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Couple knifed to death as children slept, trial told

A 25-YEAR-OLD man yesterday denied that he murdered two people and seriously assaulted another in a house where six children were sleeping.

In the Central Criminal Court in Dublin, the State alleged that Mark Nash ``laid into'' his girlfriend and her married sister and brother-in-law and stabbed the couple to death in August last year.

Mark Nash (25), whose last address was on Clonliffe Road, Drumcondra, Dublin, pleaded not guilty to two counts of the murder of Catherine Doyle (28) and Carl Doyle (29) at Caran, Ballintober, Castlerea, Co Roscommon on August 16, 1997.

He also denied a further count of unlawfully and maliciously causing grievous bodily harm, with intent, to Sarah Jane Doyle in the same place on the same date.

Opening the trial yesterday, prosecution counsel Michael Durack SC told the jury that the background to the case lay with Sarah Jane Doyle, a young girl, not yet 20, who lived with her family in Hartstown, Clonsilla in Dublin.


Sarah Jane left school when she was 15 or 16, and after working locally, started to work in various hamburger joints in the city centre.

In March last year she had a baby, and about four weeks after the birth she and her sister went to a nightclub in Harcourt Street, where she first met the accused.

She got on well with Mr Nash and agreed to meet him the next day. The pair had in common the fact that both were parents of infants from previous broken relationships, Mr Durack said.

Their relationship developed and ultimately, they moved with the two infants into a flat in Clonliffe Road which they shared with friends.

The jury would hear from witnesses of a row between Mark Nash and Sarah Jane Doyle on August 13 last year, during which there was ``a lot of shouting and roaring'' and a television broken.

Prior to this time, Sarah Jane's sister Catherine had moved with her husband and children from Dublin to Roscommon under the Rural Resettlement Programme. They acquired a house in Caran, near Castlerea, where they lived with their four children, all under the age of seven.

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Carl Doyle worked in a local meat factory and Mr Durack said the family didn't mix with their neighbours and were regarded as quiet.

On Friday, August 15, 1997, Mark Nash, who had a job ``near the canal'' in Dublin, left work at around 5pm and picked up Sarah Jane and the two infants from the flat, from where they set out to travel by train to her sister's house in Roscommon.

En route, Mark Nash may have had two drinks and Sarah Jane Doyle, a beer. They arrived between 8:30 and 9pm and were collected from the station by Carl Doyle. On the way to his home, they stopped in Ballintober and purchased a bottle of vodka, a bottle of American whiskey and some soft drinks.

By 9:30pm they were sitting in the Doyle's living room, smoking and drinking. A flagon of cider was opened and they also took cannabis.

Though it is illegal, cannabis is regarded as one of the least dangerous of drugs, Mr Durack pointed out, ``and people of the generation we are talking about here would have been very au fait with it''.

Mark Nash had brought a camera with him, and photos were taken at the time. The four Doyle children were upstairs, while the two infants of Sarah Jane Doyle and Mark Nash were asleep on a couch in the living room where the group had gathered.

It appeared, said Mr Durack, that around midnight Carl Doyle had fallen asleep, and the two sisters had gone upstairs to sort out sleeping arrangements.

By this time Mark Nash had apparently been feeling unwell and had been in the toilet for around 45 minutes. He said later that while there he vomited out whatever he had taken.


Catherine and Sarah Jane Doyle were still in an upstairs bedroom, its door ajar, re-arranging mattresses, when Mark Nash came up the stairs carrying ``a metal item'', a tool used to open the fuel cap on a Stanley range.

``He initially laid into Sarah Jane with this'', Mr Durack told the jury, and something to the effect of ``You're going to die'' was said.

When Catherine attempted to intercede on her sister's behalf, the accused turned on her. A number of blows were struck and Sarah Jane was knocked out, Mr Durack continued. When she awakened, she found Catherine was no longer upstairs, but Mark Nash had come again and ``laid into her again''.

The prosecution alleges the accused pushed Ms Doyle down the stairs and hit her again. As a result she suffered a depressed fracture of her skull, bruising and leg injuries.

At this stage, Sarah Jane ``pretended to be dead'', but later managed to drag herself out of the house to neighbours about a quarter of a mile away.

They alerted the gardai, who found Sarah Jane covered in blood and in an ``extremely distressed state''.

Gardai gained access through the back door of the Doyles' house, and on the floor in front of a Stanley stove in the dining room, they found the body of Catherine Doyle. She had some 16 wounds in all, and had died from loss of blood. There was also some evidence of an attempt to strangle her.

When gardai went through to the living room, they found Carl Doyle sitting with his head tilted to one side, dead. He had at least four wounds to his left chest.

A search was then organised for Mark Nash, who had made his way across some fields, breaking into two houses along the way, and taking a racing bike from one and clothes from another.

He then travelled to Castlerea, Dunmore and Tuam, until he was arrested outside Galway city on the following day.

En route, he had broken into another house and stolen a hammer which he later used to threaten the gardai who arrested him.

He had also broken into the house of an elderly lady whose son attempted to restrain him. During this time, Mr Nash had been ``very difficult to handle'', Mr Durack said, and had made no attempt to give himself up.

He had since made a number of oral and written admissions to gardai and had written a number of letters to Sarah Jane Doyle in which he admitted killing Carl and Catherine Doyle and attacking Sarah Jane.

The prosecution counsel said he felt the jury would be satisfied there was no suggestion that either the deceased or the accused had been very drunk.

A post-mortem examination had found Carl Doyle had 159mg of alcohol in his blood while his wife had 231mg as compared to the old drink-driving limit of 100mg.

In a statement, Mark Nash said there was a forty pound deal of cannabis bought, ``but we don't know how much they had smoked'', Mr Durack said. Nash also stated that he had not taken ecstasy or other drugs in three months.

The Garda investigation turned up a knife with a broken blade which it is alleged had been used to kill Carl Doyle. Another knife, which the prosecution said was used to kill Catherine Doyle, was found in the back yard close to blood-stained timber.

Both were boning knives, consistent with the deceased man having worked in a meat factory. To ``lay into'' someone and give them a depressed fracture of the skull could not be done with anything other than intent, Mr Durack alleged.

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