THE family of Meg Walsh said they were “numbed and devastated” after her husband was yesterday found not guilty of her murder.
The jury of seven men and five women took five hours and 20 minutes to find John O’Brien, 41, of Ballinakill Downs, Co Waterford, not guilty of the murder on a date between October 1, 2006, and October 15, 2006. He had pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Speaking 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”.
“As you can imagine we are numbed and devastated by this verdict and we are at a loss why this would happen to us. Meg lived through a terrible ordeal, kept her terrible difficulties to herself and as far as we are concerned got a raw deal here today,” he said.
“She is the last thing we think about at night and the first thing in the morning. All we can do now is depend on the memories we have of Meg, a great mother and terrific woman, to keep us going.”
In a statement to the 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 the family throughout 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.”
The mother-of-one’s body was recovered from the River Suir two weeks after her disappearance.
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 Ms Walsh had disappeared after having words with her husband when he caught her kissing another man after a night drinking on Saturday, September 30.
Mr O’Brien told gardaí he woke up at about 1pm the following day and Meg was still asleep upstairs. He said he went for a drive out to his native Tramore returning home some time after 5pm. Meg was in the living room.
They had further words about the kiss the previous night, before Mr O’Brien went upstairs to watch TV.
At about 8.30pm he said he heard Meg 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.
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 Woodlands Hotel bar.
At about 10pm she and her partner, David Maloney, with another mutual acquaintance from the bar, walked 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 about 9pm.
The three went back to the bar where Ms Cuddihy 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, and another friend from the bar went back to the house around midnight. Ms Cuddihy put the note through the door.
The following day Meg did not turn up for work at Meadowcourt Homes.
Meg’s car was still missing.
Meg’s boss, Noel Power, rang a friend, Garda Kevin Donohue, and told him that Meg was missing.
That evening, after giving a statement to gardaí and finishing his shift at work Mr O’Brien told gardaí 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 and other areas of the vehicle.
Blood had been wiped off the outside of the car and the inside of the boot.
Her body was recovered from the River Suir on October 15.