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Friday 21 July 2017

Gardai quiz suspect over mother of three's murder

Ralph Riegel and Olivia Kelleher

DETECTIVES investigating the brutal murder of a mother of three arrested a middle-aged man yesterday evening.

It emerged yesterday that Catherine Smart (57) died from a savage blow to the back of her skull while she was in her home in Bailick Court, Midleton, Co Cork.

Such was the violence of the assault, she was left totally unable to defend herself from her assailant.

A man in his late 40s, who has an address in Cork, was arrested yesterday and can be questioned for up to 24 hours before he is either charged or released.

It is understood the man was known to Ms Smart. There was no sign of a break-in at her home.

He was arrested shortly after 4pm in Cork city, and taken to Midleton garda station for questioning, where he was detained under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act.

Gardai are awaiting the results of detailed forensic and fingerprint tests conducted at the mid-terrace house where Ms Smart's body was found at 10am on Sunday morning.

Blood

Gardai had already attended the house at around 5am on Sunday morning to assist Ms Smart, who had apparently been unable to gain access to her home after returning from a night out. Less than five hours later, she was discovered dead.

The fatal assault occurred sometime between 5am and 9.45am. Gardai stressed that ascertaining Ms Smart's movements after 2am would prove crucial.

Officers are now examining CCTV footage to determine her precise movements over the course of the evening.

They have again appealed to anyone who spotted Ms Smart in the town on Saturday night or early Sunday morning to contact them. Superintendent Flor Horan said every piece of information was potentially vital.

"The matter is under investigation here in Midleton and we are appealing for witnesses who were in the Bailick Court and Bailick Road area of Midleton between 3am and 9.45am (Sunday). We particularly want to talk to anyone who was in the vicinity of Bailick Court."

Officers have conducted door-to-door inquiries in the general Bailick Court area to determine if anyone heard or saw anything suspicious between 2am and 10am on Sunday.

A Midleton GP attended Ms Smart's home at 10am on Sunday after the alarm was raised by a local man who dialled 999.

The middle-aged woman's body was discovered lying in a pool of blood on her kitchen floor. She was partially clothed and had a severe head wound. Ms Smart was pronounced dead at the scene and gardai sealed off the house to allow for a full technical and forensic examination.

Those examinations continued until last night. Her body was later removed to Cork University Hospital (CUH), where State Pathologist Prof Marie Cassidy performed a full post-mortem examination.

The preliminary results of that examination prompted gardai to launch a full murder probe. The results of toxicology tests will not be available for several days.

Relationship

Detectives have refused to release the full post-mortem results for operational reasons.

Ms Smart was originally from Ballyhooly in north Cork but had lived in Midleton for the past three decades.

She was separated but had been in a new relationship in recent times.

Ms Smart's three children -- two sons and a daughter -- are aged in their 20s and have lived in South Wales for a number of years with her former husband. Another relative is understood to be a well-known faith healer in Wales.

The children were scheduled to fly back to Ireland yesterday evening.

Irish Independent

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