Westmeath man on trial for murder shows gardaí how he choked the deceased

A Westmeath man on trial, charged with murdering the mother of his two children, showed investigating gardaí how he had choked her following a row in her new home.

Danny Keena of Empor, Ballynacargy, Co Westmeath is charged with the murder of 43-year-old Brigid Maguire by strangling her.

The 55-year-old farmer has pleaded not guilty to murder, but guilty to her manslaughter at Main Street, Ballynacargy on November 14 2015.

Sgt Brian Willoughby told the Central Criminal Court today that he had interviewed the accused a number of times following his arrest.

The court heard that Mr Keena had turned up at a relative’s house after 24 hours on the run following the killing.

The sergeant told John Hayden BL, prosecuting, that the accused had described his 25-year relationship with the deceased, and that she and their two children had left the family home at Empor just a few weeks before she died.

Mr Keena had told him that he had gone to her new home in the village that evening to discuss their son’s education, but that they had argued. He said she told him he was no good to the children and that’s why they’d moved.

“I said: ‘You’re some mother to them, whoring in around Mullingar, I was vexed at this stage,” he said, explaining that he had followed her up to her bedroom.

“Next a text message came on the phone. I said: ‘That must be your f***ing partner in Mullingar. You must be going to meet him’,” he told detectives.

He said she had told him it was none of his business.

“I said go on and whore yourself in around Mullingar. With that, she jumped out of the bed and came for me really violently. She was vexed,” he said.

“She had her two hands out into my face. I put my two hands out to block her.”

He said his two hands were on her shoulders and that he moved them onto her neck.

The sergeant said that the accused had put his two hands around a garda’s neck to show him how he was holding her.

“What were you doing there?” he was asked.

“Choking her,” he replied.

“For how long?” he was asked.

“For a few minutes, I’d say,” he replied.

“She fell to the ground,” he continued. “Her tongue was all blue. She was fighting for her life at that stage. I knew the damage was done.”

He said she had told him that she was dying and that he could hear her gurgling.

He said that he had applied ‘a good bit of pressure’, but said he hadn’t meant to kill her.

“I didn’t go there to kill that night,” he said.

The accused said he was in ‘awful shock’ when he knew she was dying.

“I got down on my knees, started crying, and said: ‘Don't die, Bridgie, please don’t die’. I knew she was going,” he said. “I knew I was after killing her and that’s when I panicked.”

He said he had tried to help her, but had run when he realised she was gone. He said he had tried to take his own life twice before spending the night in a hay barn.

His niece had earlier testified that Mr Keena had once threatened to ‘run the car into her’ if he met the deceased on the road.

Mary Wallace Jnr told Remy Farrell SC, prosecuting, that she’d had a good relationship over the years with her uncle, Danny Keena.

She then described a phone call with him six or seven weeks before Ms Maguire was found dead.

“I rang him on his mobile and asked him what was going on at home in the house in Empor in relation to the arguments with Bridgie and the kids listening in,” she recalled.

“I said: ‘It’s not right what’s going on. The kids are terrified’.”

Ms Wallace said that her uncle had replied that his ‘head was done in’.

“He was sick of it all and that if he met her on the road he was going to run the car into her and then kill himself, hang himself,” she testified.

“I said: ‘What about the children?’ He said they’d be better off without either of them.”

She was asked if she had believed him.

“I never believed he’d hang himself anyway,” she replied.

Under cross examination by Colm Smyth SC, defending, she agreed that her partner was Brigid Maguire’s brother.

“Your uncle disputes that he, in any way, threatened to kill Brigid Maguire by driving into her on the road,” he said.

Ms Wallace said she wouldn’t have said it if that was the case.

She said she had told the deceased about the call, but not the gardai.

“I didn’t know whether to believe him or not,” she said.

She agreed that she had said in her statement, that he was ‘rambling about Brigid having changed’.

“I said: ‘Sure, you’ve made her change. She’s standing up for herself’,” said the witness. “She was trying to make decisions about leaving the house. She wanted to leave the house, she felt, for the kids’ sake.”

The court also heard the details of Ms Maguire’s post-mortem exam this morning.

Deputy State Pathologist Dr Linda Mulligan said she had observed ‘extensive traumatic injury to the neck’.

She said that the force used was ‘of sufficient degree’ to cause extensive bleeding in the neck muscles and fracture of the hyoid bone.

She also said that the force had been ‘maintained for a length of time’ to cause signs of asphyxia, particularly petechial hemorrhages, and death from hypoxia.

“In my opinion, death has occurred due to excessive pressure applied externally to the neck,” she concluded.

The trial continues before Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy and a jury of seven men and five women.


 

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