'Callous provocation' led husband to kill wife

A FAMILY man who killed his wife did so following the most “callous and dreadful act of provocation”, his counsel told a court…

A FAMILY man who killed his wife did so following the most “callous and dreadful act of provocation”, his counsel told a court yesterday.

David Bourke (49) has pleaded not guilty to the murder of his wife Jean Gilbert (46) at the family home in Laverna Dale, Castleknock, Co Dublin, on August 28th, 2007.

Mr Bourke, an insurance assessor with Hibernian Aviva, has admitted he stabbed his wife to death, but maintains he did so under severe provocation because she was going to leave him for another man.

Yesterday, the jury of seven men and five women at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin, were sent home until Monday morning by Mr Justice Barry White after more than four hours of deliberation. He told them he would accept a majority verdict in the case.


The judge said there were only two possible outcomes given that the accused had already admitted that he killed his wife. Either Mr Bourke was guilty of murder or he was not guilty of murder, but guilty of manslaughter.

He told them the “crucial issue” was whether Mr Bourke had acted in a “cold and calculated manner” in killing his wife or was he so provoked that he was subject to an “ungovernable rage or passion” and was not in control of himself.

Defence counsel Colm Smyth described Mr Bourke as a “ruined man whose life is over”. He would watch his children being brought up by other people.

Mr Bourke would be “severely punished” for his crime, but he was guilty of the manslaughter and not the murder of his wife, he said.

Mr Smyth described Mr Bourke as a “decent, hardworking, ordinary, middle-class man and a member of the Church of Ireland”.

His family was turned upside down by the re-entry of Robert Campion into the life of his wife Ms Gilbert, counsel said. In evidence it had emerged that English-born Mr Campion and Ms Gilbert had had a relationship in 1986 when they met on a Buddhist trip in Japan. They rekindled their relationship after Mr Campion wrote to her in April 2007.

Prior to that the Bourkes had been a “happy, contented family”, said Mr Smyth. He described Mr Campion as an “ageing, classless half-Italian gigolo who wanted to be a Sicilian mafia don”.

He had preyed on Ms Gilbert, used her for money as he had no money of his own and did not have the decency to come and give evidence at the trial of a woman he claimed to love. He had destroyed the lives of a decent family and had “questions to answer”, he added.

Mr Bourke had sought help from a GP and a psychotherapist and had made “some sense” of coming to terms with his new situation.

But the final straw was a meal which Ms Gilbert had had with her lover in the kitchen of the family home two nights before she was killed. The pair left the dirty plates out for Mr Bourke. “This has to be the most outrageous act of provocation that one could possibly imagine,” Mr Smyth told the jury.

Counsel for the prosecution Isobel Kennedy said in order for there to be a defence of provocation there had to be a total loss of self-control.

She suggested to the jury that Mr Bourke had known since June 15th that his wife was going to leave him. He had had the presence of mind to copy e-mails and letters sent from Mr Campion to Ms Gilbert.

After he killed his wife, he was composed enough to tell gardaí that he had stabbed her three times and had not used the biggest knife in the drawer, she said.

Mr Bourke was an “angry, jealous man” who did not want his wife to leave him. There was ample evidence of the necessary intent. “It is not the actions of a man who has lost his head or his self-control,” she said.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times