Jury to return after failing to reach unanimous verdict in Nadine Lott murder trial

Mr Justice Michael MacGrath told the jury on leaving: "Don't speak to anyone about the case and keep as far away as possible from media coverage."
Jury to return after failing to reach unanimous verdict in Nadine Lott murder trial

The jury has heard that Nadine Lott suffered "severe blunt force trauma" and stab injuries at the hands of her former partner "in a sustained and violent attack" in her Arklow home. File photo

A jury will return to the Central Criminal Court tomorrow to consider its verdict in the trial of a man accused of murdering his former partner Nadine Lott by inflicting "severe blunt force trauma" injuries to her in a "sustained attack" in her Arklow home.

The jury of seven men and five women began considering their verdict this morning and have spent a total of four hours and 18 minutes deliberating in another courtroom in the Criminal Courts of Justice building.

At 4pm today the registrar at the Central Criminal Court asked the foreman if they had reached a verdict on which they all agreed. He replied: "No".

Mr Justice Michael MacGrath said he would adjourn proceedings until the morning as the jury had spent in excess of four hours deliberating. He added: "Leave anything from the case in the jury room, don't speak to anyone about the case and keep as far away as possible from media coverage of the case."

Daniel Murtagh (34), of Melrose Grove, Bawnogue, Clondalkin, Dublin 22 has pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to the manslaughter of his 30-year-old ex-partner Ms Lott at her apartment in St Mary's Court, Arklow, Co. Wicklow on December 17, 2019.

The jury has heard that Ms Lott suffered "severe blunt force trauma" and stab injuries at the hands of her former partner "in a sustained and violent attack" in her Arklow home. They have heard evidence that the injuries to Ms Lott were so serious that she never regained consciousness and died three days later in St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin.

An intensive care nurse at the hospital gave evidence that Ms Lott was "completely unrecognisable" and that she had never seen anybody so badly injured. A paramedic who attended to Ms Lott at her home told the jury that the call will "haunt" him for the rest of his career and was one of the most "horrendous scenes" he had ever walked into. The garda who telephoned ambulance control informed them that Ms Lott had been "beaten to a pulp".

Judge's charge to the jury

Concluding his charge on Tuesday, Mr Justice MacGrath asked the jurors to act clinically, dispassionately and without sympathy towards the deceased, her family, the accused or his family.

The judge said the jurors must confine their deliberations to the evidence which had been presented to them in the courtroom and they could not speculate.

Referring to the presumption of innocence, Mr Justice MacGrath said the fact Mr Murtagh had pleaded guilty to manslaughter did not alter his presumption of innocence, which he enjoyed in respect of the charge of murder. "The burden lies on the prosecution to prove every element of the offence," he added.

He said the date on the indictment was the date that Nadine had died despite the assault taking place three days previously, into the early hours of December 14. "That is why it is constructed in the way it is. Murder is not an offence until someone dies," he explained.

Murder, he said, was a crime of specific intent, which occurs when one person unlawfully killed another, intending that person to be killed or caused serious injury.

Defence counsel Brendan Grehan SC (pictured), for Mr Murtagh, submitted in his closing address that his client's intent was the "main battleground" in the case and asked the jury to consider his level of intoxication that night. Photo: Collins Courts
Defence counsel Brendan Grehan SC (pictured), for Mr Murtagh, submitted in his closing address that his client's intent was the "main battleground" in the case and asked the jury to consider his level of intoxication that night. Photo: Collins Courts

The judge said the accused had pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to manslaughter, which meant that Mr Murtagh accepted that he had killed Ms Lott by his acts and that the killing was unlawful. However, he said it also meant that Mr Murtagh does not accept he had the necessary mental element when he did the acts to Nadine Lott.

He asked the jurors to focus on the accused's intention that night. If the jury decided that the accused did not intend to kill Nadine, they must consider whether he intended to seriously injure her, he said. "If you come to the conclusion that the evidence establishes that he did intend to seriously injure her but not kill her that is still murder as murder is a crime of specific intent," he explained.

Mr Justice MacGrath said that their focus should be on how the accused's interviews with gardaí assisted them as to what the accused's intention was.

Intoxication

Referring to the accused's defence of intoxication, the judge said it is a defence for a crime of specific intent such as murder and can reduce the offence of murder to manslaughter.

"You must decide in the context of intoxication as to whether the prosecution satisfied you beyond a reasonable doubt that despite his intoxication he had formed the intent to kill or cause serious injury to Nadine Lott," he said.

Mr Murtagh told gardaí in his interviews that the incident "would never have happened but for the drink and drugs" he consumed that night.

The judge said if the jury are satisfied that the prosecution had discharged the burden of proof to kill or cause serious injury, they can find Mr Murtagh guilty of murder. However, if they are not satisfied of the accused's requisite intention, they must acquit him of murder and return a verdict of not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter.

The jury have heard that Mr Murtagh told gardaí in interview that, in the hours before the killing, he had smoked a joint, taken two pills and drank a "daddy naggin" bottle of Captain Morgan rum straight.

They can return two verdicts in relation to the murder charge against Mr Murtagh, namely; guilty of murder or not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter. They must be unanimous in their decision.

Closing speeches

In his closing speech, prosecution counsel John O'Kelly SC argued that Mr Murtagh had inflicted "the most appalling and dreadful blunt trauma injuries" to the beauty therapist's face, which separated the flesh from the underlying structures. He insisted that this was a case of murder and "nothing short of murder" and there was no defence of intoxication in the case. 

"There is the clearest intent, just look at what the accused didn't do and what he never tried to do, he never raised a hand to get Nadine any kind of help," he stressed.

However, defence counsel Brendan Grehan SC, for Mr Murtagh, submitted in his closing address that his client's intent was the "main battleground" in the case and asked the jury to consider his level of intoxication that night. Mr Murtagh maintained that the "bloodbath" would never have happened "but for the drink and drugs" he had consumed that night, said the lawyer.

At the outset of the trial, Mr Grehan made a number of admissions of fact to the court on behalf of his client. These included that the accused accepted that he had unlawfully killed Ms Lott and he "alone inflicted the injuries she suffered". The issue to be decided by the jury, Mr Grehan said, will be his intent and in the "broader sense his mental state at the time".

The jurors will return to the Central Criminal Court to continue their deliberations at 10.30am tomorrow morning.

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