Wednesday 23 October 2019

'I just wanted someone to blame' - woman tells love triangle stab trial

Remorse: Claire McGrath was having a secret fling with Graham McKeever. Picture: Collins
Remorse: Claire McGrath was having a secret fling with Graham McKeever. Picture: Collins

Eoin Reynolds

A woman who says she saw her lover being stabbed to death by her boyfriend has told a murder trial that parts of her original statements to gardai were not true and that she "hated" her boyfriend at the time.

Claire McGrath said she was back with the accused within days of the fatal "love triangle" stabbing and despite their difficulties she still loves him. But she denied that she changed her account, given in front of a jury last Tuesday, because she loves him.

Ms McGrath (30) has been giving evidence in the trial of 40-year-old Keith Connorton of Deerpark Avenue, Tallaght who has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Graham McKeever (32) at the accused man's home on February 18, 2017. He is on trial at the Central Criminal Court.

Murder Victim.jpg
Graham McKeever

The witness told prosecuting counsel Brendan Grehan SC that she made two statements to gardai following the fatal stabbing at the home she shared with the accused.

The first statement was given in the early hours of the morning. She said she couldn't remember giving the second statement, which gardai recorded as having taken place that afternoon at Tallaght Garda Station.

She accepted that the evidence she gave to the jury last Tuesday was "inconsistent" with those statements.

Going through the inconsistencies Mr Grehan said that in her original statement she made no reference to an "innocent" explanation for Mr Connorton having a knife in his hand because he was cutting up cannabis.

She said that in her account at the time she said he was rolling a cigarette because "as ridiculous as it sounds now" she was more concerned about what the gardai would think of her having cannabis in the house.

"I think the enormity of what had happened hadn't hit home to me yet," she said.

In her original statements she said Mr Connorton, on discovering that there was another man in the bedroom, grabbed her and pushed her onto the couch.

She said this was not true, that he was crying and approached her with the knife and she moved backwards away from him and fell over the arm of a couch.

Her statement, she said, was also incorrect when it stated that Mr Connorton said, "I'll kill you".

She said he didn't threaten her with words but she did feel threatened, adding: "I knew a fight was going to ensue but I didn't know who was going to get the brunt of it. I was in fear of what I had done, of the whole situation."

She accepted that he did call her a "dirty tramp" and that she let out a scream or a shout as she fell over the couch just before Mr McKeever entered the room.

Her statement reads that a fight broke out and Mr McKeever tried to block punches from the accused.

This, she said today, was not true and she added that she does not accept that is what she said at the time.

The witness said the names are mixed up, that she would have said that the accused tried to block punches from the deceased.

She also objected to a record in her statement that she told Mr Connorton, "stop, you are going to kill him" or that she told him to stop because "your son is in the other room".

Mr Grehan put it to her that in her original statement she said that "Keith was trying to stab Graham".

She said Mr Connorton had "ample opportunity" to stab him but held the knife down to his side as Mr McKeever punched him repeatedly in the face.

She said the accused then used the knife in a "defensive movement" which she later described as a "swipe". She didn't see the knife go in but she heard Mr McKeever say, "he got me".

She denied that she had seen Mr Connorton stab the deceased "about three times" as it said in her statement.

Her statement added that following the stabbing Mr Connorton took up a knife with a serrated edge but she told Mr Grehan that she did not see the second knife until she saw it in a photograph taken by gardai.

She accepted she might have mentioned a second knife to the gardai but that if she did, she lied.

She told Mr Grehan that she loves the accused and although their relationship was "on and off" she always loved him.

Mr Grehan asked her if that is why her account now differs to the one she gave at the time.

She replied: "No. I think I'm trying to be as fair as I can because at the time I hated him [Mr Connorton] for what he had done. I hadn't accepted yet that it was my responsibility. I just wanted somebody to blame."

She added that she doesn't believe gardai are conspiring against her but that she thinks she "may have been unclear" when giving her statements.

"I watered it down. I didn't want to accept that it was my doing," she said.

The trial continues on Monday in front of Justice Tony Hunt and a jury of nine men and three women.

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