News Courts

Monday 22 September 2014

Woman free after helping killer dispose of husband

Niamh O'Donoghue

Published 06/06/2014 | 02:30

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A woman has been handed a “get out of jail free card” after being sentenced to 18 months for helping her husband's killer dispose of his body almost 30 years ago.

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Vera McGrath (65) of Volvenstown, Fordstown, Navan, Co Meath, faces no further jail time after she already served more than two years and seven months of a life sentence for a 2010 murder conviction. That conviction was quashed by the Court of Criminal Appeal last year.

The Central Criminal Court was told that her son-in-law, Colin Pinder, killed her 43-year-old husband, Bernard Brian McGrath, and the pair burnt and disposed of his body in a hole in the back garden of his home in Coole, Co Westmeath.

In sentencing, Mr Justice Paul Carney said because McGrath had served the time, she had “credit in the bank” and had “a get out of jail free card”.

“This is a most upsetting case making me feel physically ill,” said Mr Justice Carney.

The judge said she will have to go to prison for processing, but will be entitled to be released.

McGrath, who has no previous convictions, was arraigned before the court on Monday - charged with materially assisting the killer by disposing of evidence at Lower Coole, Westmeath.

The charge stated that manslaughter had been committed by Pinder, and it related to a date unknown between March 16 and April 18, 1987.

She pleaded guilty to the charge and the plea was accepted by the prosecution.

The judge took account of the facts “which are upsetting to the point of making someone physically ill having to listen to them”.

He also took account of her having no previous convictions, that she had co-operated with gardai, and that the case was old.

McGrath and Pinder were previously tried together. Pinder was convicted of manslaughter and was jailed for nine years.

But McGrath’s murder conviction was quashed by the Court of Criminal Appeal on March 11, 2013. Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman ordered a retrial because of prejudicial evidence.

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