O'Brien found not guilty of Meg Walsh murder

A Waterford bus driver was today cleared of murdering his wife by a jury at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin.

The jury of seven men and five women took five hours and twenty minutes to find bus driver, John O'Brien (aged 41) with an address in Ballinakill Downs, Co Waterford not guilty of the murder of 35-year-old Meg Walsh on a date between October 1, 2006 and October 15, 2006. He had pleaded not guilty to the charge.

The jury retired to consider their verdict on Thursday afternoon and returned with a verdict this afternoon.

Mr Justice Barry White thanked the jury for their careful deliberation and excused them from further jury service for life.

In a statement to media after the verdict Mr O'Brien's solicitor Finola Cronin said: "John and his family would like to thank the jury for looking at the facts and reaching their decision." She thanked the defence team and those family and friends who had supported them through the investigation and the trial.

"They would like to ask the media to respect their privacy and to allow them to grieve for Meg and for John's father who passed away during this traumatic time."

Speaking to journalists after the verdict Meg's brother John Walsh described his sister as "a lovely woman, bubbly, happy, a caring woman, a great mother and we miss her terribly."

The mother of one's body was recovered from the River Suir two weeks after her disappearance. She was naked apart from a heavy gold chain.

She had died from blunt force trauma to the head and also had severe bruising to her right shoulder, arm and stomach. Several fingers had been broken and her skull had been cracked "like a boiled egg" in two places.

During the four-week trial the jury heard that Ms Walsh had disappeared after having words with her husband after he caught her kissing another man after a night drinking on Saturday, September 30.

Mr O'Brien told gardaí he woke up at around 1pm and Meg was still asleep upstairs. He said he went for a drive out to his native Tramore, buying a copy of the Sunday World on the way. He parked on the promenade and spent most of the afternoon listening to the radio and reading the paper.

He returned home some time after 5pm. Meg was in the living room watching television. They had further words about the kiss the previous night before Mr O'Brien went upstairs and watched the RTE News, Emmerdale and Coronation Street.

He said he heard Meg moving around the house and taking a shower. At around 8.30pm he heard her leave the house and drive off. That was the last time she was seen.

Her best friend, Lorraine Cuddihy began to get worried when Meg didn't answer a text sent that morning. She sent several more texts during the day but none were returned. During the trial the jury heard evidence that the last time Meg's phone registered any activity was just before 2pm after which the phone had been turned off or rendered unusable. Gardaí never located the phone.

Ms Cuddihy started calling the phone at around 7pm. She was trying to arrange for Meg to meet up with her in the bar of the Woodlands Hotel. She told the jury she tried to ring her friend's phone "100 times" between 7pm and late that night.

At around 10pm she and her partner, David Maloney, with another mutual acquaintance from the bar, walked the short distance to the house in Ballinakill Downs but did not receive an answer. Mr O'Brien told the court he had gone out for a walk at around 9pm.

The three went back to the bar and Ms Cuddihy tried to ring again. She then borrowed a notepad from the barman and wrote a note.

"Hiya. Hope you OK??? Called earlier cos u phone is off. Text me!!!!"

She and Mr Moloney, again accompanied by a friend from the bar went back to the house. It was around midnight. Ms Cuddihy put the note through the door and they headed back to the bar.

The following day Meg did not turn up for work at Meadowcourt Homes.

Her boss, Mr Noel Power called his wife, Karen and the site manager, Mr Patrick Madigan and the three went to Meg's house. Meg's car was still missing. Mr Power rang a friend of his, garda Kevin Donohue and told him that Meg was missing.

That evening after giving a statement to gardaí and finishing his shift at work told gardaí Mr O'Brien told gardai he spent the next few hours "spinning around" looking for Meg's car.

On October 4 Meg's car was found abandoned in the carpark attached to the Uluru pub. There were blood stains on the back of the driver's seat, the inside of the driver's door and on the outside, the door pillar and the driver's side rear bumper. Blood had been wiped off the outside of the car and the inside of the boot.

The boot lining and spare wheel cover from the boot were missing when the car was found. When they were located thrown into the undergrowth edging the car park they were found to have Meg's blood on them.

A week later gardaí found two cut-off pieces from the mat and the wheel cover. Both fragments were found to be heavily stained with Meg's blood.

Her body was recovered from the River Suir on October 15.

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