Nadine Lott trial: Beautician left unrecognisable to family after assault by man ‘vicious with rage’

Claire Lott, Tanith Lott and Phoebe Lott, the mother and sisters of Nadine Lott, with other family members and supporters, outside court on Thursday. Photograph: Collins Courts
The story of the trial which found Daniel murtagh guilty of murdering 30-year-old nadine Lott in December 2019. 

In the early hours of a December morning two years ago, Claire Lott looked down on the face of a daughter she did not recognise.

Nadine Lott, a 30-year-old beautician, lay on the floor of her bloodied and trashed home in Arklow, Co Wicklow, struggling to breathe. She had sustained “extreme and grotesque” facial injuries that had separated flesh from bone.

“I got down on the floor,” Claire Lott told a Central Criminal Court jury, “and said: ‘You’re okay, we can do this’.”

She added: “It was absolutely excruciating, but I was doing what I could to try and save my daughter’s life.”

Nadine Lott’s friend and neighbour, Amela Kulenovic, witnessed part of the attack. Readying for bed in the early hours of December 14th, 2019, she heard “banging and noises”, but thought it was no more than early festive cheer.

Lying in bed with her partner, Ms Kulenovic later realised, however, that it was the sound of someone crying and that the sound was coming from Ms Lott’s apartment. Looking out, she saw her door was ajar and the hall light on.

Ms Kulenovic entered and found her friend lying face down on the sittingroom floor. There, crouched on top of her, was Daniel Murtagh. He was, she said, like a “wild animal”.

Stunned, Ms Kulenovic exclaimed: “Oh my God, what the f**k is going on?”

Murtagh “was going ape” and was “vicious with rage”, she later told gardaí. Murtagh did not respond “in any shape or form”, adding that he “almost looked straight through” her.

He was making animalistic sounds, “almost growling, frustrated noises”, she said, adding: “You could see he was vicious with rage. You could see it in his eyes. You could see he was trying to inflict as much pain as he could.”

The only noise coming from Ms Lott was a weeping or gurgling sound. Panicked and shaken, Ms Kulenovic fled to ring Ms Lott’s younger sister, Phoebe. Ms Kulenovic’s partner kept watch to make sure Murtagh did not follow.

Back in her apartment, Ms Kulenovic saw Murtagh drive off. She got through to Phoebe Lott, who had been asleep, on the third attempt at about 4.30am, and told her that “Dan had stabbed Nadine”.

Startled, Phoebe “burst” into her mother’s room in a panic saying: “We’ve to go, Mammy, Dan has stabbed Nadine; we need to go now.”

They left immediately.

“I didn’t even have shoes on me,” Claire Lott told the jury.

Nadine Lott sustained ‘extreme and grotesque’ facial injuries during an assault in her Arklow home in the early hours of December 14th, 2019. Photograph taken from Facebook.
Nadine Lott. Photograph taken from Facebook.

Once at St Mary’s Court, Phoebe entered first. Pieces of broken mirror glass “crunched” under her feet. Her sister lay on the kitchen floor on her back, dressed in pyjama bottoms and a tank-top with her head up against the skirting board.

“Her lip was completely split, her eyes were really black and swollen. She was not conscious and was gurgling and gasping for air,” her sister recalled.

A “bulldozer” had gone through the apartment, said Ian Clarke, one of the four paramedics who had tried to save Ms Lott. The night, he told the court, would “haunt” him for the rest of his life.

Garda Linda Butler and Garda Ben Silverlock arrived at 4.30am. Noticing the “really intense smell of blood” as she entered, Garda Butler said a large pool of blood surrounded Ms Lott’s “extremely and grotesquely swollen” head.

Speaking to ambulance control, Garda Butler said Ms Lott had been “beaten to a pulp”. In court, the 14-year Garda veteran said she had never seen such a beating.

Garda Butler began chest compressions as Ms Lott’s mother gave mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Blood was “coming from everywhere”. Trying to clear Ms Lott’s airways, Garda Butler found some of Ms Lott’s teeth were missing.

Claire Lott said the efforts to save her daughter’s life were “absolutely excruciating”, but resuscitation was useless as her daughter was just “gurgling”.

“I don’t think anything I was doing helped, really,” she said.

Daniel Murtagh, of Melrose Grove, Bawnogue, Clondalkin in Dublin, beat Nadine Lott to ‘a pulp’. Photograph: Facebook
Daniel Murtagh, of Melrose Grove, Bawnogue, Clondalkin in Dublin, beat Nadine Lott to ‘a pulp’. Photograph: Facebook

Remembering the scene like “it was yesterday”, paramedic Stefano Copola said they lost Ms Lott’s “very faint pulse” three times before they left for the hospital.

