Wife was assaulted before disappearance, court hears

A woman whose husband is on trial for her murder, claimed she had been assaulted less than two weeks before she disappeared, a Central Criminal Court jury has heard.

Bus driver, John O’Brien (aged 41) with an address in Ballinakill Downs, Co Waterford, denies murdering 35-year-old Meg Walsh on a date between October 1, 2006, and October 15, 2006.

Dr Bernadette O’Leary told prosecuting counsel Mr Denis Vaughan Buckley SC that Ms Walsh visited her practice on the morning of September 22, 2006, and told her she had been assaulted two days previously.

Dr O’Leary said Ms Walsh had fresh bruising and swelling on both her right and left hands and also to her right shoulder. She seemed very distressed and Dr O’Leary said she advised her to contact the gardaí.

The jury also heard from Mr Owen Walsh, who told Mr Buckley he had met up with both Ms Walsh and the accused the night before she disappeared.

Mr Walsh said that the couple were part of the regular crowd who drank in the Woodlands Hotel. He said his wife was out of town on the weekend beginning September 30.

That night he arrived at the bar around 10pm. He joined the group including Ms Walsh and Mr O’Brien and they stayed in the bar until closing time.

They then moved out to the hotel lobby and continued drinking.

Mr Walsh told Mr Buckley he had been drinking pints of Heineken, Meg was drinking Ritz and Mr O’Brien was drinking pints of lager.

He told Mr Paddy McCarthy SC, defending that he had drunk about six pints in the bar and about three Bacardi and cokes in the lobby.

He described himself as "merry" and said Meg was the same, although Mr O’Brien did not seem drunk.

At around 4am, Mr Walsh accepted an invitation to return with Mr O’Brien and Ms Walsh to their home.

When they got there, Mr O’Brien got him another Bacardi and coke and offered him some pizza, which he refused. By this time it was getting light.

Mr Walsh said Meg asked Mr O’Brien if he could stay the night, and the three of them went upstairs.

Meg showed him the room he would be sleeping in, her daughter’s room, and kissed him goodnight. He kissed her back. He told Mr Buckley it was just a quick peck.

As he was kissing her back, Mr O’Brien walked into the room.

Mr Walsh said he told him “It’s just the drink, nothing happened”.

Mr O’Brien replied: “You get out, get out of the house.”

Mr Walsh said the second time Mr O’Brien ordered him out of the house, his tone was aggressive.

Mr Walsh said he immediately went downstairs and grabbed his coat, before leaving the house. It was about 8am.

He went home, stopping in a shop on the way and was in bed for the rest of the day. He stayed in the house until his wife returned home and the couple went for a walk.

He said the following day he received a call from Mr O’Brien telling him that Meg had not been seen since Sunday, October 1, and had not turned up for work on the Monday.

Mr Walsh agreed with Mr McCarthy that Mr O’Brien asked him whether Meg was with him and that he thought he would come round to the house, although he did not see him there.

He told Mr McCarthy, in cross examination, that he worked in Waterford Port and crossed the river everyday in his journey to and from work.

He said he had not spoken to Meg after leaving her house on the Sunday morning and did not know why he had made a call to her phone at around 3.25am, while they were still at the hotel.

“I don’t recall making a phone call to Meg at that time because she was sitting right there. I didn’t make the phone call.”

He said he did not know how makeup had got onto the inside of his shirt. He agreed he had phoned Meg after receiving the call from her husband but said he had both their numbers on his phone, as the crowd in the bar would text each other jokes.

The jury also heard from Ms Lorraine Cuddihy, who told Mr Buckley she had known Meg for three years after getting to know her through the bar at the Woodlands Hotel.

She said they were in daily contact and would meet up almost every Saturday and Sunday night.

She and her partner had not been at the bar on September 30 but she had been in text contact with Ms Walsh.

On the morning of October 1, she texted her to if she’d had a good night the previous night. There was no reply.

Some time later, she texted again to ask if Meg would be going out that night. There was again, no reply, although she received delivery reports for both texts.

After a while, when there was still no reply, she started ringing the phone. She said she must have called 100 times between 7pm and late that night.

She told Mr Buckley that around 10pm, she walked to Meg’s house, accompanied by her partner and another friend.

When they got there, the curtains were drawn although a lamp was on in the living room and they could see the outline of a sofa against the window.

Ms Cuddihy said Meg’s car was not outside the house although Mr O’Brien’s was.

Looking through one of the front windows she could see two cans of Ritz on a table.

They went back to the bar. At about 12 midnight Ms Cuddihy borrowed a carbon pad from the barman. She wrote a note to Meg.

“Hiya. Hope you are OK. Called down coz your phone is off. Text me you are ok.”

Then she went back down to the house with her partner and a friend and put the note through the letterbox. Nothing had changed.

The next day she rang Meg’s work at around 9.30am but was told she had not come in.

Mr Noel Power, managing director of Meadowcourt Homes, where Meg worked as the office administrator, told Mr Buckley he arrived in work at around 8.50am on Monday October 2.

He said it was highly unusual that Meg wasn’t there before him as she normally arrived at 8.30am for a 9am start.

At around 10am he contacted his wife Karen and the site manager, Patrick Madigan and together they went to see if Meg was at home.

He told Mr Buckley the blinds were drawn on the upstairs bedroom windows.

One of the sash windows was open upstairs and another was open downstairs. There was no car in the driveway.

Looking through the front window he could see two cans of Ritz on the table and a pair of women’s shoes on the floor. There seemed to be no one at home.

When he got back to the office he phoned a garda friend of his. He told Mr Buckley he was concerned about Meg’s whereabouts.

He told Mr McCarthy, in cross examination, that Meg had looked after the staff Christmas saving fund since she started the job in 2003.

He agreed that, at the time of Meg’s disappearance, there was approximately €12,500 in the fund.

He said he did not know where she kept the money but had been unable to find it after her disappearance. He said he did not know if she kept it in the office or in a bank.

He agreed that Meg’s brother had repaid the money after her disappearance.

He said that he knew she was planning a trip to Barcelona over the October Bank Holiday weekend but was not aware that she had also booked a trip to Lanzerote at Christmas.

The trial continues tomorrow before Mr Justice Barry White and the jury of seven men and five women. It is expected to last three weeks.

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