Daniel Murtagh, who beat his former partner Nadine Lott to the point where she was "completely unrecognisable", leaving her with "extreme and grotesque" injuries from which she never recovered, has been found guilty of her murder.
The 12 jurors took five hours and 46 minutes over two days to unanimously reject Murtagh's defence that he was too intoxicated to have formed the intent to murder his ex-girlfriend and that the "bloodbath" would never have happened "but for the drink and drugs" he consumed that night.
Defence counsel Brendan Grehan SC had asked for a verdict of manslaughter on the grounds of lack of intent due to alcohol intoxication. Murder is a crime of specific intent and voluntary intoxication can have the effect of reducing the offence of murder to manslaughter.
Murtagh had told gardaí that before his assault on Ms Lott, he had smoked a joint, taken two pills and drank a "daddy naggin" or shoulder of Captain Morgan rum straight. He also told them that he had been on methadone for the previous three months.
In his charge to the jury, Mr Justice Michael MacGrath said they must decide in the context of intoxication as to whether the prosecution satisfied them beyond a reasonable doubt "that despite the accused's intoxication he had formed the intent to kill or cause serious injury to Nadine."
'Nothing short of murder'
Instead the jury accept the State's case that this was a case of murder and "nothing short of murder".
In his closing speech, prosecution counsel John O'Kelly SC argued that there was no defence of intoxication in the case and said Murtagh had the "clearest intent" when he inflicted the "most dreadful blunt trauma injuries" to the beauty therapist's face, which separated the flesh from the underlying structures.
"Just look at what the accused didn't do and what he never tried to do, he never raised a hand to get Nadine any kind of help," he said.
Murtagh (34), of Melrose Grove, Bawnogue, Clondalkin, Dublin 22 had 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.
The injuries to Ms Lott were so serious that she never regained consciousness after the attack on December 14th and died three days later in St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin.
An eyewitness and neighbour of Ms Lott told the trial that Murtagh made a "growling noise" and was "vicious with rage" as he inflicted blows on his ex-partner in her living room "like a wild animal".
Amela Kulenovic found the defendant "in a crouched position" on top of Ms Lott, where he was "inflicting a lot of force" on her and had his hands around her neck and shoulders. She said he was "going ape on" his former partner "like a wild animal" and was "totally out of control".
Ms Lott's mother, Claire Lott, had described the moment she found her daughter lying on her back in the kitchen of her home, gurgling and gasping for air. "I couldn't recognise her face, I couldn't recognise it was Nadine," she said.
Evidence was also given that a Garda who telephoned ambulance control informed them that Ms Lott had been "beaten to a pulp". Garda Linda Butler said the left side of Ms Lott's face was "extremely and grotesquely swollen" and when she placed her fingers inside the patient's mouth to clear her airways, she noticed some teeth were missing.
A paramedic who attended to the mother-of-one at her home testified that the emergency call he made to Ms Lott's house will "haunt" him for the rest of his career and was one of the most "horrendous scenes" he had ever walked into.
Ian Clarke said it was like a "bulldozer" had gone through Ms Lott's apartment and described kneeling on broken glass as he performed CPR on her. He said his uniform was "destroyed" with blood and he changed his gloves about five or six times.
An intensive care nurse at the hospital described Ms Lott as "completely unrecognisable" and said that she had never seen anybody so badly injured. "Her mum brought in a photo of her and everyone kept saying 'who is that' and I said: 'that's her'," said nurse Leah Grant.
Ms Lott died after suffering "traumatic head, neck and chest injuries" and her brain was swollen following the "sustained and violent attack". Chief State Pathologist Dr Linda Mulligan noted that the blunt force injuries were caused by hands, fists or feet and the use of a blunt weapon could not be ruled out.
The cause of death was hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy due to traumatic head, neck and chest injuries. The court heard there were 64 individual injuries observed all over Ms Lott's body, which could not be accounted for through medical intervention.
Following today's verdict, Mr Justice MacGrath thanked the jury for the care and careful consideration they had given the case. "You were all very attentive during the trial. You perform an important civic duty and it is very important that non-lawyers are involved in this process," he said.
The judge exempted them from jury service for ten years. He will hand down the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment on October 4th and remanded Murtagh in custody until that date.
On that date, the Lott family will have an opportunity to make a statement to the court about the impact Nadine's death has had on their lives.
Murtagh showed little reaction following the verdict while members of Ms Lott's family, who filled an entire bench in the courtroom, hugged and comforted one another.
The trial heard that just under two weeks before Murtagh killed his ex-girlfriend, she told him not to "threaten" her and that "nothing is ever going to happen between us again, I want to make that clear".
When Murtagh was later arrested and placed in a patrol car on the morning of the attack, the accused told the officer that it was "a domestic" but said he really loved Ms Lott. "Answer me this, is she still alive? Tell me is she still alive?" he asked gardaí.
'No intention to ever hurt her'
In his first interview with gardaí, Murtagh had said he loved Ms Lott, that he was intoxicated at the time of the assault and he could not remember anything. In a subsequent interview, he said he had given her a "soft slap", before telling gardaí he had "obviously hit her a few slaps". It was the first time he had ever hit her, he said, and insisted that he only gave her a couple of slaps.
"I had no intention to ever hurt her," he said.
Murtagh later went on to tell detectives that he gave Ms Lott "six or seven hard digs" but did not "go to town" on her. However, the accused eventually said that he was "pounding" Ms Lott with his hands and "punching like mad". He told gardaí that if he had wanted to kill her, he would have.
Demonstrating to gardaí how he delivered punches down on the beautician as she lay on the ground, the defendant said he had boxed "for years" and his knuckles were "well-conditioned".
However, it was not until his fourth and final interview that the accused described to gardaí how he had held a charger for a tyre pump in his hand for solidity and had "wrapped" the wire around his knuckles as he beat the Wicklow woman. He also accepted he might have used the cigarette-type charger "in a hammer action" on the "helpless woman".
'I just snapped'
When asked in an interview why he hit Ms Lott, Murtagh had at one point replied: "No reason, absolutely no reason guard, I'm going to pray every night. I just snapped, I don't know. I never hit a girl in my life."
However, he also later told gardaí that: "I know she was with a lad in Arklow and I was trying to get it out of her".
Murtagh fled the apartment after the attack, taking his Volvo car from outside and driving it away. Around 7am the same morning and some 31km away from Ms Lott's apartment in Laragh, Murtagh crashed his car into a ditch and received some minor injuries.
The now convicted murderer told a motorist who stopped to help him that he had "killed my wife because she was with my friend".