Colm Murray: a mentor who ALWAYS cut it fine

Sunday Independent, 4 August 2013

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Mr Cool: Colm was wise, funny and universally loved.

 

July 1996, and a small, dapper man is marching through the RTE newsroom. It’s the early days of mobile phones and I am about to politely ask Colm Murray where he’s been. I don’t. It’s a stupid question: naturally he has been at Leopardstown.

He is pleased to see me. Colm’s keen, hyper-intelligent eyes always suggested he derived perpetual pleasure from your company. Even if you were barely holding it together and your  synapses were collapsing under the strain of a collosal hangover, which it was on this particular day.

I was a young refugee from the Irish Press. Tony O’Donoghue had created a job for me, sub-editing and sports-reporting on TV’s evening news bulletin. Our weekend team was a rolling roster of Tony, Colm, Anne Cassin and Gareth O’Connor. Gar and I were young hacks around town at the time.

Colm trained me, imparting his wisdom as much by osmosis as deliberate instruction. I tried to sound like him, thwarting my Dub accent; caressing and lengthening sentences, nailing words together to make them fit his unique, lovely delivery style. “Paris St Germaaaainnnnn today…. tasted their …. first …. EVER …Cupwinnerscupsuccess”.

Colm was unflappable and soothing. He was the work-mate equivalent of Neurofen to a partied-out 20-something-year-old.  There were times when he was like a Pulp Fiction-sized shot of adrenalin too…

On this summer day in 1996, I have finished putting the sports section of the Sunday evening TV news bulletin together. Everything is scripted and recorded, bar the Munster and Leinster hurling finals reports.

We split them and disappear with our stopwatches to take goal/point times off the TV and write our respective scripts. They would air back-to-back with Colm adding his voice to the pictures live, rather than as a pre-packaged item.

At 5.55pm, I am starting to get a little nervous. There’s no sign of Colm. He appears, a tissue flapping at his chin, from make-up and picks up his scripts. I relax. Until he asks me a “small favour”. Would I finish his report on the Leinster Final?

“What?”

“If you could just finish it. I’m a bit behind. I have to head into studio.”

“But I haven’t seen the match.”

“Thanks, Dave. You’re the proverbial ‘star’.” And he was gone.

Fear has now gripped me by the sphincter. I run through the corridors to the editing suites, hoping he hasn’t written his timings on a race card which might now be in his back pocket.

“Cut from the bottom,” I implore the unimpressed VT editor. It’s a phrase we use in newspapers and may be the first time it’s been heard in TV circles. “Just give me one minute of video. It doesn’t matter if the points don’t sync with Colm’s voice.”

The next thing I know, I am flying, like Joan Cusack in Broadcast News, towards the output room where the operator is waiting for my video. I fling it at him and, in one, arcing move he slips it into the player. Miraculously, the first report is just finishing and the tape slots seamlessly into the bulletin. We have avoided ‘going to black’ (an empty TV screen), the worst technical sin in broadcasting.

This was so ‘Colm’. It wasn’t that he was foisting work on me: he had a phenomenal work ethic. He was just flying by the seat of his pants. He knew, instinctively, that it would be ‘all right’. If he didn’t think I could deliver the video, he wouldn’t have asked.

He was the coolest man I’ve ever met. He must have just loved speed. In another life he might have been a champion jockey. His slipstream-enthusiasm carried you past the post. He was exhilirating to work with. But, God, did he cut it fine.

I spoke to Tony and Gareth today. They both loved Colm unconditionally and are heartbroken. My father – who retired from RTE in the 1980s (and tried to discourage me from joining up) –  loved him too. They were horseflesh fans.

Even though it’s been years since we worked together, I’ll always remember Colm as a lovely, warm genius of a man. He was professional and generous with his time. He was wise and funny. He made you feel like you were the only person in the room.

Later, whenever I bumped into him on campus, time would concertina. It was like we had just finished a conversation that took place 10 years earlier.

Colm, who was a teacher, could have turned his hand to anything, but he was – and will always be – one of the best broadcasters this country has produced.

Far more importantly, he was universally loved.

RIP.

