A father of one who strangled the mother of his unborn son has been sentenced to life imprisonment after being found guilty of her murder.
Stephen Cahoon, aged 39, also known as Stephen Moore, admitted strangling Jean Teresa Quigley, a mother of four who was 10 weeks pregnant, on Saturday, Jul 26, 2008.
However, the unemployed labourer from Magherafelt but with an address at Harvey St, Co Derry, pleaded not guilty to murdering his 30-year-old ex-girlfriend in her home at Cornshell Fields, Derry.
The seven women and five men of the jury took four-and-a-half hours over three days to reach a unanimous verdict at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin yesterday.
Cahoon showed no emotion when the verdict was read out, but Ms Quigley’s family sobbed and sighed; another jury had failed to reach a verdict following his first trial in 2009.
The two-week trial heard the deceased had broken up with Cahoon and that she was shaking the day she told him to leave her house, about two weeks before the killing.
The jury saw texts she sent him in the days before her death in which she described him as “a nutter” and told him she wanted him out of her life.
However, Cahoon went unannounced to Ms Quigley’s house at about 2am on the day she died. He said he wanted to give her money for dog food. He got a taxi to her estate, but not all the way to her house. He denied the taxi-driver’s assertion he had a holdall with him on the way there.
Cahoon claimed Ms Quigley let him in to her house. Police found the front door had been forced in.
Cahoon claimed she said he could sleep with her and tied him up with handcuffs and some parcel tape before having sex twice.
He claimed his phone rang during sex and she told him to get out when she discovered a female friend was calling him. He said he told her he did not want to leave as she had already told him he could spend the night, and that he wanted to stay with her and his baby.
He claimed she began screaming that the child was not his and that she was having an abortion.
“I snapped,” he said, introducing the defence of provocation, which can reduce murder to man-slaughter. “I just grabbed her by the throat. I wanted her to be quiet.”
He said he didn’t mean to kill her when he pressed down on her neck for about a minute. He could not explain why her head, body, arms, and legs were covered in bruises.
He denied gagging her with a sock found covered in her saliva, saying he used it to clean the ‘frothy stuff’ coming out of her mouth before giving her CPR.
He said when the CPR did not work, he went to the toilet and left. He blamed panic for his locking her inside the house and throwing away the key.
Cahoon booked a taxi from a bus shelter under his friend’s name. He was arrested in Donegal Town 10 days later after using a bank machine there. DNA tests soon put him in the house on the night.
The trial heard the alarm was raised when Ms Quigley’s children couldn’t get into the house that Saturday evening after spending a night away.
Her mother discovered her bruised, battered, and naked body lying in a pool of blood on her bed, a vision she yesterday said gave her nightmares.
Cahoon stood while Mr Justice Barry White imposed the mandatory life sentence for murder. The judge said that had the verdict been manslaughter, he would have had discretion in sentencing.
“But given your previous offensive behaviour towards women, it’s clear to me you’re a danger to society in general and to women in particular. I would have given serious consideration to imposing a life sentence,” he said, explaining this would have been rare.
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