Vera McGrath gets 18 months for helping dispose of husband

Judge: ‘this is a most upsetting case making me feel physically ill’

Vera McGrath at Dublin Central Criminal Court today, where she received an 18-month sentence. Photograph: Collins

Vera McGrath at Dublin Central Criminal Court today, where she received an 18-month sentence. Photograph: Collins

Thu, Jun 5, 2014, 17:40

A 65-year-old woman has been sentenced to 18 months for helping her husband’s killer dispose of his body in Co Westmeath almost thirty years ago.

But Vera McGrath of Volvenstown, Fordstown, Navan, Co Meath will not serve any further time in custody as she has already spent over two years and seven months of a life sentence behind bars for a 2010 murder conviction. This conviction which was quashed by the Court of Criminal Appeal last year.

The Central Criminal Court was told that her son-in-law Colin Pinder killed Mr McGrath and the pair burnt and disposed of his body in a hole in the back garden of his home.

McGrath, who has no previous convictions, was arraigned before the court on Monday charged with materially assisting the killer of her 43-year-old husband, Bernard Brian McGrath, by disposing of evidence connected with his manslaughter at Lower Coole, Westmeath.

The charge stated that the manslaughter had been committed by Pinder and related to a date unknown between March 16th and April 18th, 1987.

She pleaded guilty to the charge and the plea was accepted by the prosecution.

In sentencing Mr Justice Paul Carney said because McGrath had served over two years and seven months for the crime, which carried a two-year penalty she had “credit in the bank” and had “a get out of jail free card”.

“This is a most upsetting case making me feel physically ill,” said Mr Justice Carney.

He took account of the facts “which are upsetting to the point of making someone physically ill having to listen to them.”

He also took account of her having no previous convictions, that she had co-operated with gardaí and that the case was old.

He imposed a sentence of 18 months in prison from today’s date but said McGrath was to have credit for time already served. But the judge said she will have to go to prison for processing but will be entitled to be released.

McGrath and Pinder were tried together. Pinder was convicted of manslaughter and was jailed for nine years.

McGrath’s murder conviction was quashed by the Court of Criminal Appeal on March 11th, 2013. Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman ordered a retrial because of prejudicial evidence.

Mr McGrath was assaulted and died at his home in the back of the cottage he lived in at Coole and his remains were buried in the back garden before they were dug up again, burnt and disposed of.

Michael Bowman BL prosecuting said that it was at the “higher end of offending behaviour” because of the covering up of material facts and the disposal of the entirety of the body on two occasions.