The murderer who `boxed a little too clever by half'

 

David Murphy made his first statement to gardai about his wife's death on May 28th, 1996, the day a builder found her almost naked body lying beside a skip near their home in Glasnevin.

In that statement, he told gardai that he and Clare-born Patricia Murphy had moved to a rented house on Griffith Avenue with their children in September 1994. They met in Kilrush, Co Clare, when Murphy was working as an electrician-cum-handyman in a local hotel.

They married eight months after they met, on May 22nd, 1987. During his trial, Murphy said that on the anniversary of their marriage in 1996, he had told a neighbour, for whom he was installing a shower and toilet unit, that Patricia was in Co Clare. He lied because he wanted the day off to spend it with his wife, he said.

On June 6th, 1996, he was first arrested for her murder and he was arrested for questioning again on September 3rd. On April 17th, 1997 he was charged with the murder and on November 30th this year he pleaded not guilty when he was arraigned at the Central Criminal Court.

When his trial began, on December 3rd, prosecution counsel Mr Gregory Murphy SC told the jury there was overwhelming circumstantial evidence that Murphy killed his wife and had then used "a certain amount of skill and ingenuity to try to have the police think otherwise".

He said Murphy had done everything he could to conceal evidence, including throwing a bag with the clothes he and his wife had been wearing on the day of her death into the Tolka River in the early hours of May 28th.

This was "a little bit of boxing that was too clever by half", counsel said. On December 4th, in the first testimony of its kind at an Irish murder trial, the jury watched video-link evidence given by three of the Murphy children. On tape, the three children told counsel they saw their mother lying in the garage dead and their father was there at the time.

The eldest daughter, who was nine at the time she gave evidence in the District Court, recalled getting up on Monday, May 27th, having breakfast and going to school.

The last time she saw her mother alive was that morning, she said. "We just waved her off at the door and then she was gone."

"Did you ever see your mam dead?" Mr George Bermingham, prosecuting, asked. "Yes, in the garage," the girl replied.

Her brother had come upstairs and said "there was a monster in the garage", she recalled.

The girl said she went downstairs and went in to look. "It was all dark," she said, but then the light went on and her father was standing at the door.

"We could see our mam's body lying against the wall, her head sort of slanted like that . . . " she said.

The children were then told to go to bed, and when their father got them upstairs, "he slapped us then and sent us to bed", she said.

Murphy's seven-year-old son, sobbing, remembered his younger brother coming upstairs and saying "It's a monster, it's a monster" and that it was in the garage. He saw "this body lying on the floor" in the garage, he said. It was "our mam's". The second youngest of the Murphy children, a five-year-old boy, remembered that his mother was lying on the ground in the garage and that "she had her eyes closed and she never told a word".

Asked about a tool box and a hammer in the garage, he said: "Well, daddy hammered mammy on the head." He was asked with what. "A hammer," he replied.

The State pathologist, Dr John Harbison, told the jury that Mrs Murphy was strangled to death with something like "a noose tightened by means of a buckle".

The noose was a strap-like object, possibly a belt.

In his post-mortem he also found a deep bruising of the scalp which was not visible on external examination. But, he said, the nature of the bruising suggested a hammer had not been used to inflict the blow that caused it.

In his interviews with gardai, David Murphy said that he had a gambling problem in the past and would lose around £200 a week. He admitted he had problems with money and agreed he sometimes rowed with his wife about it.

???????he did not answer four phone calls that night because he was afraid it was his landlord looking for the rent. But he told the jury he didn't answer the phone because he didn't hear it.

The deceased's mother, Mrs Brigid Behan (78) told the jury that she had sent a money order for £150 from Kilrush Post Office for her granddaughter's First Holy Communion.

Murphy admitted he had spent this money but denied he also spent the money the child had collected on her First Holy Communion day, a fortnight before Mrs Murphy's death.

He claimed gardai had twisted what he said in interviews with them. But his landlord, Mr Fergus Darcy, said Murphy had told them the gardai thought they'd get him but that they'd be "a long time waiting for him to crack".

A central issue in the prosecution case was how the clothes of deceased and the accused came to be together in a plastic Tesco bag recovered by Garda divers from the Tolka river on May 28th.

A witness, Mr John Judd, had said that at around 12.15 a.m. on May 28th he heard a splash and then saw a man walking away from the Tolka footbridge. When he went up to the river, he saw a bag floating in it, he said.

Asked, in court, to explain the logic of how the bag of clothes got there, Murphy said: "I don't know what goes on in the minds of people like that."