Friday 9 December 2016

'I hate I had anger towards my mum for so long and none of this was her fault' - daughter of murdered woman Margot Seery

Daughter of Margot Seery, who was was murdered in 1994, reveals relief that she finally knows the truth

Alison O'Riordan

Published 09/11/2015 | 15:43

Margot Seery. Photo: RTE Prime Time
Margot Seery. Photo: RTE Prime Time
Garda pictured at St Mary's burial ground beside the church in Rathkeale, Co. Limerick where the body of Margot Seery who died almost 20 years ago was exhumed. Photo: Press22

The daughter of murdered woman Margot Seery has revealed her relief after a man (41) was sentenced to life in jail for her murder in 1994.

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Earlier today, Howard Kelly had been handed the life sentence after he walked into a garda station and confessed to "strangling" a Dublin woman in her home 21 years ago in a "completely unprovoked" attack.

Howard Kelly, with an address at Osprey Apartments, Naas, Co. Kildare was charged with the murder of Margot Seery (48) on March 27 this year.

Today, Kelly pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to murdering Ms Seery at her home in Kenilworth Square, Dublin 6 on or between October 7 and October 8 1994.

In a statement read out to the court, Margot Seery's daughter Niamh Holliday said she was relieved that the truth had finally come out.

"I hate that I had that anger towards her for so long and none of this was her fault," read the statement.

"How after twenty years and an official inquest into her death could this be happening. In the last year I have gone through so many emotions with this case, it was mainly anger as I shouldn't have had to believe a lie for twenty years. For that I am grateful to Howard Kelly for actually coming forward with his confession," read Mr Grehan.

Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy today sentenced Kelly to life imprisonment and backdated it from March 27 2015.

Prosecution for the State Mr Brendan Grehan SC told the court this was a "highly unusual case" which came before the court today.

Mr Grehan told the court this case was about a deceased woman whose death occurred in 1994 and it was not considered "suspicious" at the time.

However, it came to be investigated as a murder some twenty years later when the accused walked into a garda station to confess to the murder.

Mr Grehan called Detective Inspector George McGeary from Terenure garda station to give evidence.

Det Insp McGeary agreed with prosecution counsel that the body of Ms Margaret Seery who was known as 'Margot' was discovered at 1.30pm on October 8 1994 in the bedroom of her flat in Kenilworth Square in Rathmines.

Mr Grehan said Ms Seery lived in the flat with her daughter but her daughter was visiting her father at the time.

The court heard Ms Seery's body was discovered by a manager of the flats where she was living after a Friday night out with a friend. She was found fully clothed and lying face down on top of her bed.

Det Insp McGeary agreed with the barrister that the deceased was fully clothed at the time but rigor mortis had set in.

Mr Grehan said the post mortem at the time indicated there was no suspicious circumstances attached to Ms Seery's death.

"A post mortem was carried out which indicated that the death had been due to asphyxia due to inhalation of vomit caused by alcohol. The death had concluded from misadventure," said Mr Grehan.

Counsel said her death was not treated as suspicious at the time by gardai and her body was buried at Rathkeale Cemetery in Limerick.

Mr Grehan then told the court on July 22 2014 Kelly who was living in Naas, Co Kildare came into Rathmines Garda Station "unannounced" and told gardai he had killed a woman at Kenilworth Square about 20 years ago.

"Garda Gabriel Duffy indicated that Howard Kelly had presented himself at 6.30pm that day and told him about twenty years ago on October 21 1994 he was with a friend and was approached by two women," said Mr Grehan.

Today five statements of interview given by Kelly to gardai were read to the court by Mr Grehan.

In the first statement the court heard Kelly said he went with one of the women to a house on Kenilworth Square and "there was some intimacy at the time" but this was then retracted.

Det Insp McGreary agreed with Mr Grehan that Kelly told gardai in the statement he had "felt threatened" by the woman and killed her by strangling her and then lifted her onto the bed.

Upon confessing to the murder, Gda McGreary agreed Kelly went to Kenilworth Square that day in an unmarked garda car to point out where it had occurred.

"During the drive he pointed out a number of houses on Kenilworth Square as to possibilities to where it had occurred," said Gda McGreary.

The court heard Kelly told gardai he had come forward as he had thoughts of ending things and his children were having nightmares.

Kelly then gave gardai an interview saying he "strangled" Ms Seery to death with his hands.

"I did so intentionally and it was not by accident and I have a heavy heart," read Mr Grehan from another statement of interview.

In the statement, Kelly also apologised to gardai for not coming to them sooner.

Det Gda McGreary agreed with counsel that Kelly told gardai in a statement he was in the company of his friend, had been on a pub crawl and was walking by a park when two women approached them.

The court heard in another statement given by Kelly to gardai that the older woman (Ms Seery) took Kelly by the arm and his friend went into the park with the younger woman (Ms Seery's friend).

Det Gda McGreary agreed with Mr Grehan that Kelly said in his statement he went upstairs to the apartment and Ms Seery put on the kettle.

"He said he felt threatened, thought he was being set up and he put his legs on her arms and strangled her and put her on her bed and left," read Mr Grehan.

The court heard Kelly said to gardai he had a lot of drink and had a few joints of cannabis as well at the time.

"He said he wrestled her onto the floor, put his knees on her arms and it was very quick.  He said he strangled the woman as he was afraid and panicked and he was way out of his comfort zone," read Mr Grehan.

The court heard Kelly would have been twenty years of age when this occurred. Mr Grehan also said there had been no case of any suspicious death reported at the time.

