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Murder accused's baseball bat attack on victim's son

A woman accused of murdering a 66-year-old man hit his son over the head with a baseball bat shortly before she struck the deceased with her car, a court heard.

Giving evidence on the opening day of the Claire Nolan murder trial, witness Josephine Cunningham told the court that the accused had been drinking in her house with her daughter on the night Michael Duffy was killed, and that she "probably wasn't in the right frame of mind" at the time.

Ms Cunningham described at the Central Criminal Court how Nolan thought Mr Duffy's son had been trying to steal her new car, and became involved in a row with him during which she hit him across the head.

Nolan (23), of Sheephill Green in Blanchardstown, denies murdering Mr Duffy at Well View Grove in Blanchardstown, on January 26, 2008.

The retired taxi driver died after he was struck by a car in the driveway of his son Francis Duffy's home in Blanchardstown.

He had driven there from his home in Cavan.

Nolan has admitted manslaughter, but the State refused to accept the plea.

Patrick Gageby, prosecuting, told the jury that it was the State's argument that Mr Duffy's "death was attributable... to the driving of the car by Claire Nolan."

He said: "You will hear evidence, which I think will satisfy you, that the car was driven at some speed into the driveway, through the closed gates and right up to the house itself.

Steal

"And in doing that, Mr Duffy Snr was hit by the car and crushed to death."

Ms Cunningham, who lives next door to the deceased's son, Francis, said she was upstairs when she heard her daughter shouting at Nolan that someone was trying to steal her Nissan Micra, which was parked in the driveway of their house.

Nolan had just bought the car that day.

"When Claire heard that, she ran out and went and looked into the car and the radio was gone or something," Ms Cunningham said. She described the accused as being angry.

"I suppose she was annoyed, plus she was after having a few drinks so she would have been in a rage," the witness told the court.

She said she saw her neighbour, Francis, in his garden talking on his mobile phone, and that there was blood streaming down his face because the "outraged person" had "belted him" over the head with a bat.

When asked by Mr Gageby who the outraged person was, the witness replied "Claire".

Ms Cunningham said she returned inside, but heard "smashing glass and the rev of a car" and on looking out the window, saw the accused's car being reversed out of her driveway, crashing through the gates of Mr Duffy's house, and being driven up his driveway.

She said she couldn't see who was driving the car at the time, but she saw her daughter's boyfriend trying to stop the car.

"(He) was standing with his hands wide open saying 'stop' and 'kill me'...

"I suppose he jumped out of the way and then Mr Duffy got it."

Ms Cunningham said she didn't know Mr Duffy had arrived on the scene until she saw him lying in the driveway next door, with his son standing over him.

During cross examination by defending solicitor Brendan Grehan, Ms Cunningham described the accused as a calm person.

Placid

"I knew Claire as a placid girl... you'd never think anything like this would happen, you know," she said.

She also said she had not seen Francis Duffy smashing the window of the accused's car, nor had she seen him with a knife. She said she didn't recall hearing her daughter's boyfriend telling the accused to leave the scene.

Nolan's car was found having been set on fire in "circumstances that are not clear" about 20 minutes after the incident.

The trial was expected to resume today before Mr Justice Barry White.

hnews@herald.ie


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