Mother of two Jasmine McMonagle met a “brutal death” in her own home and was found by gardaí in a “pool of blood” after she was strangled and had “blows reigned upon her” by her "on and off" partner, a murder trial jury has heard.
Richard Burke (32), of Killygordon, Co Donegal, was arraigned before the Central Criminal Court sitting in Monaghan on Monday morning where he pleaded not guilty to the murder of Ms McMonagle at Forest Park, Killygordon on January 4th, 2019, but guilty to manslaughter.
The jury has been told they will hear evidence from two psychiatrists who agree that Mr Burke was suffering from a mental disorder at the time of the killing which substantially diminished his responsibility.
Opening the case for the State on Monday afternoon, Anne-Marie Lawlor SC told the jury that Ms McMonagle (28) had been in a relationship with Mr Burke (32) “on and off” since 2016.
She said Ms McMonagle was at home with her two young children on January 4th when she contacted gardaí at around 4.20am with concerns about her own safety.
Ms Lawlor said when gardaí from Lifford attended the family home, a standoff ensued after Mr Burke wielded a meat cleaver at garda members.
A crisis negotiator attended at the scene and, following a three-hour standoff, gardaí forced their way into the property at 7.30am. Ms Lawlor said Ms McMonagle was already dead by the time gardaí entered the house, but thankfully her two young children were found unharmed.
She said Mr Burke was interviewed by gardaí on three occasions and she told the jury they will hear evidence of what he told gardaí and the admissions he made to officers that he killed Ms McMonagle.
Ms Lawlor told the jury they would hear “in some graphic detail” how Ms McMonagle met her death and how she was killed at the hands of Mr Burke.
Outlining the facts of the case, counsel said Ms McMonagle met a “brutal death” and was found by gardaí in a “pool of blood”. Counsel told the jury they would hear evidence during the trial of extensive injuries to Ms McMonagle’s head and body.
Ms McMonagle was strangled and had “blows reigned upon her”, Ms Lawlor said.
She said a number of items, including a meat cleaver, a safety hammer and a rope were found in the house following the discovery of Ms McMonagle’s body. She told the jury they will hear Ms McMonagle was strangled and had “blows reigned upon her”.
Ms Lawlor said during the course of the trial the court will hear details of what was a “desperate tragedy” for Ms McMonagle’s family.
Ms McMonagle was just weeks from her 29th birthday when she was killed and had been in a relationship with Mr Burke “on and off” since 2016, she said.
Counsel told the jury they will hear about the relationship and its “sometimes unhappy nature”.
On the night of January 4th, Ms McMonagle was in her home where she lived with her two young children, including an 18-month-old daughter she shared with Mr Burke.
Ms Lawlor said evidence will be heard from Sergeant Brendan McCann, the investigating officer in the case. She said Sgt McCann’s evidence and the details of how Ms McMonagle died are all accepted.
She told the jury that in this case the issue they will be called upon to decide is not how Ms McMonagle was killed or where she was killed but rather Mr Burke’s mental state at the time.
Ms Lawlor said Mr Burke acknowledges that he killed Ms McMonagle.
She said evidence will be heard from two psychiatrists who agree that Mr Burke was suffering from a mental disorder at the time of the killing which substantially diminished his responsibility.
Counsel told the jury they will be asked to decide if Mr Burke did have a mental disorder at the time of the killing. She said there was no evidence that he was insane at the time.
Ms Lawlor said evidence will be heard from Dr Anthony Kearns, a consultant psychiatrist at the Central Mental Hospital, who will say that Mr Burke had a mental disorder and a substance abuse disorder which diminished his responsibility for the act.
The Director of Public Prosecutions also sought assistance from an expert, counsel said, and the jury will hear evidence from Dr Dervla Duffy, a consultant psychiatrist at the Central Mental Hospital.
She will say that in her expert opinion Mr Burke did have a mental disorder - a cannabis induced psychotic disorder - at the time of the killing.
Dr Duffy will say that she is in agreement that the mental disorder was such that it diminished his responsibility substantially for the act, Ms Lawlor added.
On Monday afternoon, the trial heard evidence from Cartographer, Liam Farrell from the Garda National Technical Bureau, who told Patricia McLaughlin BL, prosecuting, that he was tasked with carrying out a survey of the premises at Killygordon.
He told the court a rope and a meat cleaver were found in the kitchen alongside extensive blood staining. A hair extension was also found on the draining board and another was found on the floor towards the hall area, he said.
Detective Garda Caroline Hughes, a photographer with the garda technical bureau, told Ms McLaughlin she photographed a dressing gown belt and blue rope which were found in the vicinity of the body. She agreed that some hair was found on the dressing gown belt.
Det Gda Hughes said she also photographed a blue bag which was found in the understairs storage area. She said the bag appeared to contain what looked like a balaclava and some blades or knives.
The trial continues on Tuesday before Mr Justice Paul Burns and the jury of seven women and five men.