Saturday 17 February 2018

Daughter of man stabbed to death hopes killer ‘gets chance to heal’

By Natasha Reid

THE daughter of a man stabbed to death by his ex-girlfriend has said she hopes the killer will be given the opportunity to heal and leave violence behind.

The victim impact statement of Michaela Joyce was read at the sentencing hearing of the 31-year-old woman, who killed her father.

Maura Thornton stabbed Kevin Joyce 18 times, when the American arrived at her Gawlay apartment uninvited. She was found guilty earlier this year of his manslaughter, having pleaded not guilty to his murder in Salthill.

Thornton sobbed in the Central Criminal Court today as Superintendent Noel Kelly outlined the events of July 31st 2011.

He explained that Thornton had met the deceased in January of that year when they attended a Celtic Studies course in NUI Galway.

He said there was a lot of alcohol in the volatile relationship, which eventually foundered.

However, Mr Joyce was still in touch with Thornton and made a considerable number of calls to her that day, which she rebuffed.

He said that CCTV footage showed Mr Joyce climbing over railings to get to her apartment that night.

He explained that Thornton’s mother and her partner were there when he arrived onto the rooftop outside her window.

“There was shouting to get away and a staring match,” he said. “A knife was taken. She left the apartment and went to the rooftop.”

He said that Thornton was pursued by her mother’s partner and was seen inflicting a large number of wounds. Mr Joyce sustained 18 stab wounds, two of which were fatal.

Thornton contacted the gardai and said she had stabbed someone. The emergency services arrived and found Mr Joyce dying.

The superintendent said that Thornton admitted her guilt and cooperated with the gardai, but a doctor found her unfit for interview that night due to alcohol consumption.

Supt Kelly said that Thornton had 27 previous convictions, including three for assault and two for possession of knives.

He said that one of the knife convictions related to Thornton calling the gardai to say she thought she’d killed someone. When gardai arrived, they found a man with two cuts to his arm.

Two of the assault convictions related to assaults on gardai, he said.

The superintendent read out a victim impact statement prepared by Mr Joyce’s daughter, Michaela, who was unable to attend court.

She said she wished to be on a path to forgiveness, but was still angry about her father’s death.

She said her father had a kind heart and was a forgiving man.

“I wish, as my Dad would wish, that Maura Thornton be given every opportunity to change the path of her own life, to heal herself and to leave violence behind her,” she wrote.

Thornton entered the witness box, sobbing as she took the oath, and described the Joyce family as gracious in its forgiveness.

She described the man she killed as boisterous, gregarious and funny, a man who often spoke of his family.

“I suppose the relationship was dominated by alcohol from day one,” she noted.

“I think about him often,” she said. “I know he’s up there and I hope he’s in a better place. Kevin will be part of my life until I meet my maker,” she continued.

“I’m not sorry. Sorry is when you bump into someone,” she said. “If I could give my left arm I would, but I can’t.”

Her mother, Breege Thornton, explained that the defendant, who had two younger brothers, was not yet seven when her father died in a car accident.

She said there was a lot of violence in the home when she remarried a number of years later, and that her daughter began cutting her arms at the age of 12, moving in with her grandparents at 15.

She said that her daughter was very close to her brother, Pádraig, who took his own life in 2007.

“It had a very bad effect on Maura, but she had been in and out of psychiatric hospital before that,” she said.

She said her daughter had been diagnosed with alcohol dependency and an emotionally unstable personality.

She testified that her daughter had been off alcohol for a few months before the killing but had contacted her the day beforehand to say she was back on it.

“She said she had no peace when she was drinking and no peace when she was sober,” she recalled.

“She took an awful overdose last summer because of what she did,” she said. “She’s very suicidal.”


The defence handed a psychiatric report to Mr Justice Barry White, who remanded the accused in custody for sentencing tomorrow (Wednesday).

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