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Wednesday 20 March 2019

Murdered Meg letter tells of 'death threat'

John O'Brien leaving court yesterday after being found not guilty of his wife's murder
John O'Brien leaving court yesterday after being found not guilty of his wife's murder

Shane Phelan Investigative Correspondent

MEG WALSH wrote a chilling letter just days before her murder, saying her husband John O'Brien had threatened to kill her.

In graphic detail she described how she had "made her peace with God" after her husband, a Taekwondo black-belt, viciously assaulted her -- hitting her with blow after blow of his fists and telling her she would never get out of the house alive.

She said he told her that if she reported the assault to the gardai, "he would come and kill me no matter how long it took".

The detailed contents of the letter -- revealed for the first time yesterday -- were never disclosed to the jury at Mr O'Brien's trial, which ended on Thursday.

The jury of seven men and five women at the Central Criminal Court unanimously found him not guilty of his wife's murder.

The Irish Independent can also reveal that Mr O'Brien, a bus driver, was so confident he would be cleared, he phoned his employers, Bus Eireann, on Wednesday, telling them to have a bus ready for him as he would be back at work on Monday.

Meg's teenage daughter, Sasha Keating, broke down in tears when the verdict was returned yesterday after the jury deliberated for five hours and 20 minutes.

Afterwards, Meg's devastated brother, James Walsh, said she had "lived through a terrible ordeal" and "kept her terrible difficulties to herself".

"All we can do now is to depend on the memories we have of Meg -- a great mother and terrific woman -- to keep us going," he said.

Mr O'Brien (41), who has always maintained his innocence, said in statement he now wished to grieve for his murdered wife.

Meg's letter was discovered by gardai in the days after her battered body was found floating in the River Suir in Waterford city in October 2006.

The intended recipient of the letter, which was typed on 35-year-old Meg's work computer at the Meadowcourt Homes building company, is unknown and she never got to send it.

After hearing the contents of the letter in the absence of the jury at Mr O'Brien's trial, Mr Justice Barry White said it should not be entered in evidence as it would be prejudicial.

In the letter, Meg wrote that on September 20, 2006, she had dinner with her husband and his parents.

When they returned to their home a row developed in which he threw her around their house in the upmarket Ballinakill Downs estate in Waterford and repeatedly hit her.

"He swung me down the stairs and threw blow after blow. I can't remember how many times he hit me," she wrote.

"He caught me by the throat and I banged my head off the stairs. My breathing was laboured."

According to the letter, she ran into the dining room to get her mobile phone from her handbag. But when he followed her, she sat on the phone.

Her husband asked her for the phone and when she said she didn't have it, he rang her number until the ringtone could be heard.

Grabbed

She said he then grabbed her by the hair and pulled her off the chair.

"He told me I would never get out of the house alive," she wrote.

"He told me he would kill me there and then. I said an 'Our Father' out loud and said: 'Go ahead, I've made my peace with God.'

"He said he would spare me if I never told anybody this time. If I reported it he would come and kill me no matter how long it took."

Meg said she ran towards the front window and began to shout for help when he grabbed her again to quieten her down.

She told him that if she didn't turn up for work the following day her boss would come looking for her.

"This seemed to register with him and he told me to go to bed," she wrote. "He told me to wipe the blood from my nose properly before I went to bed."

The following day she discovered that her husband had deleted the contact numbers of gardai from her phone. She went to the doctor, who was "horrified" she hadn't gone straight to the gardai.

Meg said Mr O'Brien begged for forgiveness afterwards and "couldn't understand why I wouldn't forgive him."

Admitted

During the trial it emerged Mr O'Brien had admitted to the assault in interviews with gardai. He took the stand and said that although he was a black belt he had not practised martial arts for 20 years.

He also said he was in the process of signing over the deeds of the couple's house to his wife after the assault as he wanted to save the relationship and prove to Meg "it would never happen again".

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