Children appeal for mother to be spared jail term

 

A WOMAN who killed her husband by bludgeoning him over the head with a hammer 23 times is to be sentenced for his manslaughter today.

Yesterday her family appealed for her not to be sent to jail.

Anne Burke (56), a mother of four, was cleared of the murder of Patrick Burke on grounds of diminished responsibility by a jury at the Central Criminal Court last December. She admitted killing her husband, but denied murdering him at their Co Laois home on August 19th, 2007.

At her sentencing hearing yesterday, Burke’s daughter, Linda, in a victim impact statements said she understood why her mother had taken her father’s life.

She said her earliest memory was standing at the top of the stairs in her pyjamas, watching her father hold a shotgun to her mother’s head and threatening to “blow her head off”. Her father’s death was shocking to her because she had always been convinced it would be he who would take her mother’s life.

She said her mother was sorry for what she had done and was living in a prison of her own making every day. “But I hope it will not be a prison made of bricks as this would break my heart . . . I love her unconditionally,” she said.

Her older siblings Natasha and Declan, said they hoped their mother would not receive a jail sentence because “she has served a lifetime since the day she was married”. During her brief trial, the court heard that Burke, Ballybrittas, Co Laois, was suffering from severe depression at the time of the killing which diminished her responsibility.

The court was also told the couple’s 32-year marriage was marred by continuous and violent rows, fuelled by excessive drinking.

Burke described her relationship as a “litany of abuse”, she said her husband had “murdered her” on their wedding night and the abuse had continued until the day he died. She recalled how once he had kicked her in the stomach when she was pregnant with her son, but that he would “deny it all in the morning”.

In her interviews with gardaí, Burke said she started drinking at 10am on the day of her husband’s death.

He was asleep in the bed when she said she picked up a hammer and hit him over the head. She only remembered hitting him twice and afterwards she covered his body with a blanket before cutting her wrists.

She had written a suicide note for her children, but her youngest son found her and rang an ambulance.

Victim impact statements were also read out on behalf of Mr Burke’s brother and sisters who said he was “not the monster portrayed in the trial”. They said he was a loving brother who had great affinity with nature and wildlife and had worked hard as a groundsman to provide for his family.

Patrick Gageby SC, defending, asked Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy to take into consideration Burke’s genuine remorse. He said the most important mitigating circumstance was her mental disorder.

He said she was no longer drinking and that “all the signs for the future bode well” in that there is little risk of her reoffending and she had very good interaction with the probation service.

Paddy McCarthy, prosecuting, said the DPP was of the view that treatment for Burke should be the focus of her sentence.