Saturday 1 October 2016

Trial of Philomena Coton (63) over intent to murder husband 27 years ago is thrown out of court

Tim Healy

Published 12/06/2015 | 12:01

Philomena Coton (59), of Stoke Aldermoor, Coventry. Photo: Courtpix
Philomena Coton (59), of Stoke Aldermoor, Coventry. Photo: Courtpix

THE High Court has halted the trial of a 63-year-old woman charged with intent to murder her husband 27 years ago.

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Philomena Coton, with an address at Stoke Aldermore, Conventry, England, was charged causing grievous bodily harm with intent to murder Christopher Payne at his Crumliin home on May 14, 1988.   Mr Payne died after was seriously injured when he was his head was split open by a group of men armed with a hammer, axe and hatchet.  He died six months later.

Ms Coton was extradited from the UK in January 2013 and has been awaiting trial but in the meantime she brought a High Court challenge seeking to prohibit it because of delay.

Today, High Court president Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, said he had decided "not without some misgivings" that he should prohibit the trial.

There would be a "clear incongruity" in permitting it when the appeal court has already prohibited the separate trial of her daughter, Sharon Cullen, on the same charge on grounds of delay, he said.

The judge said the court had been left with no real explanation "for the years of inactivity in this case by the garda authorities".

This may have been down to lack of resources or demands of other work but it was not really in dispute that "little or no follow-up activity ever occurred" after Ms Coton moved to live in the UK.

The court was driven to conclude the garda "simply waited until some information in relation to the whereabouts of the applicant (Ms Coton) dropped fortuitously into their laps".

There was no search, no inquiry, no real effort of any sort to track her down even though she was living and working openly in England.

The judge said the prosecution had maintained Ms Coton and her daughter Sharon had arranged and facilitated the attack on Mr Payne by four men.  He was sitting in an armchair, having returned home from a sessison of hospital treatment, when he was attacked.

Mr Payne, who was in poor health suffering from severe renal disease, died six months later.

The judge said Ms Coton and her children remained in Ireland until the trial of the four men was due to start but when the perpetrators pleaded guilty,  she was told she and her daughter were no longer required as witnesess.

However, in 1989 the DPP directed charges be brought against her and Sharon.

The judge said Ms Coton was not told this decision had been taken which was the same time as she moved to England with two of her children.

In 1991, she married Gregory Coton, her late husband's cousin, in England and had a daughter with him.  She undertook studies in Conventry University and completed a nursing disploma.  In 2000/1, she got a permanent position in the Cauldon Mental Health Unit, Conventry.

In 2010, the gardai conduct a "cold case review" and in February 2012 a decision was taken to extradite her from England. 

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