Monday 23 September 2019

Pensioner weeps as he's found not guilty of murdering 'violent, abusive' partner

Free: Desmond Duffy is accompanied from the Criminal Court of Justice after being found not guilty of the murder of his partner Des Sullivan. Photo: Tony Gavin
Free: Desmond Duffy is accompanied from the Criminal Court of Justice after being found not guilty of the murder of his partner Des Sullivan. Photo: Tony Gavin

Eoin Reynolds

Pensioner Desmond Duffy walked free from court yesterday after being found not guilty of murdering his "abusive" and "violent" partner, 59-year-old Desmond 'Dessie' Sullivan.

Mr Duffy (70) cried quietly and whispered "thank you" as the jury left the courtroom having spent seven hours and 11 minutes considering its verdict following a nine-day trial. Mr Duffy said from the outset that he was acting in self-defence after his partner of 36 years attacked him in the kitchen of their home in Somerville Park, Rathmines, Dublin 6.

At 4.46pm, the jury returned with its verdict. Justice Paul McDermott thanked the members of the jury and exempted them from further jury duty for 10 years. He then turned to Mr Duffy and told him he was discharged.

Mr Duffy then turned to his legal counsel and asked: "Can I go?" Outside court, his supporters hugged him as he prepared to return home.

The trial heard that Mr Duffy called Garda Maurice Ward, who is married to a niece of the deceased, shortly after 10pm on May 23, 2016, to say there was "trouble" and could he come over urgently.

Gda Ward arrived about 30 minutes later and found the body of Mr Sullivan in the kitchen.

The accused took to the stand in his own defence during the trial, telling defence counsel Caroline Biggs he was not there to blacken Mr Sullivan's name. "You don't spend 36 years of your life with somebody you don't love. We had our problems, but Dessie also had his good sides," Mr Duffy said.

He told Ms Biggs that he was defending himself from an attack by his "abusive" and "violent" partner. He added: "I feel so sorry for his family, especially his mother who I was very close to, his sister and others, but I'm still grieving, devastated and heartbroken by what happened. I have lost my partner of 36 years and I will never ever get over that."

He further told his trial: "It was never my intention to hurt him or injure him."

Mr Duffy said he stayed with Mr Sullivan despite the abuse. "I covered it up and I denied it," he said, "and at the end of the day I did love the man."

State Pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy said Mr Sullivan died from compression of the neck causing a lack of oxygen to the brain. Mr Sullivan had hypertensive heart disease and a combination of alcohol and diazepam in his blood stream which may have contributed to his death, making him vulnerable to arrhythmia of the heart. She found evidence of tiny haemorrhages around the eyes which she said were common in cases involving asphyxiation. She said the haemorrhages showed that the airway was blocked for "some seconds".

Bruising around the Adam's apple was consistent with Mr Duffy's explanation that he used a pincer-like grip of the fingers and thumb of his right hand when he reached out to defend himself.

The trial heard from multiple witnesses that Mr Duffy had been the victim of domestic abuse for about three decades.

Anne Quinlan said she got a lift home from a wedding in Killiney in the mid-1980s with the two men and as Mr Duffy drove Mr Sullivan started punching him in the face, head and upper body and screaming at him.

Melissa Farrell recalled seeing Mr Sullivan dancing at the crematorium on the morning of Mr Duffy's brother's funeral. Later that day, Mr Sullivan dumped a basket of sausages and chips on Mr Duffy's head.

There were other incidents and Mr Duffy said in evidence that he would sometimes stay in a hotel to avoid the abuse.

On the night Mr Sullivan died, the two men had been drinking in Rathmines and returned home around 9pm.

Neighbours heard raised voices, and one said it was different because Mr Duffy seemed to be arguing back.

Mr Duffy said that when they got home Mr Sullivan started punching him and pulling his hair. Mr Duffy went to bed, hoping to defuse the situation, but Mr Sullivan followed him.

Mr Duffy went downstairs and the row continued with Mr Sullivan punching Mr Duffy. Mr Duffy said he raised his arm to defend himself and pushed Mr Sullivan towards an alcove in the kitchen.

He said Mr Sullivan was pushing against him but then slid down the wall and fell on his side.

Irish Independent

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