A “bulldozer” had gone through the apartment, said Ian Clarke, one of the four paramedics who had tried to save Ms Lott. The night, he told the court, would “haunt” him for the rest of his life.

Broken furniture lay everywhere. Kneeling on shattered glass, his uniform was quickly “destroyed and covered” in blood.

“It was difficult so see where all of the injuries were,” he said.

A garda drove the ambulance, leaving the three ambulance crew free to aid the injured woman. At St Vincent’s hospital in Dublin, emergency nurse Pamela O’Brien noticed bits of wood and a dinner plate were “matted” in Nadine’s bloodied hair.

Remembering Ms Lott’s “little and tiny body”, the nurse tried to make her presentable for her family despite the “huge” head swelling. “It didn’t make a massive difference what I did to her, as they had already seen her at the scene.”

Intensive care nurse Leah Grant broke down, too, when giving evidence. “She was completely unrecognisable. Her mum brought in a photo of her. Everyone kept saying ‘Who is that?’ and I said, ‘That’s her’.”

In her first 24 hours in hospital, Ms Lott received 42 pints of blood. Nurses could not brush or wash her hair, because it could have increased the bleeding. Efforts to stop a continuous nose bleed failed, too, despite every effort.

Giving evidence, Chief State Pathologist Dr Linda Mulligan said injuries were found all over Ms Lott’s body, including an incised wound from the left earlobe to the left side of the neck and a stab wound to the right of the neck.

After three days in intensive care, Nadine Lott died on December 17th, 2019, at 3.16pm.

John Begley spotted a car in a ditch at Bookey’s Bridge, near Laragh, Co Wicklow, early on December 14th, 2019, as he was heading to do Christmas shopping with his wife.

Initially, he thought someone had crashed coming home from a Christmas party. There was no one inside, but soon he saw a man staggering and falling to the ground 100m away, past Laragh GAA pitch.

Stopping to help, he said the man smelled of alcohol and was lying on his stomach with his trousers and pants around his knees. The man said his name was Daniel and that he was from Clondalkin.

When gardaí arrived, “Daniel” got agitated, telling Mr Begley: “You don’t know what I’ve done”, adding that he had killed his “wife” and he hoped she was not dead.

Faced with paramedic Patrick Naughton, Murtagh immediately said he had post-traumatic stress disorder, quickly telling him “out of the blue” that he had killed his girlfriend.

Australia

Ms Lott was her mother’s second oldest child. She had gone to Australia in June 2012, where she “did really well” working in a beauty salon, said her mother.

In the words of prosecution counsel John O’Kelly SC, she then had the “dreadful misfortune” to meet Murtagh in Darwin, the capital of Australia’s vast Northern Territory.

All her daughter said about Murtagh then was that he was “funny”, her mother recalled. She returned in mid-2013. Murtagh returned a few months later.

Nadine and Phoebe were “very close” even though they were six years apart.

“It felt like I lost my left arm the day she left for Australia, but we spoke most days on Skype,” her sister told the jury.

By August 2016, Murtagh and Ms Lott were due to move into a house together in Arklow. Murtagh, however, did not turn up. “She decided she had tried hard enough at that stage and the relationship ended,” Phoebe Lott said.

In their last conversation, her sister asked if she would “stick a pair of eyelashes” on her as she was going out that night.

Nadine Lott’s mother Claire and sister Tanith Lott leaving the Central Criminal Court. Photograph: Collins Courts
Nadine Lott’s mother Claire and sister Tanith leaving the Central Criminal Court. Photograph: Collins Courts

Claire Lott and her two daughters, Phoebe and Tanith, gave evidence on the first day of the trial, where they were not questioned by Murtagh’s defence team led by Brendan Grehan SC.

However, they were recalled the following morning, so that Mr Grehan could put questions to them on the instruction of Murtagh.

Mr Grehan began by telling Claire Lott that he was sorry to have to ask about her daughter’s relationship with Murtagh, putting it to her that Murtagh and Ms Lott had got back together five times since returning from Australia.

“That’s not true,” replied Claire Lott.

When asked by the barrister if Murtagh had stayed with Ms Lott previously, her mother said he had stayed once, on December 13th. The same questions led to the same replies from Ms Lott’s sisters.

Finally, Mr Grehan asked Claire Lott if it would be fair to say that she did not like Murtagh.

“I never said that. You are asking me that question where my daughter has been murdered. Before this, at times I did like Daniel, he was Nadine’s choice at the time. He stayed in my house for days, came for Christmas, at no time was he asked to leave,” she replied.

From this point on, the defence solicitor checked with Murtagh after Mr Grehan cross-examined each witness to ensure that Murtagh did not have other questions.

In his closing speech, Mr Grehan said his job was to represent Murtagh, and that is what he had to do. Reminding the jury, he said Murtagh had not been happy that he had put “all of his instructions” to them.