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Terrible lie by troubled teen led to horrific death

A tragedy not unlike a John B Keane novel has blighted the lives of loving, heartbroken parents Lotte and Denis Lyne

Sunday Independent, 13 May 2012

Stephen Lyne was just 17 when he bled his life away on a grass verge, metres from his home. He had been stabbed in the back after being falsely accused of raping a teenage girl. The girl later admitted her claim was “a blatant, disgusting lie”.

His killer, Shane Regan, will never be brought to trial. In August 2010, he died after falling down the stairs of his rented home. Regan – also 17 at the time – was a distant cousin of Stephen’s. That relationship counted for nothing when he drove a knife 11.5cms into his victim’s body in a Kerry laneway on June 18, 2009.  The chain of events leading up to that night wouldn’t seem out of place in a John B Keane tragedy.

“Stephen never knew why he was being killed,” his mother Lotte says. “He kept asking Regan ‘Why are you doing this, cousin?’ Regan gave him no explanation.”

The girl who cried rape – Jessica Klok – was then 15 and going out with Regan. In March, she apologised for her lie during the trial of Martin Ollo (19).  The Estonian student, of An Doireann Aileann, Killarney, had pleaded not guilty to two counts of conspiring with Regan, of Droumkerry, Fossa, Killarney on the nights of June 16/17 and June 17/18  to assault Stephen, causing him harm.

On March 2, Ollo was found guilty of the first charge and given three years at Tralee Circuit Criminal Court. Before sentencing, the judge acknowledged that he had not intended for Stephen to be killed and was not directly responsible for his death. The trial had heard that Ollo did not know Regan had a knife  on the night Stephen died.

The pair planned to lure Stephen to Scrahan Mews, off Ross Road, on June 16 so that Regan could give him a beating.

“Martin Ollo came on a family holiday with us. We travelled across Europe for a month. How could he betray Stephen like that?” asks Lotte.

“Stephen couldn’t see badness in anyone. He was too kind and was always helping people. Everyone loved him. He just hadn’t learned to read people properly. He was only 17.”

This is the first time Lotte – who is Regional Business Development Executive with financial firm, MCN Associates – has spoken about the full extent of her family’s ordeal. She wants to set up a foundation to stop delinquency before it happens. “Children are not born evil,” she says.

Lotte (45), who is Danish, moved to Ireland in 1982 and met her husband Denis in Killarney four years later. They married in 1988 and had their first daughter, Tasha (23), in 1989.

In 1990, they moved to Denmark where their other five children – Benjamin (11), Jonas (16), Mathias (17), Stephen (pronounced ‘Stefan’) and Sofie (21) – were born. In 2001, the family returned to Castle Falls, Killarney: a highly desirable address in a county renowned for its beautiful scenery. The Lynes wanted their children to learn about their Irish roots. Tragically, one of those family roots led to Shane Regan.

“Stephen had only known Regan for about six months. He was delighted when he found out that they were third cousins. He was really proud of his family,” says Lotte.

Stephen, Ollo and Regan were part of a large group of teens who hung around together during the early summer of 2009. The court heard that Regan had a reputation for being domineering, violent and manipulative.

During the  June Bank Holiday weekend Regan’s girlfriend, Klok, was spotted in Killarney Demesne with Stephen.  “They were walking and talking. Stephen was always very kind to Jessica,” says Lotte.

Klok later told Regan that Stephen had dragged her into the woods, put a knife to her throat and raped her. To compound the lie, she added that Stephen had done this to four or five other girls. It was completely untrue. An enraged Regan repeated the accusation to Stephen’s sister Sofie, saying he was “going to get Stephen” Sofie warned Lotte of the threat.

“I absolutely knew the rape claim wasn’t true. I knew my son. Everyone who knew Stephen said he wasn’t capable of such a thing,” says Lotte. “I told him he was in danger and to stay off the streets.”

Her fears were well-founded. She and Denis foiled the first ambush on June 16 when they picked up Stephen on the road and brought him home.

The court heard that, in the early hours of June 18, Ollo went with Stephen to Scrahan Mews to smoke cannabis with Regan.

“No alcohol or drugs were found in the toxicology tests on Stephen. Reports that he had been smoking cannabis the night he died – or around that time – were not true,” says Lotte.

