Saturday 18 November 2017

Mum-of-three sent message demanding €5,000 for abortion from murder accused

Anne Shortall: Owed thousands in rent arrears and unpaid bills
Anne Shortall: Owed thousands in rent arrears and unpaid bills

Andrew Phelan

Anne Shortall sent a Facebook message to a stranger weeks before she was killed, saying she wanted "€5,000 for an abortion" from murder accused Roy Webster.

The Central Criminal Court heard Ms Shortall sent a private message to the wrong profile, intending to contact a cousin of Mr Webster.

The stranger who received the message deleted it but remembered it on hearing of media reports that Ms Shortall's body had been found.

The jury also heard that Mr Webster lied to Ms Shortall's worried daughters about his meeting with her on the day she died.

Mr Webster repeatedly lied after Ms Shortall's daughters contacted him on finding a text exchange between the pair in which they were arranging to meet that day.

The jury was told he said to one daughter she had the "wrong number" and told another her mother was going to London to meet a friend.

He told gardaí who were searching for Ms Shortall, a mother-of-three and grandmother-of-three, that she had called him out of the blue after he "shifted her months ago".

Mr Webster (39) of Ashbree, Ashford, Co Wicklow denies murdering Ms Shortall (47) on April 3, 2015 at The Murrough, also in Wicklow. He has pleaded guilty to her manslaughter.

The jury previously heard he beat her to death with a hammer after she threatened to "reveal all" about a sexual encounter they had the previous December.

Stephen Armstrong recalled getting a message from an Anne Shortall at 1.30am on a date in late March 2015.

He did not know her and told the jury the message read: "Tell your mate Roy that I need €5,000 for an abortion."

He said he replied: "Sorry, you have got the wrong number because this means nothing to me."

She messaged back: "Sorry, hun", and he replied: "No worries, I hope it all works out for you."

The jury heard he was "contacted in error" and there was some "name confusion" with what appeared to be Mr Webster's cousin Steven Armstrong - spelled with a V.

Steven Armstrong said he got two Facebook messages from Ms Shortall asking: "Could you get Roy to get in contact with me?"

He passed these on to a mutual cousin of his and the accused.

Mr Armstrong relayed to Ms Shortall: "Roy is trying to contact you."

On March 28, Mr Armstrong met her in a pub and told her: "I don't want any more contact coming to my house at that hour of the morning" and she looked 'ashamed or shocked' and said "alright".

Emma Shortall (22) said her mother would always take her cigarettes and her mobile phone when she went out, but she had left her phone charging and a full box of Marlboro Lights at home on April 3, 2015.

When she rang a number for "Ashwood" on her mother's phone the next day, it went to voicemail and the name was Roy Webster. She called it again and a man answered.

"I asked him had he seen my mother because there was a text saying he was going to meet her, he said you have the wrong number," Emma Shortall told the court.

Alanna Shortall (19) said a text from Ashwood Kitchens on her mother's phone said "meet at the Leitrim" and her mother had replied: "On way."

When Alanna Shortall received no reply from the number, she texted saying: "If you don't reply to me, I am going to bring your contact number to the gardaí."

She said he replied: "All I know is she is going to meet a friend in London. As far as I know she was flying out at about seven tonight."

Both daughters said they were not aware of their mother's financial difficulties - her rent arrears or a notice of eviction she had received.

Garda Neil Doyle said he phoned the accused who told him he did briefly meet Anne Shortall at the Leitrim Lounge for a few minutes, and she was "talking about going to London to meet a friend".

"I asked him how he had met her and he said in his words he had shifted her months ago and she wanted to meet up for a relationship," Gda Doyle said. The trial continues.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

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

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News