Brian Kearney gets life sentence for murdering wife

An electrical contractor was jailed for life today for strangling his wife to death with the flex of a vacuum cleaner and staging the scene to look like a suicide.

Brian Kearney was found guilty of murdering his wife, Siobhan, at their family home in south Dublin, on the morning of his birthday.

A jury took almost five and a half hours to return the majority verdict at the Central Criminal Court.

Kearney, aged 51, had denied murder.

During the trial, the prosecution claimed that Kearney strangled his 38-year-old wife with the vacuum cleaner flex and then tried to make it look like suicide by pulling the flex over the door of an en-suite bathroom.

The motive, they said, was that Mrs Kearney’s plans to leave her husband would add to his financial pressures.

The mother-of-one’s body was discovered by her father, Owen, who had to kick down the bedroom door, which had been locked.

Mr Justice Barry White had initially directed the jury to return a unanimous verdict but within half an hour of being given the option of a majority finding, the jury had found Kearney guilty.

The businessman showed no emotion as the decision was read out but his daughter, Aoife, who has been at his side throughout the trial, broke down and fell into his shoulder, crying.

Mrs Kearney’s family sobbed and hugged each other as the decision was read out.

The judge refused to hear a victim impact statement from Mrs Kearney's mother, Deirdre McLaughlin, insisting that he must enforce the mandatory life sentence.

The trial heard that there was no sign of forced entry at the home the couple shared in Carnroe, Knocknashee, Goatstown, and their then three-year-old son was found wandering around the house alone.

A post-mortem later revealed that Mrs Kearney died from ligature strangulation, but suffered many injuries more consistent with manual strangulation.

State Pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy said fractures to Mrs Kearney’s neck were more commonly caused by manual strangulation, less common in ligature strangulation and uncommon in hanging from a low level.

She said one hypothesis was that Mrs Kearney had been assaulted in her bed, gripped around the neck and rendered semi-conscious, at which point a ligature could have been applied, accelerating her death.

Tests on the flex which was found around her body but not her neck revealed that it could not have supported her body weight for long enough to have killed her.

However, a minor sample of male DNA found on the flex did not match the defendant or any other man who attended the scene. Its origin has never been identified.

Barristers for Kearney maintain that, although he was in the house at the time of his wife’s death on the morning of his 49th birthday on February 28, 2006, she took her own life.

Defence counsel Patrick Gageby stressed that there had been no history of violence, threats of violence, evidence of jealousy, no other man or woman, and no vicious custody battle in the offing.

However, the jury heard that the couple had marriage problems.

Members of Mrs Kearney’s family, friends and a family law solicitor told the court that she was in the process of leaving

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