Thursday 18 January 2018

Philip Doyle manslaughter trial sentencing adjourned

Nicola Donnelly

A Wicklow man who has been found guilty of killing his ex-fiancée’s three-and-a-half-month-old baby seven years ago is to be sentenced on Tuesday.

Philip Doyle (34) of Tinakilly, Aughrim, had pleaded not guilty at the Central Criminal Court to murdering Ross Murphy at 3 Creagh Demesne, Gorey, Co Wexford on April 5, 2005.

But following a court ruling during the four week trial, Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy directed the jury to acquit him of murder and to consider a verdict of manslaughter as he ruled the prosecution had not made a case that the jury could find, without reasonable doubt, that Doyle murdered, which is an intention to kill or cause serious harm, as they could not prove how the injuries to the baby were caused.

The jury of six men and five women returned a unanimous verdict of guilty of manslaughter after just over three hours of deliberation following the four-week trial.

Sentencing was adjourned by Mr Justice McCarthy as he said it was “an exceptional case” and he wants to consider the evidence and the victim impact statement carefully.

Ross's mother Leona's sister Adele read out a victim impact statement on behalf of Leona, who broke down in tears throughout the hearing, saying the death of baby Ross is “the worst nightmare.”

“We have been grieving Ross's death for the past seven years and our hearts ache for him. We never got the chance to see who he would look life, hear his first words, see his first steps. Leona has lost a lifetime of firsts,” Adele Murphy said.

“Ross should be making his Communion now and we have few memories which are overshadowed by what Ross went through. There is only one person to blame. Nothing nor no-one will ever replace our little angel Ross.

“He had barely started his life and now Leona's life is devastated. She is still heartbroken and there is an empty place in our hearts which will never be filled. We can't hold or cuddle Ross anymore,” she continued.

She said every year for Ross's birthday, Leona places a photograph of him beside a cake. She also said the family has “lost trust in mankind.”

“Leona put her trust in someone she thought would play a part in their lives and we all ask what we could have done to prevent this. The pain and heart ache will never go away and our lives will never be the same,” said Ms Murphy.

In a letter of apology to Ross's family which was read out by defence counsel Mr Giollaiosa O Lideadha, SC, on behalf of Doyle, who held his face in his hands in the dock, said “I want to say how very sorry I am for not telling the truth. I loved Leona and wanted to spend my life with her. I've ruined my reputation and I wish I had done things differently. I can't turn the clock back and I will have to live with the death of Ross for the rest of my life. Nothing I can do or say will change that.”

Detective Garda Joe Sullivan told prosecuting counsel Paul Carroll BL, that Doyle, a painter and decorator, was minding the baby at the home he shared with Ms Murphy while she went out to get a DVD on April 3, 2005.

Baby Ross was initially taken to Wexford General Hospital on March 31, 2005 because he was ‘lifeless’ and getting sick on the bed.

The baby was kept in for observation because of a rash on his neck and released on Sunday April 3 but returned to the hospital that evening.

He was rushed to Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin in the early hours of the next morning but died the next day of brain trauma.

Doyle started dating Ms Murphy when she was seven months pregnant - the two began living together in January 2005 and got engaged.

The infant was born in December 2004 and Doyle asked Ms Murphy for his name to be put on the baby’s birth certificate as the father.

When she refused he also contacted the births registry in Waterford who also told him it could not be done, the court heard.

The defence said the death was an accident and that Doyle fell on the wooden floor of the living room while holding the baby in his arms.

The prosecution said Doyle’s defence was based on a lie, that the injuries to the child were inflicted by him and caused the infant’s death.

The court heard Doyle changed from an account he gave in a witness statement saying the baby did not fall while he was minding him on the evening of April 3.

Three weeks later he then changed his story in an interview, telling gardai he fell while holding the infant.

State Pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy gave evidence during the trial she concluded the baby died from brain trauma from which he would not have recovered.

Prof Cassidy said such trauma would not be expected to occur in a not yet mobile child without some explanation.

She said there was deep bruising consistent with the trunk being firmly gripped and that haemorrhages inside the eyes “highly suggested a shaking incident.”

The injury to the forehead had a patterned or textured appearance and the child’s head could have been struck against a similarly patterned surface such as a carpet or sofa, Prof Cassidy told the court.

Mr Justice McCarthy said the sentence Doyle will face next Tuesday will be based on the unlawful killing excluding the question of accidental death. Doyle has been in custody since the jury's verdict on May 15.

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