Jury told to remember accused not murder victim on trial

Counsel tells jurors Roy Webster waited four days before revealing part in woman’s death

Roy Webster of Ashbree, Ashford, Co Wicklow, has pleaded not guilty  to murder but guilty to the manslaughter of Anne Shortall on April 3rd, 2015. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Roy Webster of Ashbree, Ashford, Co Wicklow, has pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to the manslaughter of Anne Shortall on April 3rd, 2015. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

The jury in the case of a married man who has admitted to killing a woman he had an affair with has been told to remember it is the accused rather than the victim who is on trial.

Roy Webster (40), of Ashbree, Ashford, Co Wicklow, has pleaded not guilty at the Central Criminal Court to murder but guilty to the manslaughter of Anne Shortall (47) on April 3rd, 2015, at The Murrough, Co Wicklow. His plea was not accepted by the State.

In his closing statement, senior counsel Paul Greene, prosecuting, told the jury of seven women and four men that Mr Webster waited for four days to reveal his part in her death.

When he did do so, Mr Greene said there was a “degree of self-pity”, with Mr Webster talking about all the things he had worked so hard for.

“It is a mistake that is after ruining so many lives, but she had me up against a wall,” he told them.

He pointed out that over the previous four days, Mr Webster had lied to Ms Shortall’s daughters when they asked him if he could help find their mother. He then lied to gardaí repeatedly, before confessing when his wife confronted him.

Mr Greene said a lot had come out about the background of Ms Shortall and that, at times, it may have been hard to tell who was on trial.

The jury had heard that Ms Shortall had rent arrears and electricity bills totalling thousands of euro and that she sought some £6,500 for an abortion from Mr Webster. If he did not pay, she said she would tell Mr Webster’s wife about their sexual encounter, which led to the accused attacking her with a hammer. A pathology report later showed she was not pregnant.

Mr Greene described Ms Shortall as a “nocturnal creature of habit” who had not covered herself in glory. However, it was Mr Webster who was on trial for murder and it was the jury’s job to decide if it was his intention to kill her.

Intention to kill

Counsel told the jury that an intention to kill can be formed “immediately” and that they should presume that Mr Webster intended the “natural and probable consequences” of his actions when he hit Ms Shortall on the head nine times with a hammer.

He said the defence could claim that Mr Webster lost control to the point where he was no longer master of his own mind, and that in such circumstances a verdict of not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter can be brought.

In assessing this, he said, they should consider Mr Webster’s actions in the aftermath of beating Ms Shortall to death.

Mr Webster went home and was “completely normal,” according to the evidence of his wife’s friend Carmel Phibbs. With the body in his van less than 100m away, covered in blood and tied up with duct tape, he had a drink with his wife, watched TV and fell asleep.

Mr Greene said the accused only began to claim he had lost control after he was arrested. He reminded the jury of evidence from State Pathologist Prof Marie Cassidy, who said that the tape around her head may have caused Ms Shortall to die from asphyxia, if she was not already dead.

Rather than being out of his mind, Mr Webster had the presence of mind to wash the blood from his hands and wipe the bloody hammer.

While he accepted that Mr Webster’s remorse was real, Mr Greene said that did not excuse his guilt.

Senior counsel Brendan Grehan, defending, will make his closing statement on Tuesday, before Justice McCarthy begins his charge to the jury.