KEITH O’HARA spoke for hours in the Cork murder trial and Helen Jones remained silent but the jury heard and saw enough to conclude beyond reasonable doubt that they are both murderers.
It looked like verdicts might not come yesterday as most of the day was spent back in Courtroom 4, where the trial has been taking place since it opened on November 24.
The jury recommenced deliberating in the morning and was soon asking if they could have a transcript of the evidence given by O’Hara.
Mr Justice Michael McGrath said it was not possible to give them a transcript of any part of the evidence. However, he undertook to read the full transcript of O’Hara’s evidence instead. This took most of the day, commencing around 11am and continuing until 3pm, with a break for lunch.
Soon after this was done, they asked if they could see exhibits in the case, including the weapon which had been variously described as a machete or bill-hook.
By 3.30pm they were satisfied that Helen Jones was guilty of murdering her brother Paul Jones and that O’Hara, her then fiance, was guilty of murder too.
Helen Jones’s defence had been simple. She declined to speak to the gardaí or answer any of their questions and opted to give absolutely no evidence to the jury in her trial.
This was in marked contrast to the approach of O’Hara, who lied to gardaí and said he and Jones were at home in bed watching US prison drama, Orange is the New Black when Paul Jones was killed. When questioned about bruises to his own body, O’Hara fobbed these off as being the result of rough sex.
He then got into the witness box at the trial, admitted he had lied to gardaí, claimed he disarmed Paul Jones of the machete, and struck him once on the head with it in self-defence, believing he was attacking Helen Jones.
O’Hara then went on to blame Helen Jones for murdering her brother. O’Hara said he would have called an ambulance but that she said not to do so.
“I told Helen to ring an ambulance for Paul. She said, no. She said it was a Jones family feud. She said, ‘Fuck Paul, he was only a fat bastard’,” O’Hara claimed.
O’Hara feared that if he didn’t agree with her, he would be “victim number 2”.
Chief State pathologist Dr Linda Mulligan found a chop wound to the head which fractured Paul Jones’s skull, which may have been caused by a machete or similar implement, and also described 25 stab wounds to the chest, stomach, and upper back, seven of which were more than 10cm deep.
“It is my view that death in this case was due to chop wounds to the head and multiple stab wounds to the trunk and right arm with no contributing factors,” Dr Mulligan said.
It was the prosecution case that O’Hara inflicted the wound to the skull, which would have proved fatal on its own.
O’Hara admitted inflicting this wound but claimed he took the machete from Paul Jones’s hand and struck him with it without realising what the object was. He claimed he was acting in self-defence.
The machete — with the deceased’s blood on the blade and O’Hara’s blood on the handle — was found stuck deep into a hedge around the corner from the crime scene.
O’Hara described seeing his then partner repeatedly “punching” her brother as he lay on the floor in a pool of blood. He said he did not see a knife at the time but witnesses passing the house at around 9.45pm saw her knocking on the front door of the little house, and said she had a knife in her hand, using the tip of it to knock on the door.
On the basis of a combination of extensive witness evidence from outside the house and CCTV, the prosecution said there were three people inside the door of 108 Bandon Rd for no more than five minutes.
“The State says two people wielded two separate weapons. According to Mr O’Hara, he wielded a machete. The prosecution says Helen Jones wielded the knife. It was never found… They were in the house probably for no more than five minutes. They emerged unscathed. Paul Jones was never seen alive again. He died as a result of that attack perpetrated by both of the accused,” prosecution senior counsel Siobhán Lankford said.
Dr Mulligan said: “Death probably occurred 30 minutes to an hour within the time of receiving the injuries.”
It has taken just over two years and three months for the two people who left the 55-year-old to die in a pool of blood on the floor of his home to be convicted of his murder.
The jury was given an insight into how Helen Jones and O’Hara were thinking when the house at the centre of the disputed inheritance was taken off the market when €180,000 was the highest offer.
Nicola Barry, who works at Dunnes Stores on St Patrick’s Street, met O’Hara and Helen Jones in the store on August 30, 2019, just days before Paul Jones was killed. Ms Barry said Helen Jones told her what was happening: “She was having terrible trouble with her brother and she spent nine grand on solicitor’s fees. Keith said he was going to pay for not handing over the house. And Helen said the same… She was saying she was entitled to the house — I can’t remember what she said, it was all about the house, house, house… She said she was going up to her brother’s house.”
While mandatory life sentences will be imposed on each of the accused, Mr Justice Michael McGrath adjourned sentencing until today so that victim impact evidence can be heard from members of the deceased’s family.