Nine years for killer who beat his fiancee's father to death
Published 15/12/2010 | 05:00
A MAN who killed his fiancee's father 23 years ago was yesterday jailed for nine years after the State's first cold-case homicide prosecution.
Mr Justice John Edwards said Colin Pinder (47), from Liverpool, England, had acted in a "callous and vicious" manner.
Brian McGrath (43) was killed by Pinder and the victim's wife, Vera, who is already serving a life sentence after she was found guilty of her husband's murder in July.
The judge said the manner in which the body was disposed of was "savage, depraved and barbaric".
Colin Pinder swallowed repeatedly and twisted his tattooed hands. It had been an agonisingly long wait but finally he was to learn his punishment for his part in the grisly events that unfolded one moonlit night in rural Co Westmeath.
There were no family members or friends in court to support him, only two gardai from the cold-case unit.
Pinder, found guilty last July of the manslaughter of his fiancee's father in the spring of 1987, admitted to gardai as far back as 1993 that he had been involved in the killing of Mr McGrath at Lower Coole, Co Westmeath.
During the trial, Pinder claimed he had struck out at Mr McGrath after being called a "nigger" and Mr McGrath had fallen, striking his head against the range.
Pinder said Vera McGrath, the wife of the deceased, told him he'd have to "finish him off" and he then threw a concrete balustrade at Mr McGrath's head.
His fiancee at the time, Veronica McGrath, recalled otherwise, claiming Pinder and her mother had attacked her father after an earlier conversation in which Vera had wished that her husband was dead.
They buried and then subsequently dug up the body, smashed it up and burned it on a homemade funeral pyre, disposing of the remains in the septic tank.
Problems with identifying the bone fragments meant that the case lay dormant until DNA advances were made.
Pinder's sentencing was delayed over legal arguments of whether the disposal of the body could be factored into the judge's decision.
Yesterday, as Pinder stood before him, looking pale, Judge Edwards said he was satisfied "without doubt" that he could take into account what had happened after the killing.
The "desecration of the corpse" and the "barbaric" disposal of the body had left Mr McGrath's three sons "numb with shock".
He said mitigating factors must be considered.
Pinder had pleaded guilty at the outset of the trial to the crime for which he was ultimately found guilty and had cooperated with gardai.
He had a significant amount of adversity in his life, suffered from epilepsy and depression and had come to realise the horror of what he had been involved in.
Nine years was appropriate, Judge Edwards concluded, backdated to when Pinder first entered custody last July.
Pinder's hands shook violently and his eyes filled with tears. "Right, Colin," whispered the prison officer and the inmate turned and left the courtroom.
The two gardai from the investigation said the satisfactory result of the trial had "to have an impact" on other cold cases, considering that: "Despite the lapse of 20 odd years, we were able to mount and sustain a prosecution."
It was also a victory for the McGrath sons, who had been brought up to believe that their father had abandoned them, they said.