Battered wife tried to conceal the marks of her beatings

 

From her easy chair beside the range Biddy Behan used to hear her daughter's shouts. "I often heard her roaring in the top bedroom. She'd have bruises and things but you wouldn't take any notice. "She'd say she'd fell and she wouldn't want to upset me. She used to wear those polo-neck jumpers. She'd never tell me. I've learned since that she wore them to hide the marks."

The house in the Clare town of Kilrush where Patricia and David Murphy lived before they moved to Dublin backs onto her mother's cottage. The council house at Wilson Road shares a wall with Cosy Cottage, where Biddy Behan lives with her elderly brother, Kevin Danaher.

"He made her sell up the rental purchase, sell all her furniture. She didn't want to. But he threatened to take the kids so she went with him, God help us, and never came back."

Patricia and David Murphy left Kilrush for Dublin in September 1994. They moved into a rented house on Griffith Avenue in Drumcondra. Biddy was 41 when she had Patricia in London in October 1962. She had another daughter 20 years earlier, Chrissie, who has lost touch with the family. Biddy's husband left shortly after Patricia was born.

Mother and baby came home to Kilrush in the 1960s, where they moved into a terraced house in the town with Biddy's brother, Kevin.

"She was my idol," Biddy says of her dead daughter. "She was very good to me and we went everywhere together . . . everywhere." Patricia worked in an icecream factory after she left the Convent of Mercy school and then she waitressed in a local hotel. "She could have done anything but she wanted to be near to look after me."

Patricia loved to dance. On Saturday nights she travelled eight miles by bus from Kilrush to the Atlantic Hotel in Kilkee. The hotel needed the disco-goers in the winter in the absence of the tourists. She once won a holiday to Spain as a dancing prize. It was at the disco one night in the 1980s that Patricia met David Murphy.

He had come to Clare to install a set of disco lights and stayed on to live at the Atlantic, working as a handyman. Mai Gaynor, a cook and cleaner at the hotel, remembered him as a polite young man who was "very kind to old people. He'd never let you lift anything that was too heavy for you."

The handyman did not mix that much, she says, and not many people in Kilkee knew him. His only unusual trait was his interest in the slot machines in the seaside town. "Oh he liked his machines," Mrs Gaynor says. "He was obsessed with the machines."

Murphy had an affair with a teenage girl in the town and she was pregnant when he met Patricia. He did not support the baby and the situation caused difficulty with Patricia's family.

The 90-bedroom hotel closed two years ago and the old building was demolished. A new 45-bedroom hotel and apartment development is being built beside the new Waterworld, overlooking the half-moon of sand that is Kilkee bay.

In May 1987 Patricia married Murphy in Kilrush. It was a small wedding. None of the guests was a friend of Murphy. Even his best man was a friend of Patricia.

The couple had been living in a flat in the town square over the EBS building society before they got married. She wore a wedding dress that her mother bought for her, her blonde hair in curls. He was tall and skinny in his dress suit. Biddy Behan wore a smart blue suit and pince-nez glasses. She kept the picture of the happy couple in a heart-shaped frame.

After they got married the couple moved to the council house on Wilson Road and David started working as a kitchen fitter and electrician in the town. Their first child, a girl, was born in April 1988.

By then the cracks in the marriage began to show to outsiders. Shortly after the baby was born Patricia was seen running out of the house after Murphy had pushed her. At a friend's birthday party he was seen catching Patricia by the throat and starting to squeeze.

During another row in the dining room of the Atlantic Hotel a friend walked in after he heard shouting and breaking crockery. He saw Patricia crying and backing away from her husband, as he walked towards her with a butter knife held by his side.

And yet to other friends they seemed a happy couple. She called him Daithi and he called her Collie. She had the pet name put on a name-plate that she hung on her bedroom door.

Even her closest friends only knew some of what was going on. Teresa Copley and Patricia became friends after Patricia married David. "There was a lot she kept to herself," Teresa says. "She cried outside my house once, saying he was threatening to take the kids if she didn't move to Dublin."

Teresa also saw the bruises. "I often saw her with marks and she told me she'd banged her head on a kitchen cupboard."

And then there was the money trouble. Patricia began hiding money from her husband, because if she didn't he would blow it on slot machines or things they didn't need.

He began to take on jobs that he could not finish or had not costed properly so the raw materials would cost more than his quote.

"She told me once about a time when they were on the beach in Kilkee and David said he was going to get ice-cream. He was gone for hours and it was getting dark so she gathered up the kids and found him in one of the arcades playing the slot machines," Teresa says.

Murphy persuaded her to take out a credit union loan, according to friends, saying it was needed for a deposit on a house. When the £2,000 was cashed he spent it on a car. The head of the credit union often asked her how the house was going. "If only he knew my house was on wheels," she used to say to Teresa.

Teresa marvels now at how Patricia coped, in a small town where her husband's debts were mounting and the people whose jobs he left unfinished were friends and neighbours. "He was taking money from people and not doing the job and she was the one who had to answer the door."

Sometimes she only opened the front door after peeping out through the curtain to be sure it wasn't one of her husband's creditors. But she kept her head high, adored her children and kept her house spotless. Then, after her third child, Patricia was diagnosed as having cancer of the cervix. "I remember she came into my kitchen, stood by my sink and burst out crying," Teresa says. The treatment in Galway was successful and Patricia's wish to have four children was fulfilled despite the cancer. Her last baby, a girl, was born in Dublin on January 11th, 1996, a few months before her murder.

Biddy Behan remembers Christmas 1995, the last she shared with her daughter - Patricia arrived on the bus to bring her to Dublin. But Patricia and Murphy fought all day on Christmas Day. "There was murder that Christmas Day. She was in the bedroom all day and you could see she'd been crying. Her eyes were all swollen. I thought I'd never get home."

Before Patricia died, the family's debts were catching up. The credit union in Kilrush had started court proceedings to recover around £9,000 in loans which were in Patricia's name.

More than one person in west Clare describes Patricia as the centre of her mother's universe. "She was her life," Teresa says. "It killed her for Pat to go to Dublin. He never really got on with Biddy. I think he thought she was holding Pat here."

It did not stop him being photographed comforting his mother-in-law at Patricia's funeral. "I didn't know who was standing beside me that day," Mrs Behan says. It was only when she saw the newspaper photographs the next day. "He just did that for show."

Some time after that last miserable Christmas Patricia made plans to go home to family and friends. She had asked her mother to get the forms from the council for a local authority house. In a letter to Teresa when she first moved to Dublin - to the house on Griffith Avenue - she said she was going to give Dublin a year. It had been almost twice that.

At 8.45 a.m. on the morning of May 28th, 1996 Murphy phoned her to ask if Patricia was in Clare. He told Biddy she had not returned the night before. An hour later he phoned back to say that she had stayed with a friend in Bray and was on her way home. "When I put the phone down I saw the shadow of two policemen at the door. I said to them: `I knew she wouldn't stop out.' I looked at them and I said: `She's dead.' " The Royal Liver life insurance policy paid more than £2,000 for the funeral expenses. Murphy got a lump sum of more than £8,000 from the policy.

But on the day of the funeral Mrs Behan says her daughter was put in an unmarked grave. "He just left her down in the earth. So all the people on Griffith Avenue got together and paid for that headstone."