Roy Webster, aged 40, from Ashbree, Ashford, Co Wicklow, has pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to the manslaughter of Anne Shortall, 47, on April 3, 2015, at The Murrough, Co Wicklow. The plea was not accepted by the State.
Opening the trial, Paul Greene said the prosecution’s case is that Mr Webster and the deceased had a “sexual encounter” after meeting at a pub on December 20, 2014.
He said that seemed to be the end of it until some time later, Ms Shortall started trying to contact the accused by phone and through a mutual friend on Facebook.
She told him she was pregnant and wanted money for an abortion. Mr Webster was married at the time and his second child had recently been born. He asked Ms Shortall for proof that she was pregnant, and that he was responsible.
Mr Greene said Ms Shortall was in debt. She owed a couple of thousand euro to her landlord and a similar amount in electricity bills.
On April 3, 2015, Mr Greene said Mr Webster and Ms Shortall met in Wicklow Town and were seen sitting in his van. He said the jury will hear there was a dispute about whether he would give her money and she threatened to “reveal all” about their earlier encounter.
He hit her on the head with a hammer and drove her back to his work premises with her hands secured by duct tape. A pathologist’s report would show that she received nine blows to the head, he said.
Her body remained at Mr Webster’s workshop until April 7 when he told gardaí of her whereabouts. When she went missing on April 3, efforts were made to find her and Mr Webster was interviewed by gardaí on April 6, having spent the weekend with her body at his work premises.
He did not reveal his part in her death but by the following day, gardaí had become suspicious and spoke to him again. It was then that he revealed the location of her body, which was discovered behind wood panels in his workshop.
Brendan Grehan, defending, told the jury his client accepts he met Ms Shortall by arrangement and that he assaulted her and is responsible for her death. He also admits tying her hands with tape and lying to the gardaí in his initial statement.
Mr Greene said the jury’s role in the trial is to decide if Mr Webster is guilty of murder or manslaughter.
Jamie Shortt yesterday told Mr Greene that he was out with the accused and some other men on December 20. They went for a couple of pints at a pub known as the Bridge before moving on to The Forge.
It was a busy pub, he said, and he remembers seeing Mr Webster speaking to a woman for much of the night. He was still speaking to her when Mr Shortt left.
A few days later he said he saw Mr Webster again and they spoke about that night. He said Mr Webster told him he had gone to a house party, slept on a couch, and went home the next day. Speaking to Mr Grehan, he said Mr Webster always “came across as OK” and agreed he had previously described him as “100% genuine”.
The trial continues.