Thornton jailed for seven years for manslaughter

Galway woman sentenced for stabbing ex-boyfriend to death

Maura Thornton  arriving with her solicitor Adrian McGlynn to Galway Central Criminal Court last January.

Maura Thornton arriving with her solicitor Adrian McGlynn to Galway Central Criminal Court last January.


A 31-year-old Galway woman has been jailed for seven years at the Central Criminal Court for stabbing her ex-boyfriend to death at her apartment.

Maura Thornton stabbed Kevin Joyce 18 times, when the 59-year-old American arrived at her Salthill home uninvited. She was found guilty earlier this year of his manslaughter, having pleaded not guilty to his murder.

The court had heard that Thornton, originally from Inverin, Connemara, met the deceased in January 2011 when they attended a Celtic Studies course in NUI Galway.

There was a lot of alcohol in the volatile relationship, which had foundered by the summer. However, Mr Joyce was still in touch with Thornton and made a considerable number of calls to her on July 31st 2011, which she rebuffed.

However, CCTV footage showed Mr Joyce climbing over railings to get to her apartment that night, arriving onto the rooftop outside her window.

A garda previously told the court that Thornton shouted for him to get away and there was “a staring match”, before Thornton took a knife, left the apartment and went to the rooftop.

She inflicted 18 stab wounds on Mr Joyce, two of which were fatal.

She contacted the Gardaí and said she had stabbed someone, but by the time the emergency services arrived, Mr Joyce was dying.

Mr Justice Barry White told her that her offence was serious, with its gravity recognised by law.

“The law permits a sentence of up to life in prison,” he said, pointing out that such a sentence had been imposed and upheld on rare occasions. He said he was in agreement with the Direction of Public Prosecutions that her offence lay at the upper end of the manslaughter scale. He said it was aggravated by the fact that she had previous convictions for violence, assaults and knife offences.

“In my opinion, the jury took a very merciful approach in determining this was manslaughter,” he said.

He also referred to the Joyce’s family’s victim impact statement, in which his daughter, Michaela, said she hoped Maura Thornton would be given the opportunity to heal and leave violence behind.

“The family of the late Kevin Joyce have been very humane and have shown true Christianity,” said the judge.

He said that he too was taking a merciful view in determining that the appropriate sentence was one of 10 years.

He referred to evidence of problems the accused had in her life. The court had heard that she lost her father and brother tragically and had been diagnosed with alcohol dependency and an emotionally unstable personality.

He said he could not consider alcohol as a mitigating factor, but said there were two such factors. “You offered a plea to manslaughter and you appear to have remorse for your actions,” he said.

He then imposed a 10-year sentence, suspending the final three years when she entered a bond to be of good behaviour for three years from her release.

The victim’s family was not in court, but Thornton’s mother, Breege Thornton, said afterwards that she was happy that it was over.