A Westmeath man has gone on trial, charged with murdering the mother of his children by strangling her in her home two years ago.
A man, who strangled the mother of his two children to death, has asked for a verdict of manslaughter rather than murder by reason of provocation; the woman, whom he had previously strangled to the point of dizziness, had told him he was a bad father.
The 55-year-old made the request through his barrister this afternoon (Thursday, October 5) during his closing speech in his murder trial.
Danny Keena of Empor, Ballynacargy, Co Westmeath is charged with the murder of 43-year-old Brigid Maguire.
The farmer has pleaded not guilty to murder, but guilty to her manslaughter at her new home on Main Street, Ballynacargy on November 14, 2015.
Both sides gave their closing speeches in the Central Criminal Court. Remy Farrell SC, prosecuting, said that this case was one of the least appropriate for a defence of provocation.
He recalled evidence from the accused man’s children and niece that he had threatened to kill his partner on previous occasions. He had also described to his niece the method he would use to take his own life afterwards.
Mr Farrell said this showed that he had certainly given a little thought to killing her and what he would do afterwards.
“This is a man, who had committed the act of strangulation on his partner prior to actually killing her,” he said. “That’s extraordinary.”
He was referring to the accused man’s admission to both his sister and gardai that he had 'choked her previously. He had told gardai that Ms Maguire had been dizzy as a result.
“The defence say that the last occasion where he did it is the occasion where he lost complete control and that it’s not really his fault…. she provoked him,” he said.
“The reason he did what he did was because he was angry, he was jealous, he was bitter,” suggested Mr Farrell. “What he did on that night was something he’d done before, although with much, much worse consequences.”
He told the jury that part of the definition of provocation specified that there could be no time for passions to cool. He pointed to the accused man’s description of having held his hands around her neck for 60 seconds.
“It’s death by strangulation, a very up-close and personal way to kill somebody, face to face,” he said, asking the jurors to just sit in the jury room for 60 seconds and note how long it felt.
“Consider how long it would be to have your hands around someone else’s throat,” he suggested. “Brigid Maguire was, unfortunately, not given a short death.”
He said this was not a case of provocation.
“This is one of the clearest cases of murder you might hope for,” he said.
However, Colm Smyth SC, defending, asked the jury to consider the circumstances that prevailed at the time.
He said that the couple had been separated since September, that his client had been providing an income to help maintain the family but was finding it difficult to be away from his children, especially his son.
He noted that it had come to Mr Keena’s attention that their son had been absent from school.
“It was in that respect that he approached the house on the evening, to talk to her,” he said, reminding the jury that a witness had seen him around this time and described him as ‘normal’.
“Brigid was texting during this time,” he continued.
He was referring to evidence gleaned from her phone, which showed intimate communication with a male.
“It’s clear she wasn’t listening to him (the accused) and told him to ‘f**k off’ and ‘get the f**k out of the house’,” he said.
“I suggest you can infer that she had little interest in what Danny Keena had to say,” he said.
“He was anxious that the boy would spend some time with him,” he continued. “He said it was declared by Brigid that he was no good of a father.”
The accused was deeply hurt, he said.
“You must look through his eyes, warts and all,” said Mr Smyth.
“It’s probably one of the most hurtful things you can say to a man,” he suggested. “It brings into question everything a man stands for….. I can’t think of anything more hurtful than that.”
He said that this hurtful comment combined with the circumstances of the evening and preceding weeks had triggered in him the reaction that led to what he did.
“To say that because he was an abuser in the past, he was not entitled to the defence of provocation is utter nonsense,” he said. “If ever there was a case where provocation should apply, I suggest it’s this case.”
He asked for a verdict of not guilty of murder, but guilty of manslaughter.
The trial continues before Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy and a jury of seven men and five women.
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