Poignant air in court on second anniversary of Siobhán’s death

A SUBDUED air hung over the Central Criminal Court yesterday as the trial of Brian Kearney for the murder of his wife Siobhán moved towards its concluding stages.

However, the explanation for the certain poignancy that was felt by all parties in Court No 3 was the fact that day nine of the trial marked exactly the second anniversary since the body of Siobhán Kearney was discovered in an upstairs bedroom of her family home at Knocknashee, Goatstown, Dublin, on February 28, 2006.

Coincidentally, it was also the birthday of the accused, who turned 51 yesterday.

Accompanied by a large number of relatives — including his elderly parents, Feargal and Maeve — Brian Kearney maintained his usual impassive gaze throughout yesterday’s hearing as he has done since the start of the trial, rarely adjusting it to make eye contact with anyone in the packed courtroom.

A few feet away, members of Siobhán’s family, who have been dressed symbolically in black since the outset of the trial, also looked tearful at the memory of the events that took place two years ago.

After the intimate details of his relationship with his wife were aired in public last week, Brian Kearney yesterday had to listen to evidence that provided a forensic scrutiny of his private financial affairs.

Toni Massey, an accountant with the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation, informed the court that an examination of accounts provided by the accused had enabled her to calculate that he had a net worth of €4.6m (after tax liability).

The jury of eight women and four men also heard that a 2006 diary kept by Siobhan was discovered at the back of a tank in a hot press during a search of the Kearney home by gardaí several days after her death.

Although its contents were not read out in court, the A4-sized diary had entries that began on January 27 and continued up to February 27 — the day before the 38-year-old mother died.

Siobhán’s sister, Ann Marie Sparks, took the witness stand for the second time in the trial to verify the entries to the diary had been made by her sister.

“This is the handwriting of my sister, Siobhán McLaughlin,” said Ms Sparks, her voice rising to emphasise her sister’s maiden name.

Trial judge Mr Justice Barry White was also conscious of the significance of yesterday’s date. He reminded the jury not to deliberate on the evidence yet, after hearing that the case for the prosecution had ended.

He warned the jurors “not to rush to judgment as to what happened at the home of Mr and Mrs Kearney on this day two years ago”. The judge also advised them to avoid reading the widespread media coverage of the case.

He noted wryly that he had often wondered in the past whether he had attended the same hearing as some journalists, given what had subsequently appeared in newspapers.

However, referring to the present case, he acknowledged that journalists covering the Kearney trial did not make the editorial decisions about what copy went in a newspaper.

Such decisions were often a matter of the “house style”, observed Mr Justice White.

Contending with the treatment of high-profile court cases by the tabloid media wasn’t the jury’s only apparent problem yesterday, as the judge became aware that they had “a certain dissatisfaction” with their dining arrangements.

As a result, he allowed the 12 jurors to sort out their own lunches until they are formally charged to consider their verdict.

This is likely to happen next Tuesday or Wednesday.

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