'Death had a face': Murderer jailed for life for inflicting 'unnatural terror' on pensioner

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'Death Had A Face': Murderer Jailed For Life For Inflicting 'Unnatural Terror' On Pensioner 'Death Had A Face': Murderer Jailed For Life For Inflicting 'Unnatural Terror' On Pensioner
Mother-of-one Anne Butler (70) was murdered on Maudlin Street in Kilkenny on March 20th, 2020, after being stabbed, beaten and mutilated by Trevor Rowe. Photo: Collins Courts
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Paul Neilan

A man has been jailed for life for the brutal murder of a Kilkenny pensioner, who suffered a "torturous and painful death" and "unnatural terror" in her own home, her daughter told the Central Criminal Court on Friday.

"Death had a face; it shouldn't," Elayne Butler said of her mother's murderer, Trevor Rowe, who remained unmoving and head-bowed throughout the hearing.

Mother-of-one Anne Butler (70) was murdered on Maudlin Street in Kilkenny on March 20th, 2020, after being stabbed, beaten and mutilated by Rowe.

On Friday, at a sentencing hearing, Trevor Rowe of Abbey Street, Kilkenny, was given the mandatory life sentence for the murder by Ms Justice Karen O'Connor, an offence which she said had caused "unimaginable grief" to Ms Butler's family.

When discovered days after the murder, Ms Butler was found to have had her throat slit, while a large piece of cardboard was found in the back of her mouth and "a strip" of her ear was found in the living room.

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Three anonymous 999 calls were traced by gardaí in Kilkenny back to Rowe, including one where he said he murdered a woman five days previously and that the location of the body was on Maudlin Street.

When gardaí called to Rowe's home, he fell to his knees, cried uncontrollably and said: "I killed a woman. I murdered a woman. I slit her throat and stuck a knife in her head".

Rowe's defence was that he had been so intoxicated by the amount of drink and drugs he consumed on the day that it prevented him from forming an intent to kill or cause serious injury to Ms Butler. However, last month a jury found him guilty of murder after deliberating for just one hour 19 minutes.

'She was always a fighter'

On Friday, Ms Butler's daughter, Elayne, read a tearful victim impact statement, describing her mother as a "brave, charming, dignified, intelligent woman" who treated everyone with "kindness and love".

Elayne Butler said it was hard to think of her "quick-witted and insightful" mother as a victim, as "she was always a fighter".

She said the last time she met her mother at her home they could not come in close contact because of Covid restrictions and that she asked Anne from outside if she would be okay,

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"The air we breathe is free, Elayne. Where would we be without it?" Anne said in her last words to her daughter.

Elayne said that her mother thought of her home as her favourite place but that "I [Elayne] never thought that her sanctuary would become a tomb."

She described her mother as a woman of faith who was not afraid to die but that she had been subject to a "torturous and painful death" with "unnatural terror".

"Death had a face; it shouldn't," she said of Rowe.

'The stuff of nightmares'

Ms Butler said the cause of her mother's death was not discovered until after a post-mortem that revealed the "brutality" of the killing. She added that her mother's "privacy was also taken, as well as her life".

Ms Butler said her mother did everything for her, that she could still see her singing and that it did not seem possible that things could ever be made better. "I miss you and you should still be safe in your home. You're simply the best. I love you," she said.

In her victim impact statement, which was read by Garda Lisa Mullins, Anne's younger sister Paula McPherson Jones said that she always received a "warm and wholesome welcome" from Anne and Elayne when she returned home from the UK. She said Anne was devoted to her daughter, Elayne, and that she was "kind, thoughtful and very generous".

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Ms McPherson-Jones said her world "fell apart" when she got the news of Anne's death and that the death of her "beautiful and courageous sister" was "too difficult to comprehend".

She said it had been "two, long years" before the full facts surrounding the murder were discovered and that they were "the stuff of nightmares".

In addressing Rowe, she wrote: "If you have a drop of human kindness, what were her last words? Why did you do it?"

'Deep sorrow'

Detective Sergeant Brian Sheeran told today's hearing that Rowe had 31 previous convictions that included drug offences, assault, criminal damage, trespassing, possession of knives, burglary, violent disorder and theft.

Det Sgt Sheeran said Rowe was known to gardaí in Kilkenny as a man "suffering with drug addiction and alcohol dependency".

Kathleen Leader SC, for Rowe, said her client wanted to express his "deep sorrow" to the family of Anne Butler and that he accepted both the verdict and that the sentence would be one of life.

Ms Leader said Rowe was "deeply ashamed" for bringing shame upon himself and his own family.

She said Rowe had a very troubled upbringing and had suffered domestic violence.

Counsel said her client had been taken into care when he was three, was moved around in foster and institutional care until he was 16 years old and had battled with drink and drug addiction.

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Ms Justice O'Connor imposed the mandatory life sentence upon Rowe and sympathised with the family of Ms Butler, who she said acted with "strength and dignity throughout the trial and through unimaginable grief".

She thanked the family for their statements "which gave an insight into a very independent woman who enjoyed travel and who was generous and much-loved".

She said the murder had an "enormously painful and profound impact" on the family.

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