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Duo wait to hear fate as trial for 23-year killing nears end

IT has been a case of condensing a 23-year-old story into a 23-day trial, and for the jury charged with deliberating on the fate of Vera McGrath and Colin Pinder, the end is now in sight.

This week will see them retire behind closed doors to consider who is responsible, and to what degree, for the 1987 death of Brian McGrath.

Yesterday, trial judge John Edwards continued his summary of the evidence that has been placed before the court throughout the five-week case.

Much of it centred on the testimony of Veronica McGrath, the daughter of Brian and Vera McGrath and the former wife of the co-accused Colin Pinder.

And, according to the judge, she can also be viewed as "an accomplice" in the case, as she was involved in a crime through her actions in helping her mother to clean up a crime scene.


At the start of the lengthy trial, Veronica McGrath spent three days in the witness box, describing in detail her recollection of events that had led to the death of her father at the family home in Coole, Westmeath.

Brian McGrath died some time in March or April in 1987, but it wasn't until six years later, in 1993, that Veronica McGrath brought the situation to the attention of gardai. Summarising her evidence, Judge Edwards recalled how she had explained her reasons: "I was threatened that no one would believe me, that I'd be signed into St Loman's and my brothers would end up in a home."

The young woman had also described the impact of the horrific scene on her life, explaining: "I kept seeing my father's head on a hay fork and I just couldn't function at all."

At the time of Brian McGrath's death, his three young children were also in the house. Now grown men in their 30s, they gave evidence during the trial, doing their best to recall important details from their childhood memories.

Brian McGrath Jnr had a vague recollection of "a lot of arguments" between his parents while Andrew remembered "several rows" about Veronica's relationship with Liverpool man Colin Pinder.


The boys were too young to recall much about the time their father was admitted to St Loman's Psychiatric Institution.

A neighbour, however, had a clear recollection of seeing Brian McGrath in women's clothing. Westmeath woman Mary Manning had given evidence of seeing Vera McGrath crushing up tablets and putting them in her husband's tea before dressing him in black tights and a skirt. A doctor was then called, she said, and it seemed that Brian McGrath was "going all funny in himself".

Vera McGrath did not react. Her face pale and drawn, she sat quietly at the side of the room, her eyes downcast as the words washed over her. Pinder, dressed in a smart grey suit and clutching a water bottle, bowed his head, rarely moving throughout the lengthy sitting.

Across the room, the eight men and three women of the jury were working diligently, scribbling notes.

The public benches will be full this evening, waiting in anticipation for the knock on the door that will signal that a verdict has finally been reached.