Wednesday 17 January 2018

Picturesque location the scene of unspeakable horror

The house where Vera and Brian McGrath lived in Lower Coole, Co
The house where Vera and Brian McGrath lived in Lower Coole, Co Westmeath

Eimear Ni Bhraonain

A COTTAGE surrounded by lakes was the picturesque setting of a real-life horror story.

The gruesome tale began in 1987 and involved three main characters -- Vera McGrath, her husband Brian McGrath, and Colin Pinder.

It took 23 long years -- and scientific advances in DNA -- to bring the story to its final chapter yesterday, when Colin Pinder was jailed for nine years for the "vicious" killing.

Vera (61), shared her home in Lower Coole, Co Westmeath, with her husband, Brian, and their three sons and their daughter.

Brian McGrath 'disappeared' in 1987 -- but he wasn't reported missing until his daughter, Veronica, tipped off gardai in 1993 about what happened at the family home. She only came forward after her then boyfriend threatened to tell police if she didn't.

Vera McGrath told gardai in 1993 that on a night in March or April 1987 she had told Veronica and her then fiance, Colin Pinder, that she wished her husband was dead.

Veronica said she listened to her father begging for mercy while he was brutally attacked by Pinder and her mother. She claimed Vera had hit Brian McGrath with a lump hammer while she laughed out loud. She said her mother handed Pinder a slash hook and a monkey wrench to carry out the attack.

Later, Brian McGrath's body was buried in a shallow grave at the back of the house.

Vera McGrath went to England with her three sons but returned after some weeks and she and Pinder dug up and burned Brian McGrath's remains in a bonfire at the house. His ashes were scattered, with any remaining bones concealed in drains and a septic tank.

Vera McGrath was given a life sentence in prison in July after a jury found her guilty of her husband's murder. It was the first murder conviction for the garda's cold-case unit.

Yesterday, Pinder was also sent to jail for nine years for his role in the killing. He was found not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter, to which he had pleaded guilty.

During the trial of Vera McGrath, Veronica painted a picture of a father who was neither violent nor a racist, contrary to defence claims.

She denied that he had died after a row with Pinder whom he had branded a "darkie" or "nigger".

Yesterday, Westmeath residents recalled Colin Pinder as a "hippy" who was "someone to be avoided".

"He stuck out like a sore thumb in the area. He had long hair and didn't look anything like he does today," one said.

Another resident said Brian McGrath was a "timid" man who was always seen with his children. "As we'd say in the countryside, he was a bit harmless," said the man.

Neighbours described Vera McGrath as an "eccentric" who was often seen swimming naked in a lake near her home. She told locals she did it to "cleanse" herself.

Irish Independent

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