Derek Daly, aged 47, originally from Enfield, Co Meath, but with an address at St Vincent’s Hostel, Cork, had denied the murder of Catherine Smart, aged 57, at the home they shared at Ballick Court, Midleton, Co Cork, on Easter Sunday morning, April 4, 2010.
Ms Smart was subjected to a violent assault and died from multiple blunt force injuries to the head.
After seven hours of deliberations over three days at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin, the jury brought in a majority verdict of 11/1.
During the trial, a number of witnesses testified that Daly was in a highly intoxicated state in the hours before and after he claimed to have found Ms Smart’s body.
A local taxi driver, and long-time friend of Ms Smart, Tony Bailey, gave evidence that he received a phone call from her at 7:31am on the morning of April 4 in which she told him that she was “on the floor” and implored him to “get me out of here” before the line went dead.
Mr Bailey tried to return the call three times without success, but thought nothing particular about it as “Saturday night was party night” and he was used to receiving “strange calls.”
Mr Daly told gardaí in interviews that he left Ballick Court at 8.40am in the morning of the murder to go to a local Lidl shop leaving Ms Smart in good spirits in the living room.
Daly maintained that on his return to the property approximately 20 minutes later, he found that a body which he believed to be that of Ms Smart was blocking the door of the living room/kitchen of the home.
Daly denied in evidence that he had murdered Ms Smart. Under cross examination by Michael Durack, prosecuting, Daly said that on the morning of Ms Smart’s murder, he unable to get through the door of the living/sitting room area as the victim’s body was jammed up against it.
When asked how his left thumb print was found on a blood mark on the rear of the fridge at a distance of 51 inches, Mr Daly said: “I must have put my hand around. I am not sure.”
State pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy said the results of the postmortem examination indicated that the first blow inflicted on the victim may have been sufficient to knock her over and that she was subsequently struck multiple times whilst lying on the living room floor.
Dr Cassidy said that bruises on the back of the victim’s hands were consistent with either defensive injuries, caused by the victim bringing her hands up to protect herself from further blows, or offensive injuries caused by the victim striking something with her hands.
Dr Cassidy agreed with Mr Durack that a broken, blood-stained hurley found in the house could have caused the injuries.
Daly told gardaí that he kept a hurley in the house close to the back door.
However, despite refusing to recognise the hurley found close to the victim as his own and denying having used it to bludgeon Ms Smart to death, Daly told detectives that if the hurley was found in the house, “it must be” his.
In his closing submission Blaise O’Carroll, defending, told the jury the evidence pointed towards his client being in a highly intoxicated state in the hours before Ms Smart’s death.
Speaking afterwards, Ms Smart’s sister, Ann Vaughan, said she was relieved the trial was over but no result could ever bring her sister back to her family.
“On behalf of the O’Callaghan and Smart family, I want to sincerely thank retired superintendent Flor Horan, Supt Michael Comyns, Detective Inspector Goulding and Insp Healy who have worked tirelessly to get justice for Catherine.
“Although we are happy with today’s verdict it will not bring Catherine back to us. I would like to also thank the witnesses, the jury and our friends and family who have supported us during this time”.
Mr Justice Garett Sheehan remanded Mr Daly to appear before him again on July 18 for sentencing.