A man who denies murdering his ex-girlfriend Nadine Lott told gardaí they had "a domestic" and later said that he gave her "six or seven hard digs" but did not "go to town" on her, the Central Criminal Court has heard.
The jury heard that Daniel Murtagh described himself as "protective" and said he had never "hit a woman in his life". He also told detectives that he broke his hand that night and said he couldn't believe he had hit "the love of my life a couple of slaps".
When Mr Murtagh was arrested and placed in a patrol car, the accused told the officer that it was “a domestic” but said he really loved Ms Lott.
“Answer me this, is she still alive? Tell me is she still alive?” he asked gardaí.
The jury has heard that Ms Lott suffered "severe blunt force trauma" and stab injuries at the hands of her former partner "in a sustained and violent attack" in her Arklow home. They have heard evidence that the injuries to Ms Lott were so serious that she never regained consciousness and died three days later in St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin.
An intensive care nurse at the hospital has told the jury that Ms Lott was “completely unrecognisable” and that she had never seen anybody so badly injured.
A paramedic who attended to Ms Lott at her home told the jury that the call will “haunt” him for the rest of his career and was one of the most “horrendous scenes” he had ever walked into.
The garda who telephoned ambulance control informed them that Ms Lott had been “beaten to a pulp”.
Mr Murtagh (34), of Melrose Grove, Bawnogue, Clondalkin, Dublin 22 has pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to the manslaughter of his 30-year-old ex-partner Ms Lott at her apartment in St Mary’s Court, Arklow, Co Wicklow on December 14th, 2019.
Giving evidence on Tuesday afternoon, Detective Garda Darren Mulhall told prosecution counsel John O'Kelly SC that he went to Tallaght Hospital on December 14th, where Mr Murtagh had been admitted following a single-vehicle road traffic collision in Laragh several hours after assaulting Ms Lott.
After arresting the accused for causing serious harm to Ms Lott, Mr Murtagh said: “Answer me this, is she still alive? Tell me is she still alive”.
The detective said he replied “yes” and Mr Murtagh told him it was “a domestic”.
The witness said he then placed the accused in the patrol car and brought him to Wicklow Garda station.
En route to the Garda station, Mr Murtagh continued saying to the detective: “We are only after getting back together. I was supposed to be spending Christmas and all there.
“ Tell me, is she in a bad way? All I’m doing is praying that she will make it. I was in Australia for three years with this girl. It’s on and off then. I truly love her. She was seeing someone else, she came in shouting and screaming. Best I can tell you is I really love her. “
He added: “Did you find all the tablets in the car? I tried to kill myself to be honest with you. Hand on heart, I know I hit the girl. I just hope she’s ok. It was a domestic garda, two of us had drink.”
In his first interview with gardaí on December 15th, Mr Murtagh said he loved Ms Lott, that he was intoxicated at the time of the assault and he could not remember anything.
“We have been seeing each other very much lately behind closed doors,” he said, adding that they had met eight years previously in Darwin in Australia. The accused said he was a window-fitter by trade but had also worked as a bricklayer. “I fell in love with Nadine at first sight,” he said.
The accused told detectives that Ms Lott’s mother didn’t like them being together but said the deceased loved him and he loved her. “Her ma hates me, I stay in her apartment three nights a week without anyone knowing,” he continued.
He agreed that he had to hide the fact that they were back together.
Referring to the night of the incident, the accused said he had 100 tablets in his car and planned to take them all and drive “straight into a tree”.”Whatever happened happened, I took about 50 tablets, I threw the packets out the window. I tried to open other packets but the car went all over the place,” he continued. He said he had been on methadone for the last three months.
Describing the incident to gardaí, Mr Murtagh said Ms Lott went out for a drink and he was waiting for her to come home. “I sat on the couch and drank my naggin of Captain Morgan’s,” he said.
He texted her to find out when she was coming home but got no text back and told gardaí that he did not mind if she stayed out all night. “If that was me and I got a text to come home I’d drop everything and come home,” he said.
He drank the rest of the alcohol on the couch and fell asleep. “The rest of it is a blackout, I can’t remember,” he continued.
The accused told gardaí he couldn’t remember Ms Lott arriving home that night and the next thing he recalled was “driving down backroads” with the radio blaring. “I was crying and popping tablets. I could see death coming for myself,” he remarked.
At one stage, Mr Murtagh said he was very drunk that night and drank the Captain Morgan’s rum “straight”. When he was in his car driving from Nadine’s house, he started “popping pills” and drank more rum.
“I’m never going to hug the woman I love. I never hit a woman in my life. We planned to have Christmas dinner together, I can’t understand what happened. It must have been an argument,” he continued.
“I would stand up for any woman in trouble, I just can’t understand what happened”.
When asked by detectives about the fight, Mr Murtagh said they would argue about stupid things but there had never been any physical arguments.
“None of her family knew we were back together, they would disown her if they knew,” he stated.
Mr Murtagh said the couple were going to tell everyone that they were back together after Christmas and had been “on and off” for a few weeks.
“We were both dating but were trying to get back together,” he said.
Outlining the events of December 14th, Mr Murtagh said Ms Lott was going to her aunt’s birthday party and remarked that she looked gorgeous going out in her black dress and high heels. “She told me to not be looking at her like a piece of meat,” he added. When she was out, Mr Murtagh said he smoked a joint, took two pills and drank Captain Morgans. “I didn’t hear her coming in, all I remember is she coming in and she had a go at me.”
