Tuesday 21 November 2017

'Knuckle' star Michael McDonagh gets life sentence for murdering his wife in an assault that lasted "one hour and twenty minutes" in their home

Mother of three "cruelly taken from her family" when she was "brutally beaten to death" by her husband of fifteen years Michael

Michael Quinn McDonagh and Jacqueline McDonagh
Michael Quinn McDonagh and Jacqueline McDonagh

Alison O'Riordan

A life sentence has been handed down to a 36 year old ‘bare knuckle boxer’ for murdering his wife in an assault that lasted "one hour and twenty minutes" in their home in Dundalk three years ago.

Michael McDonagh of College Manor, Hoey's Lane, Dundalk Co Louth today pleaded guilty before the Central Criminal Court to the murder of his wife Jacqueline McDonagh on August 29 2012.

The court heard how the mother of three had been "cruelly taken from her family" when she was "brutally beaten to death" by her husband of fifteen years Michael, despite several unsuccessful attempts to call her father.

The court heard her mobile phone was found under her dead body.

Counsel for Mr McDonagh, Caroline Biggs SC, told the Central Criminal Court today that she had been expecting to seek a jury trial this morning but her instructions had changed in the previous few minutes.

Before Justice Paul Carney, Detective Inspector Patrick Marry, a Senior Investigating Officer in charge of the investigation, told the court about a call being placed to the ambulance emergency services in Dundalk in August 2012.

On arrival the ambulance personnel found an unresponsive female with “suspicious injuries”.

Miss Biggs explained to the court how Mr McDonagh was “in a very distressed state” and pleaded with the ambulance service to help.

CCTV footage from a number of hours previous to the murder, show the father of three getting out of his car in good form and “dancing.”

The family had been at a family party previously and alcohol had been consumed.

The defence told the court, the couple had been in “good form” at the party and there had been “no issues.”

The court heard that the Gardai were then called when it became apparent that Mrs McDonagh had been assaulted.

Pronounced dead at the scene, Jacqueline was found lying on her back, with her feet facing the front door, she had no clothes on except for underwear.

A mobile phone was found under her body.

Mr Marry told the court there was a gash to her forehead and a large amount of blood on the walls and ceiling.

Dr Michael Curtis the State Pathologist arrived on the scene and carried out a post-mortem of the deceased.

Det Insp Marry took a statement from Dr Curtis after the post mortem at  Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda in August 2012, which he today read to the court.

The findings included extensive and severe injuries with extensive bruising to much of the body surface areas.

There was six pattern bruises to her left thigh which would have resulted from blows “with a baton like instrument.”

Mrs McDonagh also had three large penetrating wounds to her scalp which would have been “bleeding profusely.”

The court heard there were wounds to her left forearm and penetrating wounds to her shins.

The court heard Mrs McDonagh’s injuries were sustained from an implement with long handles used to “trim off a lawn” which was found at the scene.

Benzodiazepines and steroids had also been found at the scene

Mr McDonagh had his blood analysed fifty two hours after the murder and traces of steroids were found in his system.

The defence told the court it was looked into at the time by a doctor, to see would these drugs have had a bearing on the assault, but there was no findings that it would have caused the offences but it “could have had a bearing on his mind.”

Michael McDonagh had been unemployed at the time and was noted for being a bare knuckle fighter.

On August 29 2012 a row had ensued between Michael McDonagh and his wife Jacqueline.

“What sparked it off is hard to know. It was a sustained attack which lasted for one hour and twenty minutes. Her phone was found under her body and there had been attempts to call her father” said Det Insp Patrick Marry.

A Victim Impact Statement was read to the court on behalf of Jacqueline’s family, by Det Insp Patrick Marry where she was described as "the apple of her father's eyes."

The statement read how Jacqueline was one of eight children and a worrier who constantly worried about her family, with her family came first.

"Words fail to describe what happened to our family when her life was snuffed out. Now all I see is sadness in my parents eyes” read Det Insp Marry on behalf of the family.

During the course of their marriage Michael was “physically and mentally cruel” to Jacqueline, the court heard.

McDonagh was described in the statement as a “domineering and controlling man” who was “excessively jealous of her close ties” to her brothers, sisters and parents.

Jacqueline always loved her name as she was named after Jacqueline Kennedy the wife of the 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy. However Michael McDonagh refused to refer to her as anything but “Jack.”

Despite his “unpredictable violent behaviour”, the court heard how “sadly” the mother of three would always return to her husband as he threatened to hurt her immediate family.

Jacqueline never took her husbands threats lightly and “the only time she had peace”, was when Michael was training for his bare knuckle boxing fights, read Det Insp Marry.

The statement read that her three children meant the world to her and brought her great amounts of joy and were according to her, her greatest achievement in life.

Jacqueline was also very much looking forward to begin planning her daughter Chloe’s wedding day, read Det Insp Marry.

“It breaks our hearts she won’t be a part of that day” and the “cruel and monstrous” way that Jacqueline was taken away, the court heard.

In a further blow following the murder, the statement read that Michael McDonagh refused to release Jacqueline’s remains for eleven days to the family which broke their children’s hearts and had a “devastating effect”.

“We died when Jacqueline died, we now have the guilt that our life will never move on. Jacqueline will never be forgotten, she lives on in her special children” concluded Det Insp Marry.

A sister of Jacqueline has since taken her three children into her care and the family acknowledged the Garda for their support as well as the Traveller Community.

Justice Paul Carney handed down a life sentence to Michael McDonagh backdated to September 1 2012.

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