Monday 26 June 2017

Webster 'acted completely normal' after hammer attack

Roy Webster and Anne Shortall
Roy Webster and Anne Shortall

Andrew Phelan

Murder accused Roy Webster was acting "completely normal" when he returned home after fatally beating Anne Shortall with a hammer, the Central Criminal Court heard.

He talked with his wife about picking up a children's book for their daughter, and a cut he had on his arm.

The account was given by his wife's friend in a statement read into evidence at the murder trial.

The jury also heard the accused was of "impeccable character" before he killed Ms Shortall.

Detective Sgt Fergus O'Brien agreed with a defence lawyer that the case had taken a toll on the accused and his family, as well as Ms Shortall's family.

Mr Webster (40), a father of two from Ashbree, Ashford, Co Wicklow, denies murdering Ms Shortall (47) on April 3, 2015, at The Murrough, also in Wicklow.

He pleaded guilty to manslaughter, but that plea was not accepted by the prosecution.

The jury has been told he hit Ms Shortall with a claw hammer after she blackmailed him by threatening to "reveal all" about a one-night stand they had.

He said he struck her about the head when she made the threat after she claimed she was pregnant and asked him to pay £6,500 (€7,490) for an abortion.

In a garda statement read out to the court by Paul Greene SC, for the prosecution, Carmel Phibbs said she was friends with Sinead Webster.

On April 3, Ms Phibbs drove to the house, her daughter played with the Websters' four-year-old daughter and they stayed there all afternoon. Roy Webster arrived home between 4.30pm and 5pm, wearing dusty work clothes.

"He was acting completely normal," Ms Phibbs said in her statement.

There was some conversation between Mr Webster and his wife about collecting a book for their daughter in Wicklow Town, as well as a cut he had on one arm, near his elbow.

Ms Phibbs saw this and said it was "only a sliver". He said he had cut it on a sharp tile.

Telecom liaison officer Garda David Hamblyn gave evidence of records of contacts between Ms Shortall and Mr Webster's phones between March 8 and April 8, 2015.

No content from text messages was retrieved apart from the final ones.

The first contact was a 34-second call from Ms Shortall's mobile phone to the accused's landline at 3.26am on March 25.

On April 3 at 3.47pm, Mr Webster's phone texted "outside the Leitrim?"

The reply from Ms Shortall's phone at 3.48pm was "on way".

The jury heard about a number of Google searches that had been made on Ms Shortall's phone on March 30, 2015.

These included "Ashwood kitchens", "how much does it cost for an Irish woman to go to England to have an abortion".

Ms Shortall's electricity bill was then handed into court as an exhibit.

The jury had heard she had a debt of €2,222. The bill from Electric Ireland was dated February 19, 2015.

Det Sgt O'Brien agreed with Brendan Grehan, for the defence, that Mr Webster had co-operated with gardaí and was "someone who would have been of impeccable character before this".

"Apart from the terrible matter that has been visited on the Shortall family…this has certainly taken a toll on Mr Webster and his own family, his wife and children," Mr Grehan said.

"Absolutely, yes," Det Sgt O'Brien replied.

Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy told the jury of four women and seven men that prosecution evidence is expected to conclude on Monday.

Irish Independent

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