centra – both on Castleisland’s Main Street.

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