Three children witnessed things of the worst of night terrors

 

We don't know if they were wearing slippers and dressing gowns. Their Mammy wasn't there to dress them in their night clothes that night in May 1996, but we know they crept downstairs in the dark. A girl and her two little brothers, scared and maybe a little thrilled at the story of a monster in the garage.

The evidence of three of David Murphy's children, video-recorded in December 1997 and shown during the trial, was the stuff of the worst childhood night terrors.

Your baby brother tells you there's a monster, and it turns out to be your Mam, lying on the cold garage floor with her head slanted on one side. Daddy comes and slaps you, hard, and tells you to forget what you saw.

The next day the house is swarming with gardai, neighbours and friends. Your little brother runs around a Garda station shouting about the monster in the garage, but it is not until much later on, after the gardai have charged your Daddy with murder, that you start to tell the secret of that night. Slowly and hesitantly.

Then the social workers and the doctors and nurses come and ask you all about Daddy.

Friends and family say the Murphy children are happy now. At the time of the investigation, it was alleged their father had sexually assaulted his children. The allegations were not prosecuted.

The eldest three live with a foster family in Dublin. One of Patricia's friends says their foster mother is as warm and loving as their own mother was. Their two-year-old sister, who was only four months when Patricia Murphy died, lives with another foster family. Last summer the children spent a week in Clare and visited their granny, Bridget Behan.

The books of evidence in this case have been hardback-bound by investigating gardai so that if the Murphy children ever want to read the full story of their mother's death, it won't be from a dog-eared document. They feel it is the least they can do.

The children were on Patricia's mind when she left the house in Griffith Avenue for the last time that morning. The baby was sick, so she asked David to take her to the doctor. Later on, they planned a trip to town with her eldest daughter to spend the First Communion money. Money was always a problem, with Murphy's gambling and disregard for his family's needs, but that morning things had reached a crisis.

The rent was overdue, although the family only paid £33 a week, with the Eastern Health Board paying the balance of £91. David got £152 a week unemployment benefit. The children's allowance was the only other regular income.

A week before the murder, their eldest child made her First Communion. Murphy cashed the money order for his child's communion dress, sent by Patricia's mother, and spent it. The child got more than £100 in cash on the day from friends and neighbours, but that money went missing, too.

Murphy was already known to steal from his family and others. Patricia hid money everywhere in the house to keep it from him: behind picture frames, behind the fridge, in the glove compartment of the car, when they had one.

Murphy was born in Dublin in 1961. His father worked for a firm which supplied sanitary products to pubs and hotels around the city. He was the second-eldest, with one brother and three sisters. His mother died in 1995.

When he was 18, David Murphy was locked out of the family house in Phibsboro as a punishment for something. He torched four cars nearby and was prosecuted.

A year later he was convicted of burglary. In 1995, he was prosecuted for stealing again.

Patricia had been working at a bakery in the Omni Park centre in Santry, north Dublin. In mid-July, £2,000 was taken from the shop. Shortly afterwards Murphy was caught on the premises with a duplicate set of keys. Both husband and wife were arrested. He was convicted and given probation.

He grew up in Phibsboro and left the CBS after his Inter Cert. He trained as an apprentice electrician, but never qualified. He got a job with Power Signs, an advertising sign company whose disco lighting contract brought him to Kilkee, Co Clare, where he met Patricia Behan.

He never wanted to stay in Clare, according to friends and family of Patricia, yet he spoke about moving back there when they got to Dublin. They paid £17 a week to an insurance broker for various policies, one of which Murphy cashed on his wife's death. The Royal Liver policy paid more than £2,000 for the funeral expenses and a lump sum of more than £8,000.

On the morning of Monday, May 27th, 1996, Murphy was seen dropping his children to school, with the baby in a child's buggy.

A man was seen early on May 28th wheeling a child's buggy in Griffith Avenue. The buggy was found, with its tray missing, in the garage. Patricia had always kept it under the stairs.

There is no hard evidence that Murphy used the child's buggy to move his wife's body from their garage to the skip on The Rise, about 175 yards away, where she was found on the morning of May 28th. The tray from this buggy was found in a different skip.

Murphy reported her missing at 1 a.m. on May 28th. He bought milk from a milkman on Griffith Avenue at 4 a.m. At least one garda believes he may have gone back to where he dumped the body to make it more obvious, because it hadn't yet been found.

The body may have been in the garage at 1 a.m. when gardai arrived to take a statement from her husband reporting her missing.

The strongest piece of evidence against him was a plastic Quinns worth bag of clothes, her multicoloured jacket and his trousers, socks and shirt which he threw in the Tolka river some time after the murder. He admitted the clothes were his.

It was on this evidence and other circumstantial evidence such as sightings of Patricia 30 houses away from their home at 388 Griffith Avenue, walking briskly home, when her husband said she never got there, that the DPP decided to proceed.

Then the children started talking. Their youngest son, who was three at the time, said his mother opened the door to him. A neighbour heard the child crying to be let into the house shortly after midday on May 27th. The child's cries of wanting "to do wee-wees" went on for 10 minutes. The neighbour was so disturbed that he rang the house to check if Patricia was OK.

From that child's evidence it is clear that he saw his father attack his mother. "Daddy hammered Mammy on the head," he told the court on the video-recording, and later, "we only saw a rope around her neck". In his mind the two events of seeing his mother being attacked and finding her body melted into one.

He may have knelt beside her trying to rouse her for some time - "I asked her a question but she didn't answer me"- and then she became the monster in the garage about which he ran to tell his brother and sister. In his grandmother's cottage, pictures of these children are kept separately from the wedding photographs which feature Murphy. The little boy, who saw more than any adult should, grins in one of the pictures, taken in a shopping centre shortly before the murder. "She adored them," Mrs Behan said. "I never said nothing. I didn't interfere. Well, she'd asked me not to. He was never a father to them . . . but she adored them."

After more than two years since the murder, yesterday's verdict will be welcomed by family, friends and gardai. Patricia's mother was certain what she wanted from the trial. "I'd like to see justice done for her."