Det Gda McGreary told the court Kelly said in an interview with gardai he had previously told a college friend he had killed a woman as well as admitting it to a nurse in a psychiatric hospital in 1997.

"He told gardai he had been planning for a long time to come in to confess but he wanted to kill himself instead. He was then arrested by Gda Duffy. He said at this time he feared the woman might have robbed him so that’s why he assaulted her," said Det Insp McGreary.

An investigation then began where gardai went back to look at existing paperwork and statements.

The court heard in September 2014 the Minister of Justice gave permission for the body of Margot Seery to be exhumed and this took place in Rathkeale Cemetery in Limerick.

The court heard upon exhumation it was discovered that the skull was intact and unopened indicating that the brain had not been examined at the original post mortem.

However Mr Grehan said the internal organs including the hyoid bone from Ms Seery's throat was missing.

Mr Grehan said on September 26 2014 Kelly was arrested by gardai and brought to Terenure garda station.

"Something came over me and I felt compelled to take off my shirt and wrestle her to the ground, put my knees on her arms and strangled her to death," read Mr Grehan from a statement of interview.

Mr Grehan said Kelly had been mentally unwell since he was 13 years of age and he was first admitted to psychiatric care in March 1997.

In the statement Kelly said "in a flash" he had "just flipped" and "had a rush of blood to the head."

“I got her on the ground, put her arms under my legs and strangled her with my hands. I was sitting on her torso, she kicked her legs.I held her neck with my two hands and pressed down with my thumbs. I never intended to hurt or kill her, I felt I had no control," read Mr Grehan from another one of the interviews Kelly gave to gardai.

Kelly told gardai in interview he attacked Ms Seery in a "completely unprovoked way" and he had "been waiting for a chance to set the record straight."

A victim impact statement on behalf of Margot Seery's daughter Niamh Holliday was then read to the court by prosecution counsel Mr Grehan.

The court heard Ms Holliday was 12 years of age when her mother passed away. She had no brothers or sisters and her parents were not living together so she lived alone with her mother in a flat in Kenilworth.

Mr Grehan read her mother was from Rathkeale in Limerick originally but moved to Dublin in 1966 where she met and married her dad a few years later.

"When she was alive, my mam was what I would describe as a cool mam. She seemed to get long with everyone and had a large circle of friends. She was always kind to people and would help them in whatever way she could. In the end I suppose this was her downfall," read Mr Grehan.

The court heard on the evening of October 7 1994 Ms Holliday said goodbye to her mother expecting to see her in a few days but "unfortunately this didn't happen."

"On Saturday October 8 I called my mam in work to see how she was. They told me she hadn't turned up for work, this was really odd as she loved working in the local betting office.

"My dad left me with a neighbour and went to the flat and I had an anxious wait to find out what was going on. I remember seeing him walk across the green towards our house with a local nun and I knew something was wrong. In the house she then proceeded to tell me that god had taken my mam. As a 12 year old kid, this was never something I expected to hear. Little did I know that god had not taken her but it was at the hands of another person. This was the day my life and my family's life changed" read counsel.

The court heard it was decided Ms Holliday would move to Rathkeale, Co Limerick with her aunt, uncle and cousins as her dad was working long hours at this point.

As a child, Ms Holliday never really asked questions about how her mother died, she thought she had a heart attack or something like that.

"It was not an appropriate thing to tell a child that her mam died after getting intoxicated and choking on her vomit," read counsel.

Mr Grehan read that Ms Holliday has since moved to Australia and got married but without her mother there to celebrate with her.

"Wedding dress shopping was hard as this is something she should have been involved in but she wasn't there. As we celebrated our wedding we all knew there was someone missing at the top table. That was hard," read counsel.

Ms Holliday said in the statement she believed her mother died from asphyxiation due to inhalation of vomit for close to twenty years and on account of this believed she was an "irresponsible parent."

"I hate that I had that anger towards her for so long and none of this was her fault," read counsel.

The court heard after Kelly confessed to the murder, her family was all in a state of confusion.

"How after twenty years and an official inquest into her death could this be happening. In the last year I have gone through so many emotions with this case, it was mainly anger as I shouldn't have had to believe a lie for twenty years. For that I am grateful to Howard Kelly for actually coming forward with his confession," read Mr Grehan.

The court heard for the first time on her mother's anniversary this year, Ms Holliday had a "different outlook" on her death and the anger she held towards her was gone.

A second victim impact statement was also read to the court by prosecution for the State on behalf of Margot's brother Pa Guinane.

"We had believed for twenty years that our sister had died as a result of asphyxiation - vomit-alcohol intoxication misadventure. As a result of this post-mortem we have spent twenty years believing that Margot caused her death. We were very angry with her for the upset she had caused her mother and the rest of the family," read counsel.

The court heard during the summer of 2014 their world was once again turned upside down with "shock and disbelief."

Pa also said in the statement that a huge amount of grief and distress was brought onto the family when it was decided that Margot's body was to be exhumed for a second post mortem.

"She didn't deserve to die in this way. Why did this happen is a question we had been asking. Perhaps we will get answers sometime," read Mr Grehan.

Speaking outside court today after the sentence was handed down Pa Guinane, Margot Seary's brother said: "We are glad the court case is over, that Margot has got justice and her name has been cleared."

Tomorrow night, RTÉ Prime Time will feature a special report by Barry Cummins which includes an exclusive interview with Margot’s daughter Niamh.

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