An eyewitness told gardaí that murder accused Daniel Murtagh made a "growling noise" and was "vicious with rage" as he inflicted blows on his ex-partner Nadine Lott "like a wild animal", a jury has heard.
The witness told the court on Wednesday of finding Mr Murtagh "in a crouched position" on top of Ms Lott, where he was "inflicting a lot of force" on the beauty therapist and had his hands around her neck and shoulders.
Under cross-examination by defence counsel Brendan Grehan SC, for the accused man, Amela Kulenovic agreed that she had told gardai in her statement that Mr Murtagh was "going ape on" his former partner "like a wild animal" and agreed he was "totally out of control".
Opening the trial of Mr Murtagh on Tuesday, prosecution counsel John O'Kelly SC said Ms Lott suffered "severe blunt force trauma" and stab injuries at the hands of her former partner "in a sustained attack" in her Arklow home.
The barrister said the court will hear evidence that the injuries to Ms Lott were "so serious" that she never regained consciousness and died three days later in St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin.
Mr Murtagh (34), of Melrose Grove, Bawnogue, Clondalkin, Dublin 22 has pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to the manslaughter of his 30-year-old ex-partner Ms Lott at her apartment in St Mary's Court, Arklow, Co Wicklow on December 17th, 2019.
Giving evidence today, Ms Kulenovic said she lived at St Mary's Court and Nadine Lott, who she knew relatively well, was her neighbour. She said she went to school with Nadine's younger sister Phoebe Lott.
The witness met her boyfriend after work on the night of December 13th before they returned to her apartment at around 3.30am. Ms Kulenovic recalled that she heard a lot of "banging and noises" as she was getting ready for bed. "From what I now know it was crying, I thought it was shouting and cheering, but it wasn't, it was crying as such," she said, adding that she realised after a couple of minutes that the noise was coming from Nadine's apartment.
The witness noticed that the light from Nadine's doorway was on and was shining into her own bedroom window. She then looked out her window and could see that the front door to Nadine's apartment was open, so she got dressed and entered her apartment.
When she went into the sitting room, Ms Kulenovic said she saw Nadine lying face down on the floor between two couches with her head slightly angled to the right. She said Mr Murtagh was "on top" of Nadine "in a crouched position".
"I saw him inflicting a lot of force on her. It looked quite like he was shoving her into the ground forcefully, pressing his body weight on top of her," she continued. She said the accused's hands were around her neck and shoulders.
When asked by Mr O'Kelly if Nadine was doing anything, the witness said her friend was unconscious at that stage and all she could hear was "weeping" coming from her.
'Covered in blood'
Ms Kulenovic said the area around the accused and Nadine was "highly covered in blood". There was a bookshelf or a wooden cabinet that had been knocked over and its contents were on the floor.
She said Mr Murtagh was wearing black pants and a grey jacket that was covered in blood.
Ms Kulenovic said she rang gardai and Phoebe Lott. After she returned to her apartment, she saw Mr Murtagh leave the apartment complex in Nadine's car and she rang 999 for a second time.
The two 999 calls were played for the jury, in which Ms Kulenovic can be heard saying that she needed the "gardai right now" as her neighbour had been "physically abused", was on the ground and there was "blood everywhere".
The witness said she had met Mr Murtagh on one previous occasion in the courtyard at the back of the apartment block and had seen him around a couple of times. She had spoken to the accused briefly on that occasion so she said she recognised him when she went into Nadine's apartment that night.
'Vicious with rage'
In cross-examination, Ms Kulenovic told Mr Grehan that she had only heard the noise coming from Nadine's apartment just before 4am that night. She agreed that what she witnessed that night "was a shocking thing" to see. She said she may have heard a bit of gurgling as well as weeping coming from Nadine.
She agreed that she told gardaí in her statement that Mr Murtagh was "going ape on" Nadine "like a wild animal". When asked by Mr Grehan if the accused appeared to be totally out of control, she replied "absolutely". She also agreed that she said in her statement that the defendant was making a growling noise and was "vicious with rage".
Ms Kulenovic further agreed that she had said at the time: "Oh my god, what the f**k is going on?". When Mr Grehan put it to her that she had told gardaí that Mr Murtagh had "almost looked straight through" her and not responded to her question almost as if she was not there, the witness said the accused had not responded "in any shape or form" but knew she was there.
Yesterday, Mr Grehan made a number of admissions of fact to the court on behalf of his client following the opening address. These included that the accused accepted that he had unlawfully killed Ms Lott and he "alone inflicted the injuries she suffered". The issue to be decided by the jury, Mr Grehan said, will be his intent and in the "broader sense his mental state at the time".
The trial continues this afternoon before Mr Justice Michael MacGrath and a jury of seven men and five women.