Tuesday 12 December 2017

A hard life ended in most brutal fashion

Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

BRIAN McGrath's life began very much as it ended, in dramatic and cruel circumstances.

As an infant in August, 1944, he was abandoned on the side of a road. He may well have died but for a passer-by chancing upon him wrapped in a tablecloth on the roadside between Nobber, Co Meath, and Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan.

The good samaritan brought him to a nunnery in Dundalk, Co Louth, where he was taken in and given a name.

Seven years later he was moved to the harsh surroundings of the industrial school in Artane, Co Louth.

He would meet his future wife Vera in 1960 when he was aged 16 and she was 12. Shortly afterwards he joined the British army and was abroad for a few years.

After his return he got together with Vera. The couple moved to London where they were married in 1966. They returned to Ireland two years later after the birth of their first child Veronica, staying with Vera's mother in Finglas.

It wasn't long before they emigrated again, this time to Wales, where they worked on a farm. They had three other children, Andrew, Brian Jnr and Edward. Eventually they returned to Dublin, before moving to a bungalow on the outskirts of Coole, a sleepy village in Co Westmeath in 1979.


Locals initially formed the impression that the new arrivals had a very loving relationship. Neither of them drank and they were considered quiet individuals. However, it wasn't long before this impression was shattered.

One neighbour recalls how Veronica called to their home on several occasions to alert the local garda station about bust-ups between her parents.

There were also problems with illness. Mr McGrath spent some time in St Loman's mental hospital in Mullingar.

Veronica later went to live in England, where she would meet Liverpudlian Colin Pinder. The couple returned to Ireland in February 1987 to marry and borrowed a caravan to live in close to their parents' home.

Then around the end of March or early April, Mr McGrath vanished.

Locals believed he had deserted his family and gone to live in England or Holland. Vera McGrath spoke to neighbours in disparaging terms about how he never even sent a card on her birthday or their anniversary.

By 1993 the carefully constructed story surrounding Mr McGrath's disappearance was beginning to unravel. Veronica went to a social worker in England and claimed her father had been killed by her husband and her mother.

The death had been brutal, she claimed. She alleged her mother had wanted her father dead and whipped Pinder up into a murderous frenzy, taunting him that he was not man enough to do it.

She claimed Pinder chased after her father with a slash hook before cornering him and beating him to death. A lump hammer, spanner and monkey wrench were also used. Her mother had also joined in.

Her father's remains were buried at the back of the bungalow. Some weeks later they were dug up and burnt before being buried again.

Irish Independent

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