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Shaking in shock, she could not look her daughter in the eye

MURDERER Vera McGrath's face turned a deep puce and her entire body began to shake as she looked towards the issue paper that would seal her fate. Across the room, the 11 tired faces of the jury told of the immense task they had faced.

As the clock struck 7pm, the group had finally emerged from their deliberations, their foreman clutching the issue paper which was then passed to trial judge John Edwards. Trembling, McGrath listened as the verdict was read out -- guilty of murder by a majority of 10 to one. As the impact began to sink in, the 61-year-old woman showed no emotion, her face the same impassive mask that she has shown throughout a six-week trial.

At the rear of the court, her eldest child Veronica -- the State's chief witness in this case -- gasped and leant forward, straining to catch a glimpse of the woman she had seen bludgeoning her father to death.

It is now more than 23 years since Vera McGrath callously murdered her husband Brian before burning and burying his remains in the back garden. And it was 14 years ago that she received a letter from gardai advising her that the investigation into her husband's death had closed. Yet she hadn't reckoned on advances in DNA testing which led to the exhumation and positive identification of Brian McGrath's body two years ago, after which Vera was charged with murder.

Last Friday, the jury unanimously found her former son-in-law Colin Pinder guilty of manslaughter. He will be sentenced for his crime on November 1. And yesterday evening, the jury returned a verdict of murder against McGrath.

It was all too much for her partner Michael Gavin, who collapsed into silent tears. Wiping his eyes, he watched as Vera McGrath rose from her seat and faced the judge who told her: "the law only allows me to pass one sentence and that is a sentence of life imprisonment to date from today".

McGrath nodded briefly, before returning to a slumped position. She did not look towards the rear of the court where her daughter Veronica sat rigidly, an expression of shock etched on her face.

There was time only for a brief hug from Michael before she was escorted to a waiting prison van.


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