Murder accused had man’s blood under nail

The woman accused of murdering a man in Bandon had blood of the victim under a fingernail on her right hand, a forensic scientist told a judge and jury yesterday.

Evidence was also given of the deceased being strangled with two ligatures — a cable from an electric appliance and the chord from the hoodie he was wearing when found.

Catherine O’Connor, aged 37, of Bridge House, Sean Hales Place, Bandon, Co Cork, is on trial before Mr Justice Paul Carney and a jury of eight women and four men at the Central Criminal Court sitting in Cork.

She denies a charge of murdering Jonathan Duke, aged 27, at Bridge House on Nov 13, 2011.

John Hoade, a forensic scientist with the Department of Justice laboratory, testified that he analysed swabs of blood taken from the accused, Catherine O’Connor, including one taken from underneath a fingernail on her right hand.

Mr Hoade told senior counsel Tim O’Leary, prosecuting, that the blood sample was a DNA match for the deceased.

Senior counsel Isobel Kennedy, defending, said: “Swabs from the nail of the right hand [of Ms O’Connor] simply indicate contact with the blood of an individual. It could be from trying to lift him.”

Mr Hoade agreed and said: “It just means a person was in contact with the blood when it was wet.”

He said blood spatter marks indicated that the deceased was at a low level when he was assaulted.

He said a cast-off blood marking on the ceiling was consistent with blood flung from a weapon when it was being used repeatedly.

Dr Margot Bolster, the assistant state pathologist, testified yesterday that Mr Duke died from mechanical asphyxia or strangulation with ligatures and associated blunt and sharp force trauma causing significant blood loss.

She said alcohol was a contributory factor, hastening death, but was absolutely not one of the causes of death.

She said one of Mr Duke’s wounds had a piece of glass protruding from it. In relation to another wound, Dr Bolster said he had been struck on his head and neck with a blunt object that had almost torn patches of his skin off, with one piece of flesh hanging on by a strip.

A wound to his back above his left buttock resulted in significant blood loss.

The man also suffered a broken rib, a fractured skull, as well as over a dozen wounds to his torso. In all he had a total of over 60 wounds.

Dr Bolster reported seeing a broken bottle in the flat as well as a plastic carrier bag with multiple glass fragments, some stained with blood.

Dr Bolster said Mr Duke did not drown and was either post-mortem or peri-mortem (on the point of death) dying when his body was put into the river.

When the body was recovered, a long electrical flex, with the plug still attached, was found to be wrapped four times around his neck, and a second ligature, the chord of his grey hoodie top, was also tightly wound around his neck, Dr Bolster said.

She said blood of Mr Duke tested positive for ethanol (alcohol) but not in the fatal range, and also positive for a prescription sedative, but only taken at a therapeutic level, and there was no finding of drug abuse by Mr Duke.

The trial continues today.

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