Woman receives life sentence for murder of brother in Cork

The jury returned a unanimous decision on Thursday, finding Helen Jones and Keith O'Hara guilty of the murder of Paul Jones in September 2019
Woman receives life sentence for murder of brother in Cork

Olivia Kelleher

A man whose brother was killed by their sister has told her sentencing hearing that he has been unable to get over the "savage" killing which involved father-of-one Paul Jones being stabbed 25 times and hit over the head with a bill hook.

Helen Jones and her former partner, Keith O'Hara, received mandatory life sentences on Friday for the murder of Mr Jones (55) who was murdered at his home at Bandon Road in the Lough, Cork city on September 4th, 2019.

A ten-person Central Criminal Court jury, sitting in Cork, delivered a unanimous guilty verdict for both co-accused on Thursday following a lengthy trial.

Mr Justice Michael McGrath imposed the life sentences on the pair for the "senseless, violent and frenzied attack" on Mr Jones.

The murder occurred amid a dispute over the ownership of the Jones family home in Cahergal Avenue in Mayfield, Cork city. The two defendants were living in the house prior to the murder, however the property was being sold with Helen due to receive a portion of the sale.

'Shell-shocked'

Liam Jones, the 53-year-old brother of the late Paul Jones, said in a victim impact statement that the actions of the co-accused had left him "shell-shocked."

He said nothing could have prepared him for the news of the “savage” murder of his much-loved older brother, adding that the pair had become "very close" in the years before Paul was murdered at his home. He saw his brother three to four times a week and Paul came to his home for dinner every Sunday, he said.

"We had a strong bond. I can't seem to get over Paul's death and how he died. When I heard that Paul had died, I thought it was from a heart attack. When I realised how he died, I was shell-shocked. I went into a state of numbness and disbelief.

"When I heard of Paul's death, how savage it was, the shock took over for 24 hours and I couldn't take anything else in. This was a tragic death that Paul had and he didn't deserve it."

Mr Jones said that his older brother "changed his whole life" in the years before he died.

Another relative, who asked not to be named, said the family never got to see Paul after he died because his injuries were so severe.

Previous convictions

Det Sgt Joe Young said Keith O'Hara (43) was one of nine children - two of whom are deceased. He told the court O'Hara had 39 previous convictions, including a conviction in the UK of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

He said Helen Jones (54) had 47 previous convictions, three of which were in the Circuit Court. Some of her convictions were for assault, theft and arson. Det Sgt Young added that the accused woman hailed from a family of five and had four adult children of her own.

The judge praised investigating gardaí for their "meticulous" work in the case. He stressed the murder had profoundly impacted the Jones family, extending his condolences to the loved ones of the deceased.

Mr Justice McGrath sentenced the two accused to life imprisonment with Helen Jones and Keith O'Hara receiving four and three-year sentences respectively for trespassing with intent to cause harm at the home of Paul Jones. These sentences will run concurrently to the life sentences.

Witness

Keith O'Hara had told gardaí that he and Helen were at home watching television on the night Mr Jones was murdered.

The trial heard witnesses saw Helen Jones dressed in a bathrobe and slippers using a knife to bang on the door of the home of her brother Paul Jones on September 4th, 2019.

One witness, who was walking her dog, recalled Jones, who was without shoes, outside the home of her brother at around 9.30pm.

Another eyewitness said she saw a man covered in blood in the hallway of the house, adding that she heard the woman remark to the man: "That is what you get... You got off light."

Student Emily O'Sullivan said she saw another man in a distressed state with his hand up to the wall.

"On the floor right inside the front door there was a very large man with his feet towards the door, on his side. I only looked for a second, but it was covered in blood. He was lying lengthways in the hall.

"All I remember was blood - it was just everywhere. The woman looked very casual, like she was at home after getting out of bed or something. She was mumbling to the man at the ground. I cannot remember exactly what she said, but it was to the effect: 'That is what you get.' I think she said something along the lines of 'You got off light'," the witness said.

Taxi

The trial also heard from a taxi driver who said he took the two accused from Cahergal Avenue in Mayfield to Mr Jones' home on Bandon Road at approximately 9.30pm. He added Helen Jones, who was known to him - as was the deceased - got into a car with a staggering and drunk man she introduced to him as 'Keith'.

After arriving at the property, the driver told the court that Jones exited the car and began banging on the door of Mr Jones' property, calling his name. He said O'Hara then too got out of car.

The trial heard the two accused left the property within seven minutes of arriving, getting a taxi back to Cahergal Avenue from another taxi driver. O’Hara’s blood was later found in the back of the taxi.

A machete or bill hook was recovered in a garden at MacCurtain Villas, from where the pair were said to have got the second taxi. When it was forensically examined, it was found to have blood with a DNA match for Paul Jones on the blade and blood with a DNA match for O’Hara on the handle.

The trial heard Mr Jones was found dead on September 7th, 2019 having suffered 25 stab wounds to his body and a deep “chop wound to his head”, inflicted by a machete.

The court heard the motive for the murder was a row between Jones and her brothers, Paul and Liam, over the inheritance of the family home in which she was living with O’Hara.

Although Jones lived in the house with O'Hara, after her father's death the property was left to her two brothers. Legal action arose, but a compromise was reached in 2018 where Jones would leave the property, and on its sale, would receive a portion of the proceeds.

Prosecution barrister Siobhan Lankford said there was “bad blood” between the parties over the issues, adding that despite the compromise, Jones and O’Hara were not happy about the situation.

'Going to pay'

Another witness, who works at a branch of Dunnes Stores in Cork city, said that the pair talked to her in the supermarket of the store days before the killing, speaking of their anger in relation to the inheritance of the family home.

The woman added Jones said her brother Paul was “going to pay for not handing over the house”. She also stated that O'Hara made a similar remark.

The trial also heard that investigations found Mr Jones' blood was found on clothing seized from the accused.

Another witnesses testified that on September 5th, the day after the incident, Jones asked her to wash a bag of clothing, which she often did as her washing machine was broken.

The witness said she noticed blood on a house coat which Jones said was from a cut on her finger.

The woman added that Jones told her she went to Paul's house the previous night: “They got a cab. It stopped on the main road and obviously they battered him. She said when they left he was not dead. From what Helen said to me, they were after checking him and he was breathing.”

O’Hara had told the trial he hit Mr Jones with a bill hook, but said it was a case of “it was him or me.”

He stated he had “no intention of hurting Paul that night,” and claimed Mr Jones was in possession of the bill hook which he took from him.

“I thought I would get hit by it and I just hit him on the head with it. I did not know it was a bill hook at the time. I was acting in self defence. After he swung it at Helen, I thought he would have swung for me.”

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