Derry man admits strangling mother of unborn son

The Derry man on trial at the Central Criminal Court for the murder of the mother of his unborn son has admitted strangling her, the court has heard.

The Derry man on trial at the Central Criminal Court for the murder of the mother of his unborn son has admitted strangling her, the court has heard.

"He has instructed his solicitor that he did put his hand on Jean Quigley's neck and he did compress or strangle it," said Stephen Cahoon's defence barrister, Michael O'Higgins SC.

Father-of-one Stephen Cahoon (aged 37) of Harvey Street, Derry has pleaded not guilty to the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Jean Teresa Quigley.

However, he admits killing the 30-year-old mother-of-four at her home at Cornshell Fields, Shantallow, Derry on July 26, 2008.

Mr O'Higgins was cross-examining the North's state pathologist Professor Jack Crane today when he made the admission on his client's behalf. He said he was not challenging Mr Crane's finding that Ms Quigley died of "compression of the neck due to manual strangulation".

Mr Crane carried out a post mortem examination on Ms Quigley's body, which he said was bruised on the head, neck, trunk and limbs.

He said there was no evidence of sexual assault and no definite evidence that she had been tied up. However, he said there were pale markings on a wrist and ankle, suggesting that a ligature might have been used.

He said there were at least two blows to her head, and that injuries to her abdomen and arms were possibly caused by punching or kicking.

Bruising on her upper arm and shoulder were likely caused by being grabbed and bruises on her forearms were possibly defensive injuries, he said.

He added that bruises on her thighs might have been caused by someone kneeling on her.

Forensic scientist Bronagh Tumelty told the court that she used DNA profiling to match semen found in the victim’s vagina to Cahoon. She said his semen was also found on pink socks, the only clothing Ms Quigley was wearing when her mother found her body on a bloodstained bed.

The main enzyme in saliva was found on Ms Quigley’s nipples and DNA profiling matched this to Cahoon. His profile was also present in samples taken from under her fingernails.

The middle part of Ms Quigley’s bra and one of its straps were partially ripped. Similarly, the right strap of her top was damaged and contained many loose and pulled threads.

“This damage was recent and not indicative of normal wear and tear,” she said, identifying both items in court.

She explained that a dark blue sport sock found by her bed contained Ms Quigley’s saliva and blood. The court had already heard that any blood found came from inside the victim’s nose and mouth, a result of blood vessels bursting during strangulation.

Ms Quigley’s DNA profile was also found in blood on a white t-shirt seized from Cahoon’s flat.

Meanwhile DNA retrieved from yellow liquid in Ms Quigley’s toilet was a match with Cahoon.

Ms Tumelty said silver, metal handcuffs found at the scene did contain blood but the amount was insufficient for DNA purposes.

She had also examined nine lengths of parcel tape found at the scene. Some of these contained blood, hair and other fibres.

Some 15 cigarette butts found in the house were also examined. Most contained the DNA profile of either the victim or the defendant, or both.

Ms Tumelty said that she sent tissue from Ms Quigley’s 10-week old fetus to another laboratory for paternal analysis. She confirmed that the baby was male.

The trial continues before Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy and a jury of seven women and five men.

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