A mother of two who was found dead in the boot of a burning car died as a result of blunt force trauma to the head, a jury at the Central Criminal Court heard today.
State Pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy gave evidence in the trial of a Co Wexford woman charged with impeding the investigation into the murder of Rebecca French (aged 30) at a house in Ard na Dara, Clonard, Wexford, on October 9, 2009.
Helen Connors, (aged 25), with an address at Belvedere Grove, Wexford, has pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Wexford woman Rebecca French was beaten to death by a gang of four men who have since pleaded guilty to disposing of and attempting to destroy her body.
The jury heard evidence from Dr Cassidy that Ms French was subjected to a sustained and brutal assault that lead to her death prior to the discovery of her body in the burning car.
Due to the severe fire damage to Ms French’s body DNA evidence was required to formally identify her remains.
Despite the attempted destruction of the body Dr Cassidy told the jury she was able to determine that Ms French suffered three depressed fractures to her skull along with four broken ribs and large areas of bruising to her upper body including two black eyes and lacerations to her face.
The court also heard that a blue plastic bag held in place with a cable tie was applied to Ms French’s head and ligature marks on her wrists were consistent with her hands being bound in front of her body with the same type of cable tie.
Dr Cassidy said that had Ms French been alive at the time she the bag was placed on her head suffocation could occur.
As there was no evidence of suffocation or bruising on her wrists consistent with a struggle Dr Cassidy said she believed Ms French was dead at the time both the bag and the cable ties were applied.
Under cross examination by defence counsel Giollaiosa O’ Lideadha SC, Dr Cassidy told the jury that Ms French’s injuries were consistent with her being attacked by a number of people.
In his closing submission to the jury Mr O’Lideadha argued that his client Helen Connors’ evidence throughout the trial was truthful and was backed up by testimony of Dr Cassidy, the gardaí and scientific experts.
He argued that Ms Connors, having witnessed a most “brutal and vicious” murder was in fear for her life and had a “ reasonable expectation” that she too would be killed if she did not follow orders to clean up the evidence.
In her closing submission Counsel for the prosecution Ms Mary Ellen Ring SC, told the jury that Ms Connors’ tearful witness statements to the gardai, where she expressed fear for her life and worries she would “get life” in jail, were evidence that she was worried about “her own skin”.
Ms Ring argued that Ms Connors had sufficient time to call the gardaí or to seek help during the time the four men attempted to dispose of Ms French’s body.
Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan told the jury of eight men and four women to return to Central Criminal Court tomorrow at 10.30am in the morning to hear his charge and begin their deliberations.