Provocation? The many trials of Paula Farrell and final conviction for partner's murder

Provocation? The many trials of Paula Farrell and final conviction for partner's murder
Guilty of murder. Paula Farrell pictured in 2015

- Additional reporting by Brian Kavanagh

At first, the schoolboys thought the man who had stumbled out of the dark was doused in oil. But with the light of his phone, Paul Maguire told the Central Criminal Court that he could see the man was, in fact, covered in blood.

"There was a wound on his neck and I could see blood flowing down the side of his body," the witness told the court. The injured man was "roaring and roaring" that he had been stabbed and needed an ambulance.

It was the early hours of January 1, 2014 and Paul Maguire and his friends had been walking through Rathmullen Park in Drogheda, having earlier rung in the New Year nearby. As they walked past the home of Paula Farrell, the man had "hopped, skipped and jumped" out in front of them, shouting that he needed an ambulance.

Mr Maguire said he got a fright and moved away at first but when the man slipped on a patch of grass and fell to the ground, he and one of his friends went to him.

As prosecution counsel told the jury, the man had been bleeding so heavily some of the teenagers initially thought that, from the colour of his bloodstained t-shirt, he had been wearing a Liverpool jersey.

Paul Maguire also told the court that the man who had fallen to the ground had his trousers around his ankles and his private parts were exposed.

The witness said he saw a woman standing in the doorway of the house, drying her hands on a towel. Mr Maguire had quickly called the emergency services but the woman told the group: "Don't ring an ambulance, you must be joking to ring an ambulance."

"I'm gone lads," the man had told the teenagers.

Due to a 30-minute delay in getting an ambulance to the scene, attending gardai had to drive the victim Wayne McQuillan in their patrol car to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda. He suffered a cardiac arrest on the way and was resuscitated. However, a second cardiac arrest proved fatal and he was pronounced dead at 4.29am on New Year's morning.

Former Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis testified that the former painter and decorator could have potentially survived with "prompt medical intervention".

Something Stupid

Paula Farrell had lived in Rathmullen Park for 23 years. She dropped out of secondary school in her second year and had worked at various jobs, including a time as a machinist in a cotton wool factory.

Clinical psychologist Dr Kevin Lambe testified that Farrell was "an angry person" and this anger prevented her from getting too close to anyone. "She would have found life quite difficult," he said.

The jury also heard that Farrell's IQ was tested at 70, placing her "just at the cut-off point" for a borderline intellectual disability.

She met Wayne McQuillan, who was from the Marian Park estate, in the local pub on the occasion of her 40th birthday in February 2013. Wayne was ten years younger than Paula and they were together for about a year at the time of his death. They would binge drink together in her home on a daily basis, with a typical session beginning around 3pm and concluding around midnight. Mr McQuillan was living with his parents at the time but often stayed overnight with Farrell, who lived with her young child.

Asked by her own defence counsel during the trial if they had a good relationship, Farrell said: "We did and we didn't". Arguments between the couple were frequent and the accused said there was always "drink on board" when disagreements occurred.

The trial heard that Wayne McQuillan had nine previous convictions for public order offences, which had all been dealt with in the District Court. Farrell has no previous convictions.

Paula and Wayne had begun drinking at 3pm on New Year's Eve and high levels of alcohol were later detected in their systems. Farrell drank at least nine cans that day and was found to have six litres of alcohol in her system. Wayne was drinking two-litre bottles of cider and a toxicology report carried out as part of his post-mortem found him to be six times over the drink-driving limit.

When gardai conducted a search of Farrell's kitchen, they found 12 empty cans of Bulmers cider and three empty two-litre bottles of Woodgate cider in a rubbish bag.

Garda Tomás Leonard, one of the first officers to arrive at the scene on the night of the killing, told the jury that Farrell was "hysterical" so he took her to her mother's house nearby for a cautioned statement.

He said Farrell told him: "The two of us started bitching before the New Year. I don't remember what we were fighting about. It was something stupid." She said they had started "tackling each other" in the kitchen and that "he had me by the wrist and neck and I got a bump on my head from him."

Farrell told Gda Leonard that Wayne "had me on the two-seater in the kitchen" and when she got up, she said, "I didn't want him to get the better of me. I got the knife then and I stuck the knife in him."

Following the stabbing she said Wayne walked out the front door of the house and collapsed. She added: "I was crying, saying 'I'm so sorry'."

Farrell told the garda that she had left the knife in the sink but had washed her hands as they were covered in blood. She was later interviewed four times by gardai before being arrested and sent forward for trial for murder at the Central Criminal Court.

Victim, Wayne McQuillan
Victim, Wayne McQuillan

An Imputation

16 months after the killing, Farrell's solicitor served notice on the prosecution of her intention to adduce evidence which, as the State characterised, "would involve an imputation on Mr McQuillan's character". These allegations included that Wayne had assaulted, sexually assaulted and raped Farrell on New Year's Day 2014.

On the fifth day of her trial, Farrell took to the stand and testified that after she and Wayne had rung in the New Year, he had pulled down his boxers and her pyjama bottoms. "He got in between my legs and was trying to get his penis inside me but couldn't. I was trying to push him off by his shoulders," she said.

