A 47-year-old Liverpool man has been found guilty of the manslaughter of his fiancée’s father 23 years ago, but has been cleared of his murder.
Colin Pinder had pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to the manslaughter of 43-year-old Bernard Brian McGrath, at the victim’s home in Lower Coole, Westmeath between March 10 and April 18, 1987.
Mr McGrath’s death went undetected until 1993, when gardaí dug up his burnt and fragmented bones from his back garden. They had been tipped off by the victim’s daughter, Veronica McGrath, who was engaged to Pinder at the time of the killing. They later married.
The eight men and three women of the jury reached their unanimous verdict today after four hours and five minutes deliberating. It was day 26 of the cold-case murder trial at the Central Criminal Court.
The jury will continue to deliberate on Monday in the case of Pinder’s co-accused; the victim’s wife, 61-year-old Vera McGrath, has pleaded not guilty to murdering her husband.
Pinder admitted his part in the killing when the investigation began six years after Mr McGrath’s death. Of mixed race, he told detectives that he hit Mr McGrath hard after he called him a n***er. He said that Mr McGrath hit his head against the kitchen range as he fell.
He said he "finished" him off with a concrete mould before helping to bury, dig up, burn and re-bury his body.
His barrister, Conor Devally SC, maintained that Mr McGrath’s racism that night amounted to provocation and caused his client to act out of character. Pinder had also been led to believe that Mr McGrath was a "monster", who was violent to his family, he said.
“Colin Pinder knows he acted in reaction, not just to Mr McGrath, but to all that he had been made to think,” he said in his closing speech last week.
Mr Devally said that his client’s life was consistent with someone who acted out of character. He said the events of that night had shadowed his life, which the court heard he had tried to end.
The trial heard that Pinder, who was epileptic, had also developed depression and agoraphobia since the killing.
“Colin Pinder couldn’t cope with what he’d done. He wants it off his chest. He has no life,” said Mr Devally.
The jury told Mr Justice John Edwards at 4pm that it had reached a verdict on one of the defendants. The courtroom remained in silence while the bailiff retrieved the issue paper from the jury room and the foreman signed it.
The judge remanded Pinder in custody for the remainder of the trial, after which he will sentence him. The prisoner, who had no relatives in court throughout the five-week case, was then led away by prison officers.
The jury will return to the court on Monday when it will deliberate on the charge against Mrs McGrath.