Ray Gralton, with an address at Mount Prospect, Roscommon, was this week sentenced to 10 years, with the final two suspended, for the manslaughter of 28-year-old mother-of-two Sara Staunton at her home in Claremorris, Co Mayo, in December 2013.
Pat Staunton told of the hardship Sara endured during her year-long relationship with Gralton, an accomplished boxer with 12 previous convictions, including public order offences.
“About a month after I met him I had to go down and pick her up. She had two black eyes and she had hair missing. That was the first occasion and I wanted to, you know, as a father would want to, I wanted to do some damage to him. But she begged me not to, she said she loved him,” he told Sean O’Rourke on RTÉ Radio One.
Despite efforts to get Sara to end the relationship, Mr Staunton knew of at least five occasions over the course of a number of months his daughter had shown signs of being beaten.
During one incident, three weeks before her death, Mr Staunton said Gralton put Sara’s head “through the television”. “I brought her up to Galway and she was in a bad way that day. She had a lump, I’d say it was about 3in out of her forehead where he put her [through it],” he said.
“And I said Sara, babs, I said the next time he hits you he’s going to kill you.”
The day she died, Friday, December 13, 2013, Sara and her father remembers asking her to change her lifestyle, and she agreed.
“We went down for breakfast, and I said to her, ‘Where are you going to go with yourself now Sara? What are you going to do?’ She said ‘I’m gonna go off the drink, off the drugs’. Like I’d be a hypocrite sitting here telling you she didn’t take drugs as well. But I know the toxicology report for that night, there were no drugs in her system.”
But that night, Sara turned to alcohol, as she had many times before — her father said Sara’s problem with drink began when she was just 13 — and a fight erupted between Sara and Gralton which, a court heard, lasted for around two hours with two or three bouts of physical violence during that time.
It was heard that when the fight was over, the pair went to sleep. Sara never woke up — and autopsy results reveal that she died from blunt force trauma to the head.
In a letter read to the court, Gralton said he will “never forgive” himself and prays to Sara “often in fits of tears, for forgiveness”.