A married man who strangled his lover as they “fooled around” in her bed after he claimed she threatened to tell his wife about their affair was jailed for eight years today, writes Peter Doyle.
Deirdre McCarthy’s body washed up on Fanore Beach, Co Clare, days after Colm Deely dumped her in the ocean.
Although he was originally convicted of Ms McCarthy’s murder by a jury, that conviction was quashed after it emerged that the work of then Deputy State Pathologist Dr Khalid Jabbar's was not peer reviewed.
But in January this year, Deely, (45), of School Road, Ballyvaughan, Co Clare, pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to the manslaughter of 43-year-old Ms McCarthy, at a place unknown on or about March 28, 2011.
His plea was accepted by the State at that hearing.
Today, Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy said the sentence he was imposing was “in the absence of evidence which might have or might not have supported a more serious charge”.
Describing Ms McCarthy as a “quiet, modest and vulnerable person”, Mr Justice McCarthy said the accused subjected her to a “homicidal attack”.
The judge said the victim had been friends with Deely, a married father of two, for a number of years and that their friendship later became “romantic in nature”.
After Deely visited Ms McCarthy at the guesthouse where she lived and worked in Ballyvaughan, Co Clare, the judge said “the next day she was not to be found” and that days later “her body washed up on the shore and that it appears she was strangled”.
The judge added that the cause of death was based on “statements made by the accused” who had admitted that “he had used his hands on her neck”.
Deely had originally been jailed for life for Ms McCarthy’s murder following a trial in June 2013.
However, that conviction was later quashed at the request of the State when it emerged the work carried out in this case by the then deputy state pathologist Dr Khalid Jabbar had not been peer-reviewed.
Referring to Deely’s admission to manslaughter, Mr Justice McCarthy said: “The evidence in the case would not have been sufficient to have proved murder,” adding that “one needs medical evidence in a case of unlawful killing”.
Prior to handing down the eight-year term, Mr Justice McCarthy said the offence had been aggravated by a number of factors which included the fact that the accused had gone to work with the dead woman’s brother hours after disposing of the body.
The judge added the accused had treated the deceased’s body in a “callous manner” by dumping it in the sea.
He also said that the dead woman’s mother passed away, “having never recovered from the loss of her daughter” and that the rest of family have said they will be “haunted forever” by Ms McCarthy’s death.
Describing Deely as a former “hard-working and respected member” of his community, he said the starting point for sentencing would have been 12 years, adding that Deely must serve a “substantial period of imprisonment” for killing Ms McCarthy.
However, in imposing an eight-year term, the judge said he was taking into account the accused’s early guilty plea to manslaughter and the fact he had “shown contrition” over the killing.
Evidence from March 13 hearing
Last week, Ms McCarthy’s sister Helen Geoghegan broke down and wept as she told how her family will be “haunted forever” by the killing.
Reading a victim-impact statement on behalf of the family, Ms McCarthy’s Ms Geoghegan told the court: “Dee was a kind, easy-going person who lived a very, happy ordinary life”.
“There was no fuss from Dee,” she said. “Only at Christmas, and her birthday, her favourite times in the year. Dee made time for everyone.”
Describing the effect her killing had on the family, Ms Geoghegan said: “There are so many lives impacted by this terrible crime. To us she was a daughter, a sister, an aunt. She loved nothing more than spending time with her family and friends, her nieces and nephews whom she adored. We all miss her so much and it is still so hard for us to understand what happened to her on that night. Sadly we never will.”
Ms Geoghegan also revealed that their mother “died of a broken heart as she never recovered from what happened to Dee”.
And she described the family’s anguish over the death, saying “sleepless nights are now part of our daily lives”.
She said: “It is almost six years since Dee’s life was taken from us in such a horrific way. It terrifies us to think of what she went through. "How frightened she must have been, as she was beaten and strangled to death and her body dumped in such a cold and heartless way. "He (Deely) said that he could hear her body crash off the rocks and falling into the ocean. Yet he walked away."
“Dee’s death,” she added, “destroyed us all inside. It has broken our hearts. In our darker moments, we can’t help but relive what happened to her that night. This will haunt us forever.
“She did not deserve to die. She did not deserve to have her life taken so brutally and her body thrown into the ocean.”
Ms Geoghegan also said that her family’s grief was compounded by the fact that Deely had gone to work alongside Ms McCarthy’s brother hours after killing her and disposing of the body.
She said: “In the following days he carried on with his life as normal. In fact, the very next day he went to work with our brother Thomas and asked him was Deidre at home with our mother.
“At this time, Thomas hadn’t realised that Dee was missing. This baffles us. How could he not show any remorse, knowing what he has done?”
Earlier, Garda Superintendent John Galvin told prosecution counsel Paul Greene SC that four days before Ms McCarthy’s body washed up on Fanore Beach she had spent the evening socialising with friends.
Supt Galvin said that Deely had been part of the group the deceased was drinking with in Logues public house in nearby Ballyvaughan and the pair had been “observed on CCTV chatting to one another”.
He said that both the accused and Ms McCarthy had known each other since childhood and although they left the pub separately that evening, they had agreed to meet later that night at the guesthouse where Ms McCarthy lived and worked.
Days later, the garda said, Deely admitted to officers that he killed Ms McCarthy before driving her “body to a coastal area near Ballyvaughan” where he “put her body in the sea”.
The court was told that the cause of death was “manual strangulation”.
Defence counsel Sean Gillane SC told the court that his client “accepts that on this night he caused her death” in an “explosion of violence” by “using his hands on her neck”.
He said Deely had worked as a plant-hire operator, had been an active member of the Ballyvaughan community and that his family had “deep roots” in the area.
After being told that Deely had previously been convicted of Ms McCarthy’s murder but that conviction had been quashed, Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy asked if this was because “serious questions arose over evidence that wasn’t considered sufficiently reliable for the prosecution?”
Mr Greene replied that that was the case.
Evidence from hearing on 16/01/2017
Earlier this year, at a hearing at the Central Criminal Court, Deely had admitted Ms McCarthy's manslaughter.
He had been due to stand trial for the dead woman's murder for a second time after the State had asked for the original conviction to be quashed and for Deely to stand trial again.
The request was made after concerns were raised regarding evidence from then deputy state pathologist Dr Khalid Jabbar when it emerged Dr Jabbar's work had not been peer reviewed.
Evidence from original trial.
In June 2013, a jury of seven women and five men at the Central Criminal Court found Deely, a father of two, guilty by unanimous verdict and he was sentenced to life imprisonment.
During his trial, the court was told that Deely had said to gardai that he had been “fooling around” with Ms McCarthy in her bed when he put his hands around her neck.
He said did not mean to kill her, claiming that Ms McCarthy had been laughing at him.
He said that she was blackmailing him for money, saying that she would tell Deely’s wife and children.