Neighbour `heard high-pitched screaming'

 

The State Pathologist told a murder trial jury yesterday he believed the woman whose body was found beside a builder's skip in Glasnevin on a morning two years ago had lain there since before midnight or the previous evening.

A neighbour described hearing "high-pitched screaming and a male voice" coming from her house at 12.20 a.m. on the morning her body was found.

The pathologist, Dr John Harbison, was giving evidence in the trial of Mr David Murphy (36), of Munster Street, Phibsboro, Dublin, who pleaded not guilty to the murder of his wife, Mrs Patricia Murphy (33), between May 27th and May 28th, 1996, both dates inclusive. Dr Harbison said he carried out a post-mortem on Mrs Murphy's body in the City Morgue on May 28th after first examining it at the scene where it was found in The Rise, Glasnevin.

He said the cause of her death was asphyxia resulting from strangulation by ligature. The strangulation was caused by "some straplike object, possibly with a buckle on it". It left a transverse herringbone pattern of red marks on her neck.

The most reasonable explanation for the marks was that Mrs Murphy had been strangled by something like "a noose tightened by means of a buckle".

He noted tiny bruises on Mrs Murphy's left chest and small punctate bruises on her left rib cage. An internal examination revealed bleeding and bruising beneath the scalp which was not visible externally. "This was not surface bruising," he said. "This was deep bruising of the muscle."

He believed some inflicting force had been used to compress the muscle. If there was a blow or trauma to the head, he said, it wouldn't necessarily be evident on the scalp if the weapon used were "flat and fairly blunt".

But he said that because of the "relatively minor nature of the injury", neither a claw hammer nor a lump hammer he had been shown by gardai were likely to have been the weapon used.

There was a "possibility" that the victim had been suspended as the strangulation occurred, but the assailant could have been standing behind her and pulled her up by the belt-like object as she was being strangled.

Taking into account air and body temperatures and the dispersal of bloodstaining in her body, he believed the deceased had lain "almost naked, between the skip and the back wall of the lay-by" for some hours, probably since "before midnight".

He told Ms Mary Ellen Ring BL, junior counsel for the defence, that had Patricia Murphy fallen instead of being struck on the head, there were likely to have been two injuries, not one. There would have been some damage to the brain, he believed. He said the most likely thing was that "her head was intact" when she was struck. "In other words one side of her head was lying on the ground when she was struck on the other side".

Mr Fergus Darcy, landlord of the Griffith Avenue house in which the Murphys lived, said he had moved to Longford due to a job transfer and decided to rent his house in August 1994. In September, his estate agents told him a suitable tenant had been found. He understood David Murphy was a carpenter and electrician. He was paid rent monthly in cash and on Friday, May 24th he contacted the Murphys to inquire about rent due. He spoke to Patricia and agreed with her that a friend of his, Mr Joe O'Neill, would call to the house on the Monday evening to collect it.

Mr Joseph O'Neill confirmed to the court that he arrived at the house at around 8.05 p.m. on Monday, May 27th. He rang the doorbell three times and put his ear to the door on the third occasion to check the bell was working. There was no reply. He waited in his car until 8.15 p.m. and then travelled on to work, from where he rang Mr Darcy.

Mr Darcy told the court that when he got that phone call "I rang about four times after that and each time I rang, the phone just rang out."

The following morning, he again tried at 8.30 a.m. and David Murphy answered.

Mr Murphy appeared distressed on the phone and after apologising for not being there the night before, told Mr Darcy his wife had been missing since the previous morning.

The witness said he again saw David Murphy on Saturday, June 29th. Mr Murphy informed him he was "moving on" and paid him the remainder of the rent owed.

He agreed with defence counsel Mr Brendan Grogan SC that during the phone call of May 28th, David Murphy's voice was quivering and he appeared "very upset".

A resident of Woodville Road, Mr John Judd, gave evidence that at around 12.15 a.m. on the morning of May 28th he was standing at the railing outside his house watching after his dog when he heard a splash coming from the Tolka river.

Mr Judd said he immediately looked up and saw a man standing on the footbridge connecting Millmount Road with Woodville Avenue over the Tolka. As he walked towards the bridge he saw a bag in the water.

He said the man was of slender build and about 5 ft 8 ins or 5 ft 9 ins in height, with "a peculiar walk". He turned when Mr Judd first looked up and as he walked away. He never looked back. Mr Judd agreed with defence counsel Mr Brendan Grogan SC that he had attended an identity parade on June 6th, 1996 at the behest of the gardai. Asked had he identified anybody on this parade, he replied "I did."

At that point, Mr Grogan asked if the jury could retire and when the court resumed after lunch, other witnesses were called.

Garda John Conneally told the court he recovered a Quinnsworth plastic shopping bag from the river Tolka on May 28th about halfway between the footbridge and Drumcondra bridge. In it gardai found a multi-coloured jacket, a pair of green jeans, a pink shirt, a trouser belt, a pair of socks and a child's hair comb.

Mr Alan Kelly, a next-door neighbour of the Murphys, told the jury that "at exactly 12.20 a.m." on the morning of the 28th, he heard "high-pitched screaming and a male voice" coming from next door.

It lasted about 30 seconds, he said, and he could "absolutely" distinctly hear that man's voice, which was the dominant one. To him, it was "a row" between David and Patricia Murphy, he said.

Mr Grogan, for the defence, put it to him that there was no mention of high-pitched screaming in a statement he made to gardai. The witness said he "actually thought" the scream was a woman's.

Mr Grogan asked him: "Is that because you and a number of your neighbours believe my client killed his wife?" He suggested the witness was "ready to embellish the evidence" and "willing to stick the boot in".

Mr Kelly replied that what he heard at 12.20 a.m. was a distinct noise. If it was so dramatic why hadn't he told the gardai, Mr Grogan asked. "I don't know, maybe it slipped my mind," the witness replied.

Ms Carol Swan, who lived at the same address as Mr Kelly, identified a multi-coloured purplish jacket found in the bag recovered from the Tolka river as belonging to the deceased.

Ms Eimear Lawlor told the court she lived on Valentia Road and became friends with Patricia Murphy from 1995. She also identified a multi-coloured jacket as belonging to Mrs Murphy. She had "definitely no doubt" it was hers, she said. She said that the pink shirt and green trousers shown to her in the witness box were those worn by David Murphy when she saw the family sheltering from the rain on Mobhi Road on Sunday afternoon, May 26th.

The trial continues before Mr Justice Cyril Kelly and the jury.