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Saturday 29 April 2017

Judges rule wife killer Kearney's intruder defence was 'off any scale'

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

THE suggestion that an unknown intruder murdered hotelier Siobhan Kearney and contrived her murder to look like like a suicide is "off any scale" of either probability or possibility, a court found yesterday.

Yesterday the Court of Criminal Appeal, giving its written reasons for rejecting her husband Brian Kearney's bid to have his murder conviction overturned, said that circumstantial evidence in the murder case was of a "compelling nature".

Brian Kearney (52), who was found guilty at the Central Criminal Court in March 2008 of murdering his wife, did not attend yesterday's brief hearing.

The family of the late Siobhan Kearney, who was found dead at her home at Carnroe, Knocknashee, Goatstown, Dublin, on February 28 2006, also stayed away from the hearing.

Kearney was convicted of his 38-year-old wife's murder by a majority jury verdict of 11 to one, receiving a mandatory life sentence. Rejecting Kearney's claim that the quality of the circumstantial evidence in the case against him was insufficient to exclude the possibility that someone else killed his wife, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns said he did not accept the argument that the quality of the circumstantial evidence in the case was poor.

"On the contrary, the compelling nature of the circumstantial evidence was such to exclude every other reasonable possibility in the case," said Mr Justice Kearns who is the incoming President of the High Court.

The court noted yesterday that a theory that Siobhan Kearney had committed suicide, a possibility raised by the defence during the original murder trial, was not pursued on appeal and the defence now accepted that she did not take her own life.

The three-judge court, led by Mr Justice Kearns, said that Kearney's appeal "is effectively transformed into an invitation to the court" -- without any evidence in support -- to speculate that an unknown intruder had carried out the murder.

That intruder, the judge said, did not steal or remove any belongings and "came and went unseen at a busy time in the morning".

"This possibility, measured in the context of all the evidence that was given, is so remote and unlikely as to be off any scale of either probability or possibility," the judge said.

During the trial, the prosecution argued Siobhan Kearney was planning to leave her husband and to move into a new home the couple had built.

Motive

But Kearney objected to his wife's plans and strangled his wife with a vacuum cleaner flex before attempting to make her death look like a suicide.

In the appeal, Kearney claimed the conviction was "manifestly unsafe" because of the lack of evidence. .

It was also claimed in the appeal that the trial judge had erred by allowing into evidence a reference to the fact Siobhan Kearney had kept a diary on the advice of her solicitor to keep notes on the relationship with her husband for use in family law proceedings.

It was claimed that the references to the diary during the trial had prejudiced Kearney.

However, Mr Justice Kearns said the court was satisfied the diary was relevant evidence in the trial as it "could only relate to the state of mind of the deceased and not the defendant".

While this evidence did not supply a motive for the murder, it was a relevant strand in the circumstantial evidence which, in conjunction with other evidence, "builds up, block by block" the edifice of circumstantial evidence on which the prosecution relies, the judge said.

Irish Independent

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