“That is his entitlement and why we are here,” Mr Grehan pointed out.

Nadine Lott who was the victim of a serious assault in Arklow in the early hours of Saturday 14th December 2019. Photo taken from Instagram
Nadine Lott. Photograph taken from Instagram

During the trial, the jury saw WhatsApp messages between Ms Lott and Murtagh in the weeks before her death.

On December 5th, Ms Lott messaged him: “Nothing is ever going to happen between us again, I want to make that clear.”

Murtagh replied: “What are you being thick for?”

She said: “I’m not being thick, I’m just saying it as it is”.

Murtagh asked “Are you seeing someone from Dublin?”

Nadine replied “What?” and Murtagh said: “Close to me”.

Nadine then said: “Here we go”.

Murtagh continued: “Would you tell me before I tell you” and Nadine replied: “I’m not seeing anyone”.

The defendant said: “Ok, was there a Dublin lad in your place?”

Nadine said: “Ah leave it out Dan, will you”.

The defendant said: “Nadine I worry about ye, not in love, just don’t slip”.

Nadine said: “Don’t threaten me either.”

Murtagh asked his former girlfriend how he had threatened her and she replied: “Just don’t slip; sounds a bit like a threat”.

He asked Nadine “Why are you pissed with me?” and she replied: “You rot me with this ‘Do you have Dublin lads in the house’.”

The conversation ended with Murtagh telling the beauty therapist that he would be “down next Friday, try to be a bit nicer than you are now. I shouldn’t be worrying as much, my fault”.

On December 6th, Ms Lott told Murtagh that they were having Christmas dinner “in mine” if he wanted to “come down”.

Three days later on December 9th, Ms Lott told the accused that it was her aunt’s birthday and she planned drinks on December 13th.

That night, just hours before the attack, Murtagh messaged Ms Lott as he sat in her apartment, saying “Please come home soon”. There are two WhatsApp missed calls from Murtagh’s phone at 12.57am and 1.26am that night.

While doctors and nurses were struggling to save Ms Lott’s life in St Vincent’s hospital, Det Garda Darren Mulhall arrested Murtagh in Tallaght hospital for causing serious harm to Ms Lott.

Murtagh asked if she was still alive, saying it had been “a domestic”. Later, he said: “She’s f**king one of my mates. Tell me, is she in a bad way? All I’m doing is praying that she will make it.” He then claimed he had tried to kill himself.

During Garda interviews, Murtagh said he had fallen in love with her “at first sight” in Darwin. They had been back seeing each other but “behind closed doors” because Ms Lott’s mother “hates me”, he claimed.

Waiting for her in the apartment on December 13th, Murtagh said he had smoked a joint, took two pills and drank a “daddy naggin” (or shoulder) of rum “straight” before passing out on her couch.

During four Garda interviews, Murtagh first said he did not remember the assault. Then, he said Ms Lott had had “a go” at him for drinking and smoking when she arrived home.

Saying she had slapped him, he claimed that he had given her a “soft slap” back, before she fell on the ground.

Then he said he had given her “a couple of slaps”, which later became “six or seven hard digs”. However, he insisted he had not intended to kill her and that he had never “hit a woman in his life”, having seen a relative “getting killed” [beaten].

Murtagh later admitted that he had not only used his hands, but also a tyre-pump charger

At one point, he told gardaí he thought Ms Lott would have woken up with just a few marks and “brushed it off” as he had not “gone to town” on her. Later, he admitted that he had hit her “too hard”.

“I didn’t even think I was hitting her that hard. I’ve been in loads of fights and I’ve hit lads way harder,” he said. Later, Murtagh admitted “pounding” Ms Lott and “punching like mad”.

When asked why he had inflicted “so much pain” on a “slip of a girl” like Ms Lott, he said he was in a rage. His hands were not badly damaged, he said, because he had “boxed for years and my knuckles are conditioned”.

Nadine Lott’s funeral Mass was celebrated at St Mary’s & Peter’s Church, Arklow. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos
Nadine Lott’s funeral Mass was celebrated at St Mary’s & Peter’s Church, Arklow. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

Recalling the night, Murtagh sat forward in his chair in the Garda interview room and punched the air downward, illustrating his point by punching his fist into the palm of his other hand. A video recording of this interview was played for the jury.

Finally, Murtagh admitted that he had not only used his hands, but also a tyre-pump charger.

“The wire was long and getting in the way when I was hitting her; I stood on it and broke it and wrapped the rest of it around my hand,” he said.

He also accepted that he might have used the cigarette-type charger “in a hammer action”.

This was an account “unvarnished, at times crude and unfiltered through any prism of political correctness”, said Murtagh’s defence counsel, who reminded the jury that his client insisted he had not meant to kill Ms Lott.