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Bare-knuckle boxer beat wife to death in an 80-minute attack

A BARE-knuckle boxer who starred in the movie 'Knuckle' has been handed a life sentence for murdering his wife in a vicious and sustained assault in their Dundalk home.

Michael McDonagh (36), of College Manor, Hoey's Lane, Dundalk, Co Louth, pleaded guilty before the Central Criminal Court to the murder of his wife Jacqueline McDonagh on August 29, 2012.

The mum-of-three was "brutally beaten to death" by her husband of 15 years in an attack that lasted for an hour and 20 minutes.

The court heard there were several unsuccessful attempts by Mrs McDonagh to call her father and her mobile phone was found under her dead body.

It's understood she was attacked with a baseball bat and garden shears.

Michael McDonagh appeared in the 2011 documentary Knuckle and the couple's 1997 marriage was shown on the film.


The award-winning documentary, which followed violent feuding between the McDonagh, the Nevin and Joyce families, was filmed between 1997 and 2007.

Counsel for Mr McDonagh, Caroline Biggs SC, told the court yesterday that she had been expecting to seek a jury trial but her instructions had changed in the previous few minutes.

Before Justice Paul Carney, Detective Inspector Patrick Marry, a senior investigating officer in charge of the investigation, told the court about a call being placed to the ambulance emergency services in Dundalk in August 2012.

On arrival the ambulance personnel found an unresponsive female with "suspicious injuries".

Miss Biggs explained to the court how Mr McDonagh was "in a very distressed state" and pleaded with the ambulance service to help.

The family had been at a party previously and alcohol had been consumed. CCTV from a number of hours previous to the murder, show the dad-of-three getting out of his car in good form and "dancing".

The defence told the court, the couple had been in "good form" at the party and there had been "no issues".

The court heard that gardai were then called when it became apparent that Mrs McDonagh had been assaulted.

Mrs McDonagh was prounounced dead at the scene. She was found lying on her back, with her feet facing the front door. She had no clothes on except for underwear.

A mobile phone was found under her body.

Det Insp Marry told the court there was a gash to her forehead and a large amount of blood on the walls and ceiling.

Dr Michael Curtis, the State Pathologist, arrived on the scene and carried out a post-mortem of the deceased.

The findings included extensive and severe injuries with extensive bruising to much of the body surface areas.

There was six pattern bruises to Mrs McDonagh's left thigh, which would have resulted from blows "with a baton-like instrument".

Mrs McDonagh also had three large penetrating wounds to her scalp which would have been "bleeding profusely".

The court heard there were wounds to her left forearm and penetrating wounds to her shins. Mrs McDonagh's injuries were sustained from an implement with long handles used to "trim off a lawn" which was found at the scene.

Michael McDonagh had been unemployed at the time and was noted for being a bare-knuckle fighter.

During the course of their marriage Michael was "physically and mentally cruel" to Jacqueline, the court heard.


McDonagh was described in the statement as a "domineering and controlling man" who was "excessively jealous of her close ties" to her brothers, sisters and parents.

Despite his "unpredictable violent behaviour", the court heard how "sadly" the mother of three would always return to her violent husband as he threatened to hurt her immediate family.

In a further blow following the murder, the statement read that Michael McDonagh refused to release Jacqueline's remains for 11 days to the family which broke their children's hearts and had a "devastating effect".

Justice Paul Carney handed down a life sentence to Michael McDonagh backdated to September 1, 2012.