Tuesday 20 February 2018

'Mother goaded my fiance into beating dad to death'

Daughter tells court dad begged for his life

Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

A WOMAN yesterday told a murder trial how her father was brutally beaten to death by her mother and former husband 23 years ago.

In halting testimony punctuated by long pauses, Veronica McGrath told the Central Criminal Court that her father Bernard was killed in a horrifying assault, with his body later buried in a shallow grave.

She alleged her mother Vera McGrath persuaded Colin Pinder, who was then Veronica McGrath's husband-to-be, to kill Bernard McGrath, taunting him that he "wasn't man enough" to do it.

The court also heard how her father, pleading for his life, begged for mercy as Mr Pinder gashed his thighs with a slash-hook at their home in Lower Coole, Coole, Co Westmeath.

Veronica said her father's body was buried in a shallow grave, only to be dug up some months later. She described a "big fire" blazing for days in which she spotted her father's rib-cage.

Finally, she claimed his remains were sifted through, and fragments disposed of in the kitchen range and the septic tank.

Vera McGrath (61) has pleaded not guilty to murdering her 43-year-old husband Bernard McGrath -- also known as Brian -- at their home in Lower Coole, Westmeath 23 years ago.


Veronica McGrath's former husband, Colin Pinder (47), of Liverpool, England, has pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to manslaughter on a date unknown between March 10 and April 18, 1987 -- the date on which the couple married at the registry office in Mullingar. His plea of manslaughter was refused.

Clad in a black summer dress and black jacket, Veronica McGrath slipped into the witness box yesterday.

She hadn't seen her husband since their marriage broke up in 1988, leaving her with a young baby to bring up alone.

Her mother, Mrs McGrath, dressed in a lemon-coloured, casual, short-sleeved shirt and a black, long, flowing skirt, sat stiffly in court.

Mr Pinder, his head shaved, was dressed all in black.

Veronica McGrath took the oath and began.

She had returned from England with Mr Pinder to get married. The couple was living in a caravan beside her parents' home in Lower Coole. But there was "always friction" between her parents and so they decided after a while to move the caravan to a neighbours' garden, two miles up the road.

Her parents visited at the end of March into the beginning of April of 1987. While her father visited the neighbours, the McCabes, her mother told her and Mr Pinder that she wished her husband was dead.

They had been fighting, Veronica McGrath told the court, taking a long pause to gather herself.

"My mother," she paused again, "said to Colin that he wouldn't be man enough."

"To do what?" prompted Denis Vaughan Buckley, senior counsel for the prosecution.

"To kill my father."

Mr Pinder said he had "the very thing"and produced a spanner -- the kind you would use to take the nuts off a car wheel.

That night, she and Mr Pinder had walked to her parents' home and she saw her mother and Mr Pinder "gesturing to one another".

Arriving at the cottage to find it locked, Veronica McGrath entered by a back bedroom window. Mr Pinder then produced the spanner and hit her father on the back of the head and he fell to the ground.

Veronica McGrath went to see to her dog and came back to see her mother coming out the back door with a slash hook and a monkey wrench.

An attack on her father ensued, as he begged for mercy, shouting he would "do anything" if only they would let him go, and asking just for the keys of his car, the court heard.

She slept in an armchair in the kitchen that night but was shaken awake by her mother to clean up the mess outside of blood and mucus on the walls. But she said it was too difficult to remove and she disguised the traces with a tar brush.

"I had three brothers asleep. I'd just like to say they were very young," Veronica McGrath said quietly.

Her mother went to England with her three sons and, when she returned, her husband's body was dug up and a big fire lit, which went on for a couple of days. The smell was "very bad" and she saw her father's rib-cage in the flames, Veronica McGrath told the court.

Later, Mr Pinder sifted through the fire and put the remains in a biscuit tin.

As she listened to her daughter's evidence in cross-questioning, in which Veronica McGrath admitted that her mother had been forced to stay in a refuge on several occasions, Mrs McGrath wept into a tissue balled up in her hand.

Veronica McGrath denied in cross-examination that her father used to beat her but agreed he had hit her mother. She said her mother had taken her and her brothers to refuges and to England.

Mr Justice John Edwards told the witness she was not obliged to answer any questions that might incriminate her.

The court heard that the DPP had decided not to prosecute her in relation to her father's death at this time but that she had not been granted immunity.

Veronica McGrath continues her evidence today.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News