In his second interview, the accused said he hoped she was doing well in hospital and he just wanted to hug and kiss her. “She looked more than a million dollars [GOING OUT], she smiled at me and I thought she was coming back to me,” he said.
The defendant said he was passed out when Ms Lott arrived home and he remembered her giving him a slap and he slapped her back.”It was one little slap, she was locked. She said what are you doing drinking and hit me with a slap. It was just a silly argument,” he said.
He was in a trance when he got into his car, he said, and wasn’t “even on this planet”. “That girl was everything to me. Her granny said will you marry her and her ma makes me out to be a devil,” he indicated.
When asked what made him do it, Mr Murtagh said: “I love her, I miss her so much, I just can’t get my head around that.”
He continued: “My behaviour is grand, I’m not a bad man, it was a soft slap.”
He recalled that they only had arguments about “lads” hanging out of her as she was an “attractive woman”.
When asked if was jealous, Mr Murtagh described himself as “self-conscious”. ‘I’m an honest man, I’m a decent man. I box, I’m protective,” he said.
‘A few slaps’
He said he was sorry that he gave Ms Lott “a slap” and admitted he needed “a bit of help” for his drug use. “It was like a split second and everything went blank, the two of us are in love,” he continued.
He said he had not given Ms Lott a hard slap. Moments later he told gardaí “look at my hands I obviously hit her a few slaps”. It was the first time he had ever hit her, he said, and insisted that he only gave her a couple of slaps. “I had no intention to ever hurt her,” he said.
When asked what was “a couple of slaps”, the accused said maybe five or six slaps but he could not remember.
“My hand is broke, I don’t know what happened. I can’t believe I hit the love of my life a couple of slaps,” he said.
He said he put “a bit more force into the last couple” of slaps and had “no intention to ever hit her”.
Ms Lott, he said, was lying beside the blood and he only thought her nose was bleeding or her lip busted. “I kissed her and said I was sorry, I really loved her. I thought she would have woken up in the morning with just a few marks,” he continued.
He insisted he had only used his hands to hit her and prayed that she would pull through.
Gardaí put it to him that he was an All-Ireland boxer and what did he think “a slip of a girl” was going to do.
“If I wasn’t on drugs it wouldn’t have happened. I’m not an All-Ireland boxer, I was telling lies,” he replied.
He later said he had a feeling that he hit her “too bad” and then said he knew he hit her “too hard”.
When asked how Ms Lott was when he left the house that night, he said she was hurt. “I’ve seen battered wives, I couldn’t understand how that was me,” he added.
When asked why he hit his ex-girlfriend, he replied: “No reason, absolutely no reason , I’m going to pray every night. I just snapped, I don’t know. I never hit a girl in my life. I should have just jumped off a bridge, it was a stupid argument.”
He said he just wanted her to wake up and he didn’t care if she hated him for the rest of his life. “I didn’t even think I was hitting her that hard. I’ve been in loads of fights and I hit lads way harder,” he said.
He said he hit her as he stood over her and it lasted for less than three minutes but said he didn’t “go to town”.
“I didn’t lay in just a few digs and then I sat back. I gave her six or seven hard digs. I can hit hard, “ he said. “If I wanted to go all out I wouldn’t have stopped; I did stop, I stood back and panicked.”
At the outset of the trial, defence counsel Brendan Grehan SC made a number of admissions of fact to the court on behalf of his client. These included that the accused accepted that he had unlawfully killed Ms Lott and he “alone inflicted the injuries she suffered”. The issue to be decided by the jury, Mr Grehan said, will be his intent and in the “broader sense his mental state at the time”.
Earlier, the jury was given transcripts on Tuesday of WhatsApp messages between the accused and his ex-girlfriend in the days and weeks leading up to her death.
In them, the accused asks her if she is “seeing someone from Dublin”. In reply, Ms Lott tells him she is not seeing anyone. Mr Murtagh asks her if there was a “Dublin lad” in her “place” and she tells him to “leave it out”.
She tells him that “nothing is ever going to happen between us again, I want to make that clear.”
In another text from December 5th the accused said: “Nadine I worry about ye, not in love, just don’t slip”.
She replied: “Don’t threaten me either”.
Evidence has previously been given that Mr Murtagh told a motorist that he had “killed my wife because she was with my friend”, just hours after he assaulted her.
John Begley testified last week that he saw a car in a ditch as he was travelling over Bookies Bridge in Laragh on the morning of December 14th and then came across the accused man standing at the side of the road.
“Daniel said to me ‘you don’t know what I’ve done”. I said what did you do. He said ‘I killed my wife’. I didn’t think anything of it. He said it a second time and said he hoped she was not dead. He said ‘she was with my friend’,” said Mr Begley.
The jury has heard that Ms Lott suffered “severe blunt force trauma” and stab injuries at the hands of her former partner “in a sustained and violent attack” in her Arklow home.
They have heard evidence that the injuries to Ms Lott were so serious that she never regained consciousness and died three days later in St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin.
An intensive care nurse at the hospital has told the jury that Ms Lott was “completely unrecognisable” and that she had never seen anybody so badly injured. A paramedic who attended to Ms Lott at her home told the jury that the call will “haunt” him for the rest of his career and was one of the most “horrendous scenes” he had ever walked into. The garda who telephoned ambulance control informed them that Ms Lott had been “beaten to a pulp”.
The trial continues before Mr Justice Michael MacGrath and a jury of seven men and five women.