Man to be sentenced for killing girlfriend

An “accomplished boxer” will be sentenced next month for the manslaughter of a mother of two with whom he had been in a “turbulent relationship”.

Ray Gralton, aged 23, of Mount Prospect, Roscommon, was charged with the murder of Sara Staunton, 28, at her home at Portagh, Mayo Abbey, Claremorris, Co Mayo, on December 13, 2013.

He pleaded guilty to manslaughter in advance of the trial and the plea was accepted by the DPP. Brendan Grehan, defending, read out a letter written by his client,

in which he said he will “never forgive himself”.

Paddy McCarthy, prosecuting, said Ms Staunton had two children with her former partner, who were living with their father at the time of her death.

Det Sgt Gary Walsh told the court Gralton and Ms Staunton were together for 12 months prior to her death.

“It was a turbulent relationship and there had been instances of domestic violence during the course of the year,” he said. “There was also a strong culture of alcohol abuse and intoxication on both sides.”

Det Sgt Walsh said Gralton could not comprehend he could be responsible for her death and admitted to having slapped her during the course of the evening. He said Gralton had 12 previous convictions.

Ms Staunton’s best friend, Grace McKenna, was in Ms Staunton’s bungalow on the night of her death with her boyfriend, and Mr McCarthy told the court Ms McKenna had not been drinking.

He said a computer was thrown by Ms Staunton and a row erupted. Mr Grehan told the court that, following this, Gralton slapped his girlfriend across the face, she then kicked him, he hit her in the head, and a few punches were thrown before Ms Staunton fell to the ground. When she got up, she was bleeding.

Mr McCarthy said Ms McKenna said she thought Ms Staunton kicked Gralton before he threw cans of beer at her head. The court heard the couple were fighting for around two hours, with two to three physical fights.

Mr Grehan said Ms McKenna and her boyfriend left later that night and then re

turned at 4.30am to collect drink. Gralton was sitting on the side of the bed and Ms Staunton was lying in the foetal position, and they assumed she was asleep.

Mr McCarthy told the court Ms Staunton went to sleep but the following morning she would not wake up and Gralton tried to resuscitate her but to no avail.

She was pronounced dead on December 14, 2013, and the autopsy revealed she “sustained severe blunt force trauma to the head region”, damage to the brain, and there were “multiple bruises scattered over her body”, as well as high levels of alcohol detected.

Mr McCarthy said the accused admitted “hitting” Ms Staunton and “using his fist” but the strike of the cans was the likely cause of death.

Mr Grehan

said Ms Staunton had come to the door earlier in the night with a “poker” in her hand.

He said Gralton is remorseful about what has happened.

Mr Justice Paul Carney remanded him in custody until April 13 for sentencing.

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