'I hated him for what he was doing to her' - Teen whose father strangled his mother to death breaks down in court
A teenage boy whose mother was strangled to death by his father has broken down in court as he described their home life before the killing, saying: "I hated him for what he was doing to her."
Daniel Maguire (14) said his father Danny Keena had been a "bully", was abusive to his mother Brigid Maguire, would "pick on her", and on an earlier occasion spilled "a drum of milk over her head for no reason."
At one point, his cross-examination had to be halted when he became upset and members of his family sobbed in the public gallery as he said: "I can't do this."
Daniel was giving evidence by video link in the trial of his father.
Mr Keena (55), a farmer from Empor, Ballynacargy, Co Westmeath denies the murder of his estranged partner Ms Maguire (43) at Main Street, Ballynacargy on November 14, 2015.
Their daughter Jade found her mother strangled on the floor. The prosecution has not accepted his manslaughter plea.
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Today, Remy Farrell SC, prosecuting, asked Daniel to describe how family life had been before his mother and the children moved out.
“It was really bad because he would never leave my mother alone and he’d always pick on her,” he said. “He would threaten her and say everything is your fault and all this. He would say I'd kill you and the whole lot.”
He described an incident in which he said his father poured milk over his mother’s head.
“He came in with the milk and spilled it all over her hair and she hadn’t done anything to him,” he said. “I told her that I hated him for what he does be doing to her.”
He told the court about another earlier incident in which he said the accused had a hammer and was threatening his mother.
He and his sister Jade were trying to hold him off and his father told them to go away, then went and got a poker, he said.
“If we went away he would have done something really bad to my mother,” he said.
Daniel said the accused “wouldn’t let us leave” and he slept in his mother’s bed that night but he could not sleep at all.
His mother told him his father had broken a Sky box in her room on another occasion.
The witness told Mr Farrell other incidents were “just threats” and the accused would “say everything was her fault.”
His father gambled and he “would always take everything out on Mammy and I would say ‘why do you taken everything out on her?’”
His father was not happy when they moved out, he agreed with Mr Farrell. His mother had tried to leave before but “he would always find a way to stop her.”
“It was good to get away, “ Daniel said. “Mammy was happy that she wasn’t getting no more abuse.”
He said his father started threatening her again and would call to the house.
In cross-examination, Colm Smyth SC, defending, asked Daniel if it was true that his father had an interest in him playing football and bought him football boots.
“No, my mother bought me everything,” he said.
Mr Smyth asked him if his father had brought him to matches and if he enjoyed it and got on well with him.
“Yeah, up until he started getting more aggressive with my mother,” he replied.
Mr Smyth said the family had lived in Empor for 11 and a half years and the arguments started a short time before they left.
“They never really talked to each other,” Daniel said. “He used to start in on her for nothing.”
“He did nothing only start trouble, my mother did everything for me,” he said.
Asked about missing school after they left his father, Daniel said he was afraid in case his father would meet him on the road.
His mother was “afraid to let him near me in case he would take me,” he said.
Asked if he had seen the milk incident, he told Mr Smyth: “He had a drum of milk in his hand and he poured it over her head for no reason at all.”
He then broke down in tears and said “I can’t do this.” He was given a break from evidence and returned a short time later.
Asked why he had not mentioned in his statement that he had been afraid his father would snatch him when he was going to school, he said he “just didn’t think of it then.”
“I couldn’t tell anyone because I would end up breaking down,” he said.
The accused sat shaking his head and weeping into a handkerchief at the end of his son's evidence.
Earlier, John Hayden BL, prosecuting, read out the memos of the accused’s fourth and fifth interviews, given at Mullingar Garda Station on November 16 and 17, 2015.
In the fourth interview, gardai asked if he had left Ms Maguire at any time and returned on the night she was killed.
The accused had replied that he thought he went downstairs to get a glass of water, to put in her mouth to “help her.” He said he was not sure if he brought the water up or not, then added: “I ran up without it, I kind of panicked.”
“I came up to revive her but she was gone,” he said.