Ollo said Regan hit Stephen in the back and chased him on to Ross Road. He heard Stephen screaming, asking why Regan was attacking him. He was dying from a single knife wound to his back, which had cut through his kidney, spleen and arteries.

It was around 1.20am and, by this time, the Lynes were worried as Stephen wasn’t answering his phone. Lotte was in Dublin for work, so Denis went to search for him. He came across the crime scene and was devastated by what he saw.

“Denis has lived through the agony of losing his eldest son, but he has a heavier cross to bear. He constantly lives through the recurring nightmare of seeing the ambulance, the police, and the flashing lights. As he came upon the scene, he saw his son’s lifeless body lying on the grass.

“He re-lives that night over and over again, constantly blaming himself for not being there to protect his Stephen.”

Lotte will never forget receiving the news of her son’s death.

“I was staying at the Burlington. At 3.30am, two gardaí knocked at my door. They said I needed to call home – they did not know why. Denis picked up my call and told me what happened and the world stopped. ‘It is Stephen, he is dead, and he has been stabbed’.

“I remember slowly sliding to the floor as I cried out. The lady garda reached for me, repeating ‘I am sorry, I did not know’. The other garda sat with a stunned look on his face. I remember putting up my hand as if to physically stop the terrible news from being a reality, thinking that I could somehow, by pure force, hold back the finality of those words: my son is dead.

“The gardaí and hotel staff was very kind and organised a cab to take me to the airport to get a flight to Kerry. There was hassle at the Ryanair desk as I didn’t have my passport with me. After several phone calls, they eventually let me buy a ticket.

“I spent two hours, on my own, in Dublin Airport. I was miles away from my husband and children in the worst moments of our lives. I needed to be there to protect them from this horrendous truth.

“I phoned my parents and Stephen’s best friends to tell them what had happened. Afterwards, I went to the ladies’ and locked myself into a cubicle, shaking and sobbing as the pain raked through my body. I made several more trips to the toilet to collapse in tears before my flight was called.

“That flight was the longest 20 minutes of my life. I sat alone with tears flowing down my face. No-one came near me. Later, as Denis and I drove down Ross Road, I saw the tent that covered my son’s body. I have no words that will do justice to how I felt.”

Lotte speaks kindly of the other players in this tragedy. She bears Ollo no ill will, although he never expressed remorse to them directly.

Klok wrote to the Lynes after Ollo’s trial, finally apologising for what she had done. Lotte has sympathy for her. “Jessica was a very troubled girl back then. There are only losers in this story.”

Regan was never charged in relation to the stabbing. The trial heard he had “gone to his grave” believing Stephen had raped Klok. She told the court that he had admitted killing Stephen to her. Ollo would have been willing to testify against him had he ever been prosecuted for homicide.

Lotte was disappointed at the length of time it took for a case to be heard.

“Stephen’s brothers and sisters have faced a lot of heartache, very young. We waited for over two years for justice. The truth came out during the trial. Our son has been totally vindicated from the lies that were said about him.  People have admitted their involvement and guilt. We are thankful for the hard work that the gardaí have carried out to establish that truth.

“In memory of our son we are in the process of starting up the Stephen Lyne Foundation, which will focus on children and young people. It will aim to prevent youngsters from turning to violence and crime.

“This will be done through a number of initiatives which we will announce in due time. We also want to ensure that our son is remembered for the person he really was: an honest and loyal young man.”

In the meantime, the Lynes are coping with their grief “bit by bit”.

“We only cleared Stephen’s room last summer and that was because we were moving house. Sofie had moved into it to be closer to him and she did not want anything changed. I used to sit there looking at his posters, touching his belongings and the pain of losing him would take my breath away.

“I see him all the time. Sometime I will see a teenager who looks or walks like him, and my heart stops.”

Lotte shouldered Stephen’s coffin at his funeral. “It was something I had to do. I brought him into this world and had to carry him to his last resting place, no matter how heartbreaking that burden was.”

That physical burden lasted only a few minutes. Lotte and her family will carry the heavier burden of their loss forever.

*If you wish to contact Lotte about the Stephen Lyne Foundation, please email her at lotte@mcnassociates.ie

dave@davekenny.com