Bernard Curran, aged 53, of The Weir, Lucan, Co Dublin, admitted shooting dead Helen Donegan, aged 30, in his garage in Castlebagot. Curran also admitted hiding the mother of one’s body in the boot of a car for seven weeks.
The father of two had originally been charged with murdering the Ballyfermot native between May 4 and June 22, 2010. However, the prosecution accepted his plea of not guilty to murder but guilty to manslaughter. He was sentenced by the Central Criminal Court yesterday.
Curran claimed he was trying to shoot himself when his partner tried to grab his shotgun. He said the gun went off and she died of a single shotgun wound to her head.
Mr Justice Paul Carney noted that Curran claimed that it was an accident but accepted “there was negligence on his part, which fixes him with criminal responsibility”.
“I assess his negligent acts in exposing Helen Donegan to the fate which befell her as warranting six years.”
The judge then moved on to the issue of Curran’s cover-up of the crime, when he told her family she had gone on a drug run to England.
“It’s difficult to imagine a more callous treatment of the family as occurred in the cover-up.”
Mr Justice Carney referred to the victim impact statement of Ms Donegan’s brother, Martin Donegan.
“He can use all the excuses he wants but there’s no excuse for the pain he put us through,” wrote Mr Donegan, recalling the seven weeks that his sister was missing. “Thinking she would show up, and him phoning her in front of me, knowing she was in the boot of his car. His conning us is 10 times worse than killing her.”
Mr Justice Carney said that these aggravating circumstances warranted an extra three years in jail.
However he suspended the final two years in light of Curran’s previous good character on condition he stay away from the Donegan family in perpetuity.
Ms Donegan’s aunt, Caroline O’Connor, speaking outside court on behalf of the family, said they would try to move on but would never believe or accept Curran’s version of events. “It’s some kind of justice and it’s closure for us.”