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McGrath told gardai 'I helped beat and bury my husband'

A woman gave a detailed account to gardai in 1993 of how she helped beat her husband, burning, breaking and burying his body in their garden, her murder trial has heard.

The Central Criminal Court heard the garda statements of Vera McGrath (61), who has pleaded not guilty to murdering 43-year-old Bernard Brian McGrath at their home in Lower Coole, Westmeath.

Her former son-in-law Colin Pinder (47), of Liverpool, England, has pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to manslaughter on a date between March 10 and April 18, 1987.

Superintendent Aidan Glacken said he interviewed McGrath in November 1993 after receiving a statement implicating her. Mr McGrath hadn't been seen since 1987 and bones had been located at their former home.

McGrath told detectives she met her husband in Dublin when she was 12 and he was 16. They married in 1966 in London. They had their daughter, Veronica (Vera), in 1968 and returned to Ireland, staying with her mother in Finglas before moving to Wales.

They returned to Dublin and had three sons and decided to move to the countryside. They bought the cottage in Coole in 1979.

"Things were really bad. My husband was giving Vera a hell of a time," McGrath said, recalling that she took the children to a refuge in Dublin for six months before moving to England.

"I was in the process of getting a divorce," she continued. However Mr McGrath eventually moved to England too and their marriage was improving.

She said their daughter went missing in the summer of 1984.

"Vera went out for milk and never came back," she recalled. "I was very worried."

She said her husband told her that their daughter didn't care and they moved home to Coole.

"I reported her missing to the gardai," she said. "They gave me an address for her in Liverpool."


The couple found their daughter living with Colin Pinder and she agreed to keep in contact.

Her husband later invited them to move to Coole and the young couple moved into a caravan nearby.

"Brian was still abusing me," she said.

She said her daughter and Pinder began talking of marriage.

"Brian did not approve," she said.

She said that letters arrived for the young couple one day and she asked her husband for the car to bring them to their caravan. He refused so she said she'd walk. He said she would make a show of him and walked with her. She said they argued on the way.

She said she was upset and crying when she entered the caravan without her husband.

"I said to Colin and Vera he was still fighting with me. I passed the comment I wished he was dead," she recalled.

"Colin said, 'Well I've the very thing to do it'. He took this thing out of the wardrobe, a sort of silver bar ... about a foot long.

"Colin then said that we'd all have to agree on it before he'd do it," she continued. "We all shook hands on it."

She said all four walked back to Coole.

"I got in and I was thinking that the night was going to be all fighting by Brian's state," she said. "I got to the bedroom door. I heard a bang, like a thud. I rushed around to the back door."

She said she saw her husband lying on the ground and knew that Pinder had hit him. She claimed that he told her that she would have to hit him too.

"I was terrified out of my mind. Colin offered me something to hit Brian with," she said. "I hit Brian lying on the ground with what Colin had."

She said she went into the kitchen but Pinder came in to say Mr McGrath was gone.

She said she followed him outside and heard shouting.

"Colin was shouting at Brian: 'Why did you hit Ronnie all those years?' I heard Brian saying sorry," she said.

Her husband then burst out of the shed, she said.


"We all went after Brian. Colin caught up with him. Colin was hitting him with a slash hook," she said.

"Colin called to me and said it was all over," she said.

"I heard a rattling, gurgling noise. I associated this with a dying gasp," she said. "At this stage I knew my husband was dead."

She said she returned to the kitchen, where her daughter was. "There was a terrible banging coming from outside," she said. "Vera wouldn't come out."

McGrath said she went out and saw Pinder in a frenzy, hitting her husband 20 or 30 times with a concrete mould. She said she told him to stop.

She said Pinder called to her daughter. "I did it for you because I love you," he said, according to McGrath.

They dug a shallow grave and, at daylight, McGrath and her daughter cleaned up the blood, before the couple returned to the caravan.

"I was left in the house with the three boys and the body of my husband in the garden," she said.

McGrath said they tried to burn the body a couple of months later, but the blaze went out. They attacked the remains with a pitchfork.

The trial continues.