A man who fatally stabbed a 26-year-old woman while she worked at a health food shop was “so calm” and showed no emotion after he committed the atrocity, an inquest has heard, writes Conor Kane.
Mairead Moran died as a result of a stab wound to the trunk which caused injuries to her heart, lung, kidney and liver when she was attacked by Shane Smyth at the Holland & Barrett shop in Market Cross Shopping Centre, Kilkenny, in May of 2014.
Yesterday’s inquest heard that she rang her mother to tell her she was “terrified” after Smyth turned up at the shop a month before she was killed and spat at her and stared at her.
Shane Smyth (30) was found not guilty by reason of insanity at a murder trial in the Central Criminal Court last year and is currently in the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum.
Margo Moran, Mairead’s mother, said in a deposition that Mairead had been going out with Shane Smyth for about eight months in 2005 and the last she had heard from him was in 2006.
When Mairead, from Kilmoganny in Co Kilkenny, was in fifth or sixth year in St Brigid’s secondary school in Callan, she joined the Ossory Youth group in Kilkenny city and was chosen to be part of a group to travel to Africa to help with building houses.
After a day-long preparation session for the trip, the group leaders called to Mairead’s parents and said they were “worried” about her, Margo Moran said.
“They said that he had come to the room where they were doing the preparation and he had stood over Mairead for one and a half hours. He was insisting that she leave with him. Eventually she did.”
At a launch night for the event, Shane Smyth arrived and she later told her parents she wasn’t going to do the project.
When the two were going out together, Mrs Moran said, she would collect Mairead from Kilkenny after Mairead had gone to see him. “He would be on the phone before we got home, asking where she was and she engaged with him in this to reassure him.”
While the family were on holiday in Scotland, Mairead was “almost hysterical trying to convince him that she was in Scotland as he didn’t believe she was there”.
In autumn of 2005, Mairead moved into Kilkenny city and her parents grew “really worried” and asked her to see a counsellor, which she did a number of times.
Mairead “called it off with him [Smyth] sometime after that.
The next incident was at The Parade in Kilkenny when she met Shane Smyth because he wanted to talk to her, but arrived home with two friends and a garda. “She said she sat down on a concrete pillar and, as she did, he put his arm around her neck and she screamed and a security man from the Castle came out and Smithy ran to the Castle.”
He then began ringing Mairead’s phone and the house phone, “into the early hours of the morning” and was told by Mairead’s father Peter to give it up. “On one occasion he arrived at the house at 12 o’clock at night.”
Mairead decided not to make a complaint to the gardaí as she just wanted to get on with her Leaving Cert and “that was it”, apart from a couple of occasions over the years when Smyth shouted abuse at her on the street.
A security guard, Liam Dwyer, who was working at Market Cross on the evening of May 8, 2014, said a colleague “removed a man” from the Holland & Barrett shop at about 8.23pm. He could see Mairead through the CCTV system “visibly upset” and “crying”.
Shortly afterwards, he saw on one of the monitors Mairead “in a foetal position and a guy holding her by the hair. I thought he was raining blows down on her. He was standing over her. I believe he struck her at least 11 times.”
He went straight to the scene, as did his colleague, and got between Mairead and her attacker. He said “what the f..k are you doing” and then the attacker held up his hand and there was a knife. Mr Dwyer said “f..king drop the knife now” and said that again, and the attacker did so, before sitting on a nearby ledge. “I didn’t see any emotion in him. Not a bit. He was so calm, after what he had done.”
The security guard remembered Mairead saying “get him away from me” and he rang the emergency services, at which point the assailant “took off” from the scene. Mairead was then lying on her back and bleeding very heavily. “I knew she was in serious trouble.”
Publican Seamus Walsh was taking a short cut through the shopping centre at the time of the incident and heard screaming from outside Holland & Barrett. “There was so much blood… The person definitely hit the girl a number of times.”
He heard the man shouting “you stole my f..king blood” twice at Mairead and told him to drop the knife. The blade was 4-6 inches long.
He then went back to Mairead and began speaking to her, while another lady came with a jacket and they tried to slow the bleeding. “I held her hand and kept talking to her.”
When the ambulance came her lip had gone blue and her eyes were fading, Mr Walsh said.
Medical evidence was read out by coroner Tim Kiely from a deposition by state pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy, who concluded that Mairead died as a result of a stab wound to the trunk which caused injuries to her heart, left lunch, right kidney and liver.
The jury returned a verdict in accordance with the medical evidence.
The coroner, while expressing sympathy to the Moran family, paid tribute to the “bravery and compassion” shown “in frightening circumstances” on the night by Liam Dwyer and Seamus Walsh.
After the inquest, Mairead’s parents said the time since the tragedy has been “very painful for us, after Mairead’s death and how she died” but they were glad that all of the necessary legal procedures had come to an end.
“Mairead was so precious to us, she always will be, she’ll never be forgotten and is as much a part of our lives now as she ever was,” an emotional Margo Moran said, before thanking everybody who helped Mairead on the night she died, and everyone who helped the family.