Monday 25 September 2017

An act of savage violence robbed Shortall family of their devoted mother

Anne Shortall
Anne Shortall
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

A day after the body of Anne Shortall was discovered in the workshop of cabinetmaker Roy Webster, a candlelit vigil was held "to light her way home" at the spot where she was last seen. Onlookers had noted the powerful sense of love and community in action amongst the hundreds who had gathered there in silence.

Almost two years later, those who knew her are still struggling to come to terms with her loss. Anne (47) lived for her family and enjoyed constant involvement in the lives of her grandchildren.

The separated mother of three adult children was a familiar face in her favourite pubs in Wicklow town.

"She was a very quiet lady. Even when I would be out myself, I would often see her sitting alone at a table," said one man. "You'd always see her around the town with the grandchildren. She doted on them," recalled a woman who had known her well.

Read More: 'Our whole world fell apart' - Murder victim Anne Shortall's family describe horror since brutal murder

However, she was also a woman in a desperate financial situation at the time her path crossed with Roy Webster's.

Anne married her husband Colin in August 1992 and they had three children - Alanna (19), Emma (22) and older brother David.

The couple separated and had been living apart for around eight years by 2015. There was a mortgage on the family home in Rathnew, Co Wicklow, at the time they separated and while Mr Shortall continued to meet payments, Anne did not and it was repossessed in 2013.

Anne had not worked in about 10 years, was on anti-depressants and her evenings revolved around the pubs. Her money troubles had deepened since her separation and she owed thousands in bills and rent arrears by the time she "blackmailed" Webster.

With an eviction notice served and due to lose her home within days, Anne's options were running out.

Friends had known that she had fallen on hard times, drifting into difficult personal circumstances in the wake of her marriage break-up. One said that Anne's disappearance and the subsequent discovery of her body had come at a particularly difficult time for her family, with Anne's niece having developed serious health issues.

Meanwhile, Anne's brother tragically took his own life in the weeks following his sister's murder. "The family have had a terrible time of it," said the friend.

Webster (40) was also described locally as a quiet man who kept himself to himself and was rarely spotted in his village of Ashford. A respected tradesman, he was considered of "impeccable character" by the gardaí.

Webster was raised on the family farm in Killoughter, Co Wicklow, and went to school locally. After school he completed an apprenticeship as a cabinet maker before going to Australia. He returned and settled, eventually forming his own company - Ashwood Kitchens. He married Sinead in 2005 and the couple built their home on his parents' land. There was a "big mortgage" on their home and in the good times they bought a second house in Gorey, Co Wexford.

At the time he killed Anne Shortall, Webster was 38 years old, had a daughter who had just turned four and newborn boy - just six weeks old. He doted on his children, picking up book he ordered for his daughter just hours before he killed Anne.

However, his business was bad in 2015, with work having dried up over the preceding three to four years. He found himself on job-seeker's allowance, while the second house was in negative equity.

His wife Sinead did not work outside the home and managed the family finances. Despite financial problems, the picture that emerged was of a man with a stable, happy home life, a conscientious worker who enjoyed being a new father for the second time.

It was thoughts of losing all this - everything he had "worked so hard for" that were on his mind at the time of his fateful confrontation with Anne Shortall.

But in an act of savage violence, Webster ended up throwing it all away.

Irish Independent

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