Gardaí forced entry to woman’s home after seeing child inside during standoff

Richard Burke (32) denies murdering Jasmine McMonagle but pleads guilty to manslaughter

Gardaí decided to force entry to the house where Jasmine McMonagle was killed after her eight-year-old daughter was seen at a front window of the property following a lengthy standoff, a Central Criminal Court jury has been told.

The court also heard that, in his first Garda interview following his arrest, murder-accused man Richard Burke told investigating officers he “went ballistic” and started punching Ms McMonagle and strangling her with a rope.

The jury also heard that a member of the force who attended the scene shortly after 5am went to the rear of the property and, through a gap in the kitchen window curtains, saw Ms McMonagle lying lifeless in a pool of blood.

Gardaí attended the scene following a 999 call by Ms McMonagle at 4.21am stating she was in fear for her life.


Mr Burke (32), of Killygordon, Co Donegal, has pleaded not guilty to Ms McMonagle’s murder at Forest Park, Killygordon, on January 4th, 2019, but guilty to her manslaughter.

Sgt Brendan McCann, who was the main investigating officer in the case, told prosecuting counsel Anne-Marie Lawlor that gardaí from Lifford arrived on the scene within 20 minutes of Ms McMonagle’s 999 call. They got no response when they knocked on the door and continued to bang on the door and windows.

Glass breaker

Officers went to the back of the property where they could see a large window covered with curtains and a small window covered with what appeared to be a towel, Sgt McCann said. The two gardaí sought advice on whether a forced entry should be affected and a short time later retrieved a glass breaker from the patrol car and used it to enter the property.

As they did so, a man appeared with bloodstaining on his clothes. The court heard he told gardaí his name was Charlie Thatcher but it was later established he was Richard Burke. He had a butcher-style meat cleaver in his hand and told gardaí they had no business being there.

One of the officers used pepper spray on the man but this had no effect as he was wearing glasses, Sgt McCann said. Mr Burke retreated into the kitchen and utility room. When gardaí went in after him, he came out brandishing the cleaver and began swinging it at one of the officers, making contact with his clothing.

Gardaí were forced to take evasive action and retreated from the property. They contacted the control room to report the incident and more members arrived within minutes, Sgt McCann said.

The court heard a member of the force went to the rear of the property shortly after 5am and could see through a gap in the curtains of the window. He noted Mr Burke inside and saw a slipper and a person’s leg on the ground surrounded by a pool of blood with a small dog lying beside it.

Sgt McCann confirmed to Ms Lawlor that Ms McMonagle had already died at that point.

Crisis negotiator

A trained crisis negotiator arrived at 6.15am and from that point on was the only person to have verbal contact with Mr Burke, engaging with him in an effort to de-escalate the situation and ascertain what had occurred, Sgt McCann said.

Mr Burke told the negotiator there were two children up in bed. When asked where Ms McMonagle was, he said she was sleeping. Efforts with Mr Burke to gain access to the house continued while the Armed Response Unit was being engaged in the background, Sgt McCann said. An ambulance and paramedics were also in attendance.

At 7.29am, Mr Burke was observed leaving the kitchen and appeared to bend down under the stairs in the hall. At 7.31am, a paramedic observed a young child at the upstairs front window.

The court heard this was Ms McMonagle’s eight-year-old daughter. At that point the decision was made that there had to be an immediate and forced entry to the property, Sgt McCann said.

Gardaí entered the property and Mr Burke was barricaded in the rear of the house. The first garda inside was confronted by Mr Burke, who was instructed to stop and desist. When he refused, a taser was used and Mr Burke was handcuffed and searched, and a knife in a scabbard was found in his jacket.

Two phones were also found, one was Mr Burke’s and the other was Ms McMonagle’s, which had earlier been used to make the 999 call.

Children unharmed

Ms McMonagle’s older daughter was found upstairs while her younger daughter was discovered in a cot in the front room of the property. Both were uninjured, Sgt McCann said. Ms McMonagle’s body was found in the kitchen and it was clear to all present that she was already deceased.

Sgt McCann said Mr Burke was arrested and brought to Letterkenny Garda station, where he was seen by a psychiatrist who deemed him fit to be interviewed.

The sergeant confirmed to Ms Lawlor that, in his first Garda interview, Mr Burke made admissions that he had killed Ms McMonagle. He told investigating officers that he “went ballistic” and started punching and strangling her with a rope.

The jury also heard that a postmortem carried out by Chief State Pathologist Dr Linda Mulligan concluded that Ms McMonagle’s cause of death was ligature strangulation with multiple traumatic injuries to the head and trunk as contributory factors.

The case continues.