Marie delves into dark deeds for debut novel

Former State Pathologist Marie Cassidy realises how fragile life is, which is why she’s alway happy to embrace new challenges. When she retired after 40 years working in the field, she wrote a memoir and has now turned her hand to fiction with her debut novel. She tells BERNIE Ní FHLATHARTA how it came about and how she took up ballet after her appearance on Dancing With the Stars.

Dr Marie Cassidy made headlines in 2004 when she became Ireland’s first female State Pathologist and she has been in the limelight ever since.

She was in Galway last week to sign copies of her new book, Body of Truth, a pacey thriller set in Dublin featuring a female Scottish pathologist. It sounds like a memoir but it’s strictly fictional, says the now-retired Dr Cassidy.

She’s so over the media attention she has received since 2004, when she first stepped into the State Pathologist’s office in Dublin’s Whitehall.

The well-dressed, blonde Glaswegian cut a striking figure among the suited and booted, mostly male, presence at crime scenes, public inquests and court trials.

The female protagonist of Marie’s debut novel, Dr Terry O’Brien, is subjected to similar media attention on her arrival and is soon thrust even further into the limelight as she works on the murder of a young woman with high profile connections.

“I was told to write about what you know!” Dr Cassidy says as she sits at a table in Kennys’ Bookshop in Liosbán to sign copies of her books.

No sooner is she sitting than customer and fan, Sinéad Mac Eoin and her young daughter, Maebh, approach, wondering if she’ll sign a copy of the novel. She does and poses for photographs with them.

This is not the Dr Cassidy we’ve seen in courtrooms or attending crime scenes around the country. That woman, often in white overalls, was engrossed in her job, seemingly oblivious to the cameras. She could seem steely, if not cold, when giving medical forensic evidence at inquests and trials, often at highly-publicised murders, including, sadly, some in Galway.

One case that received international attention was the murder of Swiss teenager Manuela Riedo in October 2007, which shocked the country and her native Switzerland. The 17-year-old’s body was found beside the railway line just three days she’d arrived in Galway City to study English. The post-mortem showed she had been brutally raped and murdered.

At the end of the murder trial of Rahoon man Gerald Barry, who received a life sentence, the pathologist hugged Manuela’s parents, after they presented her with a little angel figurine, representing their only child.

She may have appeared “cold-hearted” while doing her job – attending crime scenes and then giving evidence in court.

“But once the trial is over, once I’ve completed my report and given it in evidence, I can then talk to the families and let my guard down,” she says.

Pictured: The former State Pathologist signing her book for Sinéad Mac Eoin and her daughter Maebh at the Liosbán bookshop.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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