He told gardai he felt her pulse and her forehead. He said he did not give her the kiss of life and was asked if he carried out any chest compressions.
Mr Keena replied that he spent about five minutes trying to revive her, that rubbed her chest, trying to get her to breathe and rubbed her belly.
He was asked how much force he had used on her neck.
“Good force on her neck but I didn’t mean to kill her, it was a pure accident, I didn’t mean to kill her, I was completely gone,” he said.
“I don’t know what got into me. She is too good of a person, after 25 years I would never kill her and leave the children without a mother,” he told gardai.
Asked if he had ever tried to choke her he said he “did once,” one night a few months earlier.
There was a “little argument” and “I just got my arms around her neck for a few seconds, she said let me go and I did let her go.”
He said Ms Maguire was “not hurt” and did not lose consciousness then, and he put her sitting on the couch at the patio door.
“She said ‘this shouldn’t have happened and we’ll leave it at that’”, he told gardai.
“I didn’t mean to do it that evening either,” he said.
He said on one occasion she had hit him with a brush and he did not hit her that time.
Asked if he had a temper, he told gardai “a little bit” and said everyone knew he had one.
About losing his temper, he said: “It takes a lot for me but when I do, it’s pure temper alright.”
Of his gambling habit, he said he would “sometimes” blow his wages. He said he suffered from depression.
Asked about the alleged earlier incident in which his daughter Jade had said he had taken a hammer out from behind his back, he denied this, saying he had a hammer in his pocket.
He said Ms Maguire knew he had a temper and hit him in the face, hoping he would hit her.
She scraped his face and he “lost it” but “didn’t mean to kill her.”
Mr Keena told gardai he was aware of his strength.
In the final and fifth interview, on the morning of November 17, gardai put the results of the post mortem examination to the accused.
He was told significant bruising had been found under her jaw.
“It must have been my hands when I was choking. I didn’t let go,” he said.
Asked about her neck injuries, he said he had “fair power in his two hands” but his right was stronger. He said there had been blood coming from Ms Maguire’s mouth and “that is why I stopped.”
The gardai asked him about the fracturing of the hyoid bone in her throat and the blood around it which indicated she was alive when it happened.
“It must have been my hands. I tried to bring her back,” he said.
He again said he used “fair pressure” on her neck, adding: “I didn’t know what I was at, I lost control of myself, I didn’t know what I was at at that moment.”
He did not call an ambulance because he panicked.
“I was out of my mind at that time, my head was gone,” he said.
Gardai put it to him that it would have been “much easier if Brigie wasn’t around” and he had the children with him, so he killed her.
“No, I could have done that long ago,” he said.
He said all he wanted when he went to her house was to make arrangements to get his son but “she wasn’t having it.”
He repeated that he did not mean to kill her. Gardai asked him about not going through with attempts to take his life afterwards.
“I was out of my mind altogether. When I put the rope around my neck in the shed I seen Daniel in my mind,” he said, adding that when he was in the water in the river he “seen his face.”
When he went to the Burke’s house the next day, he “told them it was a pure accident.”
The accused told gardai both he and Ms Maguire had joint ownership of their house at Empor and there was an outstanding €19,000 mortgage.
This was not a source of tension between them, he said.
On the night of their confrontation, he saw a letter from Permanent TSB in her room and picked it up but she told him to “leave it down, it’s my business.”
Gardai asked if the letter put the house in danger. He replied no, they had got other letters before.
“I was in no rage going up those stairs to talk to her,” he said.
Asked how he would feel if Ms Maguire had been in another relationship, he said “If she came out into the open, I wouldn’t mind.”
“On Saturday night, I did not go up to kill my woman, it was just an accident that happened,” he said. “I would never kill her after 25 years together.”
Cross-examined by Colm Smyth SC, defending, Detective Sergeant Brian Willoughby agreed that the accused had been co-operative with the investigation.
He had no previous convictions and had "never darkened a court before", Mr Smyth said.
"Not to my knowledge," Det Sgt Willoughby said. He also did not know of any prosecution following any complaint by Ms Maguire.