A mother of two met a “brutal death” in her own home, a murder trial jury has heard, and was found by gardaí in a pool of blood after she was attacked by her “on and off” partner.
Richard Burke (32), of Killygordon, Co Donegal, was arraigned before the Central Criminal Court sitting in Monaghan on Monday where he pleaded not guilty to the murder of Jasmine McMonagle at Forest Park, Killygordon on January 4th, 2019, but guilty to her 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, 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.
‘You cannot teach where I teach, and be in my classroom and not feel uplifted, or have hope for the future’
Ms Lawlor said when gardaí from Lifford attended the family home, a stand-off ensued after Mr Burke wielded a meat cleaver at members of the force.
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 then but 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 said and the admissions he made to officers about killing Ms McMonagle.
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 rained 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.
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.
Counsel told the jury they will hear about the relationship between the deceased and the accused and the “sometimes unhappy nature” of it. On the night of January 4th, Ms McMonagle was in her home where she lived with her two young children which she shared with Mr Burke.
Ms Lawlor said the issue the jury 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.
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 DPP 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, who 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 she is in agreement that the mental disorder was such that it diminished his responsibility substantially for the act, Ms Lawlor added.
Liam Farrell, a cartographer from the Garda National Technical Bureau, 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.
Det 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 Garda 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 a jury of seven women and five men.