Colm Deely sentenced to life for strangling woman
A Co Clare man who strangled a woman he claimed was blackmailing him before dumping her body has been sentenced to life in jail.
FAS worker Colm Deely (41), of School Road in Ballyvaughan, had pleaded not guilty to murdering Deirdre McCarthy (43), between 11pm on March 27, 2011 and noon the following day.
But the jury of seven women and five men found the father-of-two guilty by unanimous verdict in just under three hours of deliberation at the Central Criminal Court on Wednesday.
Today Mr Justice Barry White said he was handing down the mandatory life sentence and that he had no discretion in the matter.
Ms McCarthy was socialising in a local pub with friends including Deely on the night she went missing.
The court heard Ms McCarthy’s body was found on Fanore Beach four days after later and that Deely did not take part in the search to find her.
It also heard that after her body was found Deely had attempted to take his own life by stabbing himself in the stomach and was hospitalised.
Deely told gardai they were “fooling around” in Ms McCarthy’s bed and put his hands around her neck but did not mean to kill her.
He claimed Ms McCarthy started laughing at him, that she was blackmailing him for money saying that she would tell Deely’s wife and children.
Mr Patrick Giblin SC defending told the court that his client was sorry for what he had done but “intended no harm”.
“He wishes it to be known he was judged by the jury in legal terms. But my client wishes it to be known he intended no harm in a lay man’s sense and he wishes to apologise to all concerned and hopes someday his apology might be accepted,” said Mr Giblin.
Ms McCarthy’s sister Helen Geoghegan read a victim impact statement on behalf of the family.
“I don’t think we will ever be able to truly put into words the devastation that we still feel each and every day,” said Ms Geoghegan.
“Dee was a happy, easygoing person who lived a very simple life. She didn’t have much need for the material things in life but she was a very caring person who loved life.
“She went to work, socialised with her friends and also loved spending time with her family, especially all the children in her life, her nephews and nieces.
“On Monday March 28 the day Dee was missing, we were all shocked and confused as to where she was and what had happened to her.
“This was not Dee. She would never take off and not say anything to anyone. It was so out of character for her. As time passed it meant that we were now in a search party looking for Dee.
“We could not believe this was happening - it was so surreal. In the following days the fear was building in us as to where she was and we were very uncertain of the outcome but we were clinging on to the hope that she would return home.
“It haunts us to think how scared and petrified she was that night. Now knowing that the person that did this was asked during the search by my sister and I, did he see or know anything of Dee’s whereabouts he just stood there and blatantly said “no” and for the last two years seeing him, he just looks at us and doesn’t appear to care for what he has done.
“There is no closure as we so often hear. There is no moving on and there is nothing and I mean absolutely nothing that makes feel better.
“They say time is a great healer but we would not agree with this. The only thing time has done for our family is to make this tragic loss of Dee more real.
“We have agonised over Dee’s death and for the rest of lives we will have so many unanswered questions.
“Deirdre’s death was totally unnecessary and has left our family to grieve for the rest of our lives.”
Ms McCarthy, who worked in a B&B in Ballyvaughan was a mutual friend of Deely’s and he had known her for up to 20 years.
She was also a friend of Deely’s wife and was a witness at their wedding, the court heard.
Witnesses at the trial said they were not aware that Deely and Ms McCarthy were romantically involved.
The accused’s sister Catriona Lucas told Mr Paul Greene SC prosecuting that her brother rang her from a house he was watching for somebody else the day after the body was found.
She said Deely told her that he had said goodnight to his children and that this made her a little uneasy because he repeated that he had done so.
Ms Lucas said Deely told her he and Ms McCarthy had been “together” and she told him that “he could forget about the money and she wanted more” saying she would tell his wife and two boys.
Deely told gardai in an interview that he went to Ms McCarthy’s house where he said he was drinking a lot of vodka and the pair were lying on the bed.
“We were kissing and cuddling, I can’t remember if we had sex”, he said.
“She said you can forget about your money…she was laughing at me,” Mr Deely told gardai.
“I must have rolled over and was holding her by the neck…it all happened in a flash,” he said.
When asked in the interview if putting his hands around her neck caused her death he said: “I’d say so but I did not mean it.”
“I was just lying on the bed…I put my hand on her neck and hurt her,” he added.
“I panicked…I did not know what to do”, he said.
He said he removed her from the house by “half lifting and half dragging her” and when he put her in the car she was not breathing nor answering him.
“I stopped the car…I put her over the wall…she rolled down to the sea…Jesus, I didn’t mean any of it,” he said.
“I lifted her out and put her over the wall…I could hear her rolling down to the sea”, he added.
“I meant none of it to happen…something went out of control,” he said.
Deely’s counsel Mr Martin Giblin SC defending had raised the defences of provocation and of lack of intent during the trial.
The prosecution said there was no evidence to say that Deely has a propensity to lose self-control, which is necessary for a defence of provocation.
Mr Greene said that Deely’s evidence that he was only intimate with Ms McCarthy on two occasions before he was married was not credible.
Assistant State Pathologist Dr Khalid Jabbar gave evidence that the cause of death was asphyxia due to manual strangulation and that blunt force trauma to the head, trunk and extremities was a contributing factor to the death.
But another pathologist Professor Jack Crane giving evidence for the defence told the court that bruising found on the body did not indicate Ms McCarthy was assaulted before she died.