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Patricia Curran murder may never been solved after death of brother

Patricia Curran surrounded by her family, including brother Desmond - her murder is now unlikely to be solved

A JESUIT priest from a devoutly Protestant family at the heart of the Northern Ireland establishment has died in South Africa - taking to his grave the last chance of shedding further light on one the north's most notorious murders.

Fr Desmond Curran - whose sister Patricia was found murdered in 1952 - was buried last Friday in Cape Town's Maitland Cemetery, after passing away the week before at a clerical retirement home in the city.

Son of former former attorney general, judge and UUP MP Lancelot Curran, the elderly priest was the last living witness to the events surrounding the brutal stabbing of his sister Patricia in the grounds of the family's palatial home `The Glen' in Whiteabbey, Co Antrim.

The 19-year-old Queen’s University student had been stabbed 37 times. The frenzied attack sent shockwaves through the community.

Her body was discovered 40 yards from her home hours after her death, by Judge Curran himself and 26-year-old Desmond. From the outset the case was riddled with inconsistencies.

The pair moved the 19-year-old's body to a nearby doctor's house, telling a policeman she was still alive, despite one arm already stiff with rigor mortis.

While her body had suffered 37 stab wounds there was little blood where she lay suggesting she had been moved from where the killing happened.

A pile of her belongings 10 yards away were dry despite the fact it had been raining most of the night, her wristwatch broken, suggesting, a fight, but neither the missing hands nor broken glass found at the scene.

Judge Curran did not let police into his home until a week later.

Desmond, who was then a barrister , was a member of the local Presbyterian church and a crusading religious group to which he hoped to convert young Scottish RAF technician, Iain Hay Gordon, who would later be blamed for the killing.

Hay was found guilty but cleared in 2000 after the case against him was exposed as a tissue of lies.

It was the future priest who put him forward to authorities as a suspect.

People in the area believed the family had been attempting to protect his mother Doris Curran who was said to have a rocky relationship with her daughter.

Following his dramatic conversion to Catholicism, Fr Curran moved to South Africa and spent his last years living quietly after an active ministry in the 1960s and 70s for striking against apartheid.

He helped raise money from Europe to help living condition and was also a visitor in Robben Island while Nelson Mandela was incarcerated.

A great friend Fr Gerry Lorriman recalled those days.

"During the State of Emergency we led mass funerals and gave evidence against the riot police and the army in the Supreme Court," he said.

"Once we were water cannoned and arrested...

"Des and I used to go to the Sisters on a Sunday evening for supper and TV. Now that they have gone, and neither of us has a TV, he comes just for a meal and a chat. One thing that is essential for our health, happiness and contentment is apple pie."

A former parishioner remembered him fondly on Twitter: "Fr Desmond Curran funeral today. Old school Jesuit ministered in Black townships from way back. Had biggest ears ever."

Another remarked it had been clear he had "a past" and "carried a burden".

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