Jury in Meg Walsh case retires

The Central Criminal Court jury in the trial of a Waterford man accused of murdering his wife have begun their deliberations.

Bus driver Mr 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 1-15, 2006 , somewhere within the State.

The mother of one’s body was recovered from the River Suir on October 15, 2006. She had died from blunt force trauma to the head. She also had injuries to her shoulder, arms and hands.

In his charge Mr Justice Barry White warned the seven men and five women to assess the evidence coldly.

“You must be calm, you must be clinical, you must be analytical,” he said.

He told them that they should put all feelings of sympathy or revulsion to one side while they deliberated.

He said they should not take any adverse inference from the fact the accused man had given evidence in his own defence but if they accepted his account of the events surrounding his wife’s death that should be an end to the prosecution’s case.

He said that the case was reliant on circumstantial evidence and so the jury should look at the prosecution’s case as a whole and be entirely convinced that it was right.

“It is not sufficient that it is consistent with the guilt of the accused man. That evidence will inevitably raise suspicion or even prejudice but it must be such that it is insufficient with the innocence of the accused man.”

“The State accepts that there are certain gaps as regards to their case.”

He said they could not say what inflicted Ms Walsh’s wounds, when or where she was killed or when and where her body was disposed of in the River Suir.

He also warned them about the dangers of relying on identification or recognition evidence. Even when the witness was identifying someone they knew there was a risk that identification could be wrong.

He also warned them against assuming that because more than one person made an identification it had more weight.

Mr Justice White told the jury to start of with the presumption that Mr O’Brien was innocent.

“You must start your deliberations with an air of disbelief.”

He urged them to put themselves in Mr O’Brien’s place and decide if they would be happy being convicted on that evidence.

He also warned them about making assumptions on the inconsistencies in Mr O’Brien’s statements to gardaí.

“People lie for many reasons,” he said.

He told them that they should consider whether the lies or inconsistencies had an innocent explanation or served to concealing Mr O’Brien’s guilt.

“You have to be satisfied that it was made in the knowledge that Mr O’Brien was guilty and it was made with the purpose of ignoring criminal responsibility.”

Mr Justice White told them that they should only return a unanimous verdict at this stage and whether they would subsequently be offered majority verdict would be a matter entirely for his discretion.

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