Dublin man found guilty in ‘love triangle’ murder case

Keith Connorton (40) had denied murdering 32-year-old Graham McKeever in Tallaght

 Claire McGrath, the former partner of murder accused Keith Connorton, outside  the Central Criminal Court in Dublin last week. Photograph:  Collins Courts.

Claire McGrath, the former partner of murder accused Keith Connorton, outside the Central Criminal Court in Dublin last week. Photograph: Collins Courts.

 

A Dublin man has been found guilty of murder for stabbing his love rival to death after he came home to find him sleeping with his partner.

Keith Connorton (40) had denied murdering 32-year-old Graham McKeever at his home at Deerpark Avenue, Tallaght on February 18th, 2017.

During the trial, the jury heard that Connorton was living with his long-term partner Claire McGrath at Deerpark Avenue but after an argument, she invited Mr McKeever to spend the night with her.

When Connorton returned home at 4am, he found the two of them together and a fight broke out that resulted in Mr McKeever suffering four stab wounds, including one that penetrated his heart and killed him.

The accused said Connorton acted in self defence after Mr McKeever punched him, breaking his eye socket, and then came at him with a knife.

After deliberating for just under three hours, the jury of nine men and three women came back to court and asked if they could be allowed to return a majority verdict.

Mr Justice Tony Hunt told them a verdict could be returned if 10 of them agreed. About 10 minutes later, they returned to reveal their verdict of guilty of murder by a 10 to two majority.

Connorton will be sentenced to life imprisonment at a later sitting when his victim’s family will have an opportunity to make a statement to the court about the impact his death has had on their lives.

Connorton showed little reaction following the verdict while members of Mr McKeever’s family hugged and comforted one another.

Difficult matter

Mr Justice Hunt thanked the jury for their “commitment and attention” in what he said was a difficult matter.

He said it was made all the more tragic because nobody set out on that day with “anything like this in mind, but it happened”.

He said the difficulty of their task was etched on their faces before exempting them from jury service for 12 years and wishing them a happy Christmas.

Ms McGrath said during the trial that she and Connorton have made up since the murder and are once again in a relationship. She visits him regularly in prison, she said.

During his interviews with gardaí after his arrest, Connorton said all he wanted was a “happy wee family” with Ms McGrath and his son. “Now that’s all ruined,” he added.

During the trial, the court heard their relationship was “bumpy”. They frequently argued as Ms McGrath was often suspicious Connorton was using heroin. She described herself as volatile and said their frequent arguments would end with Connorton leaving the apartment to allow her to calm down.

On the Tuesday three days before Mr McKeever was stabbed, there was another argument and Connorton left.

Loved him

Defence counsel Michael O’Higgins SC said this argument was different to previous ones because on this occasion Ms McGrath wanted to finish with Connorton to clear the way for Mr McKeever to spend the night with her.

She sent Mr McKeever a number of messages in those three days inviting him over and telling him she loved him.

On that Friday, Mr McKeever called and they had a few drinks and watched television. They were in bed together when, at about 4am, Connorton returned.

Giving her evidence Ms McGrath became upset as she revealed the accused had a key to the patio door.

“I don’t know why I thought he wouldn’t come back. He always does,” she said, adding: “It was just a bad lapse of judgment.”