Man jailed for assaults and threats to kill former wife in Co Cork

Michael Quirke suspended his former spouse by the neck with a belt, court hears

A 53-year-old man has been jailed for five years after he admitted assaulting and threatening to kill his ex-wife, who he hanged by the neck from a belt in their home.

Michael Quirke from Manor Hills, Rathcormac, Co Cork pleaded guilty to assault causing harm to Mary Quirke. as well as two counts of threatening to kill her, one of harassing her and one of seeking to interfere with her as a witness, all on various dates between 2018 and 2020.

At Cork Circuit Criminal Court, Det Garda David Barry told how Quirke, who ran a solid fuel supply business in Rathcormac, walked into Fermoy Garda station on January 31st, 2019 and told gardaí he had attempted to murder his wife.

He told gardaí that in May 2018, he had put a belt around her neck and lifted her off a chair at their home at Lisnagar, Rathcormac, holding her suspended for three seconds before releasing her. He also prevented their adult children from accessing the room after they heard their mother scream.

“At the end of January 2019 he held her against the wall,” said Det Garda Barry. “He said, ‘I did threaten her that I had a rope in the shed and I would hang her. If my hands came out (they were in his pockets) I would have killed her.’”

Det Garda Barry said that Ms Quirke came to Fermoy Garda station on March 12th, 2020 to make a complaint against her ex-husband.

When gardaí examined her car, they found that it had been fitted with a GPS tracking device which allowed him to monitor her movements.

Protection

Quirke had been charged with assault causing harm, threatening to kill and harassment and was on bail on these when he rang her from hospital where he was receiving treatment. During the course of a 30 minute phonecall,he sought to intimidate her, the court heard.

“The guards will not be around you when you need them most. When I get out of jail, be it two years, I will be the same. You won’t have that protection you have now. You have 24-hour round the clock Garda armed response and they won’t be there when you need them the most,” he said.

The court heard that the couple had separated in 2010 and divorced in 2013 but had continued residing together.

Quirke had continued running the business for his wife after he had signed over his share of the company to her.

Det Garda Barry read a victim impact statement on behalf of Ms Quirke who said that she would very anxious that her former husband would receive all the necessary medical assistance as she feared that if he did not, someone would get hurt.

Mentally scarred

“Both I and my children are mentally scarred as a result of these incidents. I don’t believe that Michael Quirke understands the consequences of his previous actions. I am very concerned that if he is released from custody, similar - probably more serious incidents - will occur.

“For this reason, I am afraid for my own safety and for the safety of my three children and my three children share my fears and are very concerned to the possibility of losing a parent or both parents or, worse still, a sibling over a matter which has got out of control.”

Defence counsel Siobhan Lankford SC pointed out that notwithstanding the fact that Quirke and his wife were divorced and he had been charged with various offences against her, they had gone together for counselling as recently as August 2020.

She pleaded for leniency, saying that it was clear from a psychiatric report that Quirke had a history of childhood trauma which impacted on his ability to manage stress. He had reached the age of 50 without ever being in trouble and had no previous convictions of any kind, she said.

It was a highly unusual case in that it was Quirke himself who brought his offending to the attention of the gardaí and his ex-wife had withdrawn her complaint but the DPP had decided to proceed with it, said Ms Lankford who suggested the situation it was so unusual it merited a fully suspended sentence.

Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said it was “a somewhat bizarre case” in that the initial report to the gardaí came from Quirke who then “set out truthfully the acts he had committed against his wife - very serious acts, threats to kill, attempts to kill almost and the methodology was frightening.

“All contact has to cease but the behaviour is significantly too dangerous even on a plea of guilty to deal with it by way of a fully suspended sentenced,” said Judge Ó Donnabháin as he sentenced Quirke to six years in jail, with the final year suspended.

He then imposed a consecutive three year term for interfering with Ms Quirke as a witness. He suspended this term in its entirety, leaving Quirke with five years in jail to be followed by a four year suspended sentence.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times