She said Mr McQuillan got his penis "a little close" to her vagina but had not penetrated her fully. Farrell said she did not want to have sex and told Wayne to get off her but he began to manually strangle her, she claimed.

"I thought I was dying, I couldn't breathe," she said, adding that Mr McQuillan was on top of her for a while. "My hands were swinging and I was trying to get him off me as he was hurting me," she continued.

Farrell said that she managed to push Mr McQuillan off but did not remember taking a knife from a knife block.

"I went from the sink to the kitchen door, which I don't remember, and I stood in front of him and stuck the knife into him," she said. She added that she had "used the knife twice".

She said Mr McQuillan did not say anything when she stuck the knife into him and he "just walked up the hall" with his pants hanging down. She said she stabbed him again at the house meter box but did not remember this. Farrell accepted that she had stabbed her partner four times but said she only remembered stabbing him twice.

Evidence was heard that Farrell herself had 11 "injury sites" in total, including a lump on her forehead and bruising to both sides of her neck.

Farrell also told her defence counsel, Caroline Biggs SC, that she was sexually abused by a named man when she was a child and that it had "ruined her life". The abuse began when she was seven years of age and lasted until she was 14, she said.

"He mauled my whole body," Farrell told the jury.

She described the alleged abuse in graphic detail and added that it happened every day. Farrell said the alleged abuser began to have sex with her when she was 13 years of age.

Farrell said she began to drink when she was 14 years of age as she could not cope anymore. "I got to like the drink too much as it blocked all my problems out," she said, adding that she started to drink heavily in her twenties and would drink up to 11 cans of cider a day.

She testified that she felt "numb" and "in shock" at the time of killing because of the sexual abuse she had allegedly endured as a child. Farrell maintained she did not intend to kill her boyfriend or cause him serious harm and said she just wanted to "hurt him the way he hurt me". "I don't think I realised what I had done," she remarked.

The accused agreed with prosecution counsel, Mr Gerard Clarke SC, that she had not told gardai about Mr McQuillan trying to have sex with her on the night. "I didn't want to believe it had happened again from two people I loved," she said.

Dr Lambe, testifying on behalf of the defence, told the jury that Farrell did not have the "cognitive resources" to act in a different manner on the night.

He said that she was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a consequence of being sexually abused as a child. Farrell stabbing Mr McQuillan four times could be attributed to her PTSD and being sexually assaulted as a child, he maintained.

Consultant forensic psychiatrist Dr Brenda Wright, testifying on behalf of the defence, said that Farrell was suffering from PTSD and alcohol dependency at the time she stabbed her partner to death. However, Dr Wright said PTSD had not played a significant role in the killing.

Dr Sally Linehan, testifying on behalf of the prosecution, said that the accused's behaviour on the night was influenced by her intoxication and not her mental disorder. However, she accepted that Farrell's illness could have played "some role" on the night as she had difficulty regulating her emotions and behaviour as a result of being sexually abused as a child. She was not satisfied that Farrell experienced "a dissociative reaction" when she killed her partner.

File image of Paula Farrell from 2015
File image of Paula Farrell from 2015

"An outrageous lie"

In her closing speech to the jury, Ms Biggs told the jury that if there was a reasonable possibility that Farrell had acted as a result of provocation, they must convict her of manslaughter.

Provocation is a partial defence which reduces a charge of murder to manslaughter even if there was an intention to kill or cause serious injury.

Ms Biggs asked the jury to look at her client as a person with a mental illness, telling them: "You must look if she lost self-control from her particular situation and decide if she was provoked. PTSD is relative to her subjective state of mind."

She also reminded the jury that Farrell had six litres of alcohol in her system on the night and asked whether the accused could have formed the specific intent to kill or cause serious injury or whether there was a reasonable possibility that because of the state she found herself in, Farrell did not think through the consequences of her actions.

Ms Biggs pointed out that Farrell had described the sexual attack on her by Mr McQuillan as intensely private and said it had taken her client five years of sobriety to be able to discuss her feelings with counsellors.

"People who have suffered child sexual abuse put a lid on everything sexual," she remarked.

However, in his address to the jury, Mr Clarke said the allegation of a sexual attack by Wayne McQuillan was "an outrageous lie" told against a man who was now dead and could not give any alternative account of events.

The barrister said Farrell was claiming Wayne McQuillan had turned into a "homicidal rapist for no reason".

He said in Farrell's four interviews with gardai there had been "no mention whatsoever" of a sexual attack. In fact he said it was "quite the opposite", as Farrell told gardai in her third interview that nothing sexual happened between her and the deceased on the night.

The prosecution's contention was that the only reason the jury had heard about the accused woman having PTSD and being sexually abused as a child was to create sympathy in their minds so they would return a verdict of manslaughter instead of murder.

After deliberating over two days, the jury panel of seven men and four women rejected Farrell's defence that she had been provoked by Wayne's alleged sexual assault.

The verdict marked the second time Farrell has been convicted of the same murder. Her original 2015 conviction, which was also returned by unanimous jury verdict, was quashed by the Court of Appeal in June 2018 over the trial judge’s decision not to allow the partial defence of provocation be considered by the jury.

A retrial was ordered and a jury failed to reach a verdict in her second trial in July last year.

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