Friday 9 December 2016

Mum's tearful testimony at murder trial

Abigail Rieley

Published 17/10/2010 | 05:00

Annmarie French broke down as she took the blue Bible in her hand. Her voice shook as she took the oath that the evidence she was about to give was true. A slim, white-haired woman, she had been helped to the stand by a detective, passing within inches of the man accused of murdering her daughter almost exactly a year ago.

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Ricardas Dilys, 28, with an address at Goodtide Harbour, Wexford Town, denies the murder of 30-year-old mother-of-two Rebecca French, at a house in Ard na Dara, Clonard, Wexford, on October 9, 2009.

His co-accused, 26-year-old Ruslanas Mineikas, of the same address, pleaded guilty last Thursday to impeding the murder investigation by burning Rebecca's body. She was found in the boot of her blue Opel Corsa, which was found burning a short distance from the Ard na Dara estate.

Rebecca's mother had taken the stand to confirm that she had given DNA samples to gardai investigating her daughter's death. Her eyes filled with tears as she gave evidence in a few minutes, confirming that she had given gardai saliva samples on the day of her daughter's death.

As she left the stand, her hand briefly gripped the metal surround to the seat where Mr Dilys sat before she was helped back to her seat beside her sobbing family.

Rebecca's family have attended every day of the trial, listening to the details of her death. How she was found curled up in the boot of her burnt-out car, a can of petrol beside her. How she had died from three heavy blows to the head with a blunt instrument. How bloodstained golf clubs had been found in a hat stand in the house in Ard na Dara, and women's jewellery in the ashes of the fireplace.

On Thursday, they heard that the blood found in the ridges of the head of one of the clubs had belonged to Rebecca. There was also a smear of blood about the width of a thumb on the shaft of the other club. Her blood was also found on the legs of a stool in the living room of the house in Ard na Dara, and drops were found on the patio slabs at the back of the house.

The jury has been shown photographs of the four-bedroom house where Rebecca spent her final hours. She had been drinking there with the owner of the house, Patrick O'Connor, the accused and several other people.

Photographs given to the jury showed a large open-plan living area as it was when gardai searched the house after Rebecca's body had been found. Glasses and beer cans litter a table in the middle of the room. There are two television screens. One is a television, the other was hooked up to a CCTV camera over the front door.

Another photograph showed the front room on the ground floor, converted into a home gym. A red punch-bag hangs from the ceiling, and training equipment is pushed up against the walls. Gardai had searched the scene thoroughly over four days, seizing everything they thought might be relevant.

Last week, garda fingerprints expert Detective Garda Cahill Hannigan explained that the forensics teams had been responding to the evolving investigation. He explained that he had performed a fingerprint examination of four aerosols found in the living room because it was thought they had been used as part of an assault. He had also examined a WD40 aerosol that had been found on the mantelpiece over the fireplace and a cardboard box full of latex gloves found in a cupboard in the kitchen.

He told Mr Dily's counsel, Michael Delaney, that he had examined a black-handled hammer because it had been found on a TV cupboard in the sitting room and "it just looked out of place".

Neighbour Alexi Lovelace, who lived with his wife and child two doors away from the house at the centre of the investigation, told the court last Monday that there had always been "a lot of cars coming and going" from the house.

He said that, on the morning of the 9th, he had been at home looking after his child. He could see Mr O'Connor's house through his front window and, at around 9am, he saw a blue Opel Corsa driving out of the estate.

There were two women in it, and they returned about half an hour later. Earlier in the trial, the jury heard from several shop assistants who had seen Rebecca and another girl on the morning of her death buying breakfast foods and cigarettes. Mr Lovelace said he had seen the same car again that morning after the two girls had got back. This time there was a man driving with a woman or girl in the passenger seat.

Mr Lovelace said he noticed the car was struggling out of the estate. "It just looked like he was drunk or there was a problem with the car or he was learning to drive."

He told the jury that later that day he had seen four men walking back to Mr O'Connor's house from the back of the estate, which he had thought odd since there was only one way into the estate, from the front. One of the men was Patrick O'Connor, one of the others had been driving the erratically moving Corsa that morning.

He had not seen anything else, as he had left to collect his wife from work.

The trial spent much of the week in legal argument. Judge Barry White explained to the jury that an issue had arisen with a new piece of complex legislation that required dealing with before the trial could continue.

The trial continues next week before Mr Justice White and the jury of seven men and five women.

Sunday Independent

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