Wednesday 25 April 2018

Man accused of murdering his partner said he'd 'run the car into her', court hears

Danny Keena admits the manslaughter of his partner Brigid Maguire

Brigid Maguire
Brigid Maguire

Andrew Phelan

A father-of-two who strangled his partner to death had said weeks earlier that he would “run the car into her” if he met her on the road, one of his nieces has told a jury.

Danny Keena (54) said in a phone call that he would then hang himself, and their children would be better off without them both, his niece Mary Wallace Jnr said.

She was giving evidence in the trial of Mr Keena, who admits the manslaughter of his partner Brigid Maguire, (43) but denies her murder.

The Central Criminal Court also heard this morning a Deputy State Pathologist found Ms Maguire had died from hypoxia caused by excessive external pressure to the neck.

Mr Keena of Empor, Ballynacargy, Co Westmeath is charged with the murder of Ms Maguire at Main Street, Ballynacargy on November 14, 2015.

Ms Maguire and their children were living at the rented house on Main Street when their daughter Jade found her strangled on the floor.

Mr Keena had fled the house after the killing and was “on the run” for 24 hours before handing himself in. The prosecution has not accepted his plea of guilty to manslaughter.

Mary Wallace Jnr, a niece of the accused, told the court today she made a phone call to Mr Keena six to seven weeks before Ms Maguire died.

“I asked him what was going on at the house in Empor, in relation to arguments with Brigie and the kids listening in on it and I said ‘it’s not right, what’s going on, the kids are terrified, they don’t want to be listening to that’.”

“He just said that his head was done in and he was sick of it all, and if he met her on the road he was going to run the car into her and then he was going to kill himself by hanging himself,” Ms Wallace said.

She told the jury when she asked the accused about the children, he said they would be “better off without both of them.”

Asked by Remy Farrell SC, prosecuting, if she believed what he had said, she replied: “I never believed he would hang himself anyway.”

In cross-examination, Colm Smyth SC, defending, put it to her she had not spoken to that side of her family since the incident.

Ms Wallace said tensions were high and added: “Danny is my uncle, this is not easy for me either.”

Mr Smyth said the accused disputed that he in any way threatened to kill Brigid Maguire by driving a car into her. He put it to Ms Wallace she had said in her statement the accused was “rambling about how Brigie had changed.”

Ms Wallace said Ms Maguire had been “standing up for herself.”

She was not aware that Ms Maguire had “a relationship” and said “the only relationship she had was with Danny.”

Ms Wallace agreed she had told Brigid Maguire about the phone call but had not gone to the gardai and had believed what the accused had said was a “throwaway remark.”

Deputy State Pathologist Dr Linda Mulligan said she carried out a post mortem examination on November 15, 2015.

She said a background had been provided to her indicating that Ms Maguire had worked as a care assistant in Mullingar General Hospital.

Dr Mulligan had been told that weeks earlier, Ms Maguire had moved out of the home she had shared with her long term partner, the accused, and this was due to “a long history of domestic abuse.”

She said she had been told Ms Maguire’s daughter found her lying on her back in an upstairs bedroom and the front door was unlocked. Her daughter had run for help, resuscitation had been attempted and she had been pronounced dead at the scene.

Photographs showed the body lying adjacent to a bed with resuscitation paraphernalia around and there were no obvious signs of a struggle, she said. She did not attend the scene herself.

The body had moderate congestion of the head and neck with pinpoint haemorrhages to the whites of the eyes.

These bleeds were normally associated with venous circulation being interrupted, Dr Mulligan said. There were bruises above and below the angle of the jaw and two superficial scratches on the neck. Internally, there was bleeding to the neck muscles and the carotid artery.

There was also a fracture of the left horn of the hyoid bone in the neck.

The force required for this fracture was such that the neck muscles would have to have been pressed and the neck constricted.

There were pinpoint haemorrhages to the trachea.

Fractures to the ribs and sternum were consistent with resuscitation attempts. The lungs were severely congested with blood.

There had been prolonged resuscitation attempts but damage to the structures of the neck were well in excess of “what one would expect” from that.

The force used had been sufficient to cause extensive bleeding to the neck muscles and to produce signs of asphyxia and death from hypoxia.

“It is my opinion that death in this case has occurred because of excessive pressure applied externally to the neck,” she concluded.

In cross-examination, Dr Mulligan agreed with Mr Smyth that death would have ensued “in seconds or minutes” depending on the individual and whether a struggle was taking place.

Mr Smyth asked if the blood supply was cut off by pressure to the neck, if death would have occurred very quickly.

“Yes it would,” Dr Mulligan replied.

Garda Seamus O’Neill said he was taken to David Burke’s house, where the accused had gone the day after the killing.

“I observed Danny Keena sitting in the corner in the living room,” Gda O’Neil said. “He appeared dishevelled and wet.”

He greeted and cautioned the accused, asking him what happened.

“He said ‘she told me that I was a bad father to Daniel’, he told me he tried to revive her, he stated that he should have called an ambulance and that he panicked and that he killed her,” Gda O’Neill said.

The accused agreed to go to Mullingar Garda Station. In interview, Garda O'Neill read the notes he had taken in the Burke’s house back to Mr Keena.

“He agreed with what I had recorded,” Gda O’Neill said.

The trial continues before a jury and Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy.

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