Sunday 11 December 2016

Wife (61) gets life for callous murder of her husband

Published 27/07/2010 | 05:00

Vera McGrath seen outside court earlier this week. Picture: Courtpix
Vera McGrath seen outside court earlier this week. Picture: Courtpix

COLD-CASE killer Vera McGrath was beginning a life sentence last night, after being found guilty of murdering her husband 23 years ago.

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She received the mandatory sentence for her part in the killing of Brian McGrath (43) at the family home in Coole, Co Westmeath, on a date between March 10 and April 18, 1987.

The jury reached their majority verdict of 10-1 shortly before 7pm last night. Last Friday, Colin Pinder (47) had been found guilty of manslaughter.

Mr McGrath's death was brought to the attention of the gardai six years after the event.

Then, acting on a tip-off from chief prosecution witness Veronica McGrath -- daughter of the accused woman and ex-wife of Pinder -- they discovered Mr McGrath's charred remains in a grave in the back garden of the family home at Coole.

Mrs McGrath's daughter Veronica told gardai her father had died at the hands of Pinder and her mother, who she claimed had hit him with a lump hammer, "laughing at the way she'd hit him".

Earlier in the trial, Supt Aidan Glacken told how Vera McGrath had given a voluntary 14-page statement to gardai on November 12, 1993, in which she had spoken "very freely, with a lot of detail".

She told gardai that she and her husband rowed on a daily basis. Neither of them drank but Mrs McGrath said she went to stay in women's refuges on several occasions.

In 1987, her daughter Veronica returned home from England to live with her boyfriend, Colin Pinder, at Coole. They stayed in a caravan.

In March 1987, Mrs McGrath told her daughter and Pinder her husband was still fighting with her and said: "I wish he was dead." Pinder said: "I've just the thing to do it," but told them that they would all have to agree about it.

"I must've been out of my mind but I agreed," Veronica McGrath told gardai.

That evening, Pinder and Veronica walked Vera McGrath and her husband home. When they got to the house, they found themselves locked out.

Vera McGrath got in her bedroom window and was standing in the room when she heard a bang "like a thud."

Looking out the window, she saw her husband's body on the ground. Pinder told her that she'd have to hit him as well.

Eventually, she did and there was "no moan or sound from Brian". She thought her husband was dead, she told gardai.

She went back into the house and then Pinder ran in to say her husband "wasn't there any more."

Pinder found him in the turf shed and then she saw her husband run down the driveway but Pinder caught him, hitting him at least twice on the legs with a slash hook.

Pinder followed him into the hedge and she saw him raise the slash hook again.

Then Pinder called to her: "It's all over" and the three of them carried the body up to the house.

They buried the body in a shallow grave and the next morning Ms McGrath and her daughter cleaned up the mess.

Some weeks later, they destroyed the body by burning and broke up the remaining bones with shovels.

Det Supt Christy Mangan said it had been a complex case but justice had been done.

He said the sons and daughter of Brian McGrath wanted justice for their father.

"Justice has been done today and he has been remembered in the verdict," he said.

The Detective Superintendent said the three McGrath brothers and their sister wanted justice for their father and that justice had been done.

He said that although Brian McGrath died in 1987, he had been remembered now through the verdict.

He also thanked the people of Coole for their help during the 17-year investigation.

Irish Independent

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