Michael Scott 'enraged' by letter from aunt's solicitor, trial told

Michael Scott is on trial accused of the murder of his 76-year-old aunt Chrissie Treacy in Portumna, Co Galway in 2018
Michael Scott 'enraged' by letter from aunt's solicitor, trial told

Eoin Reynolds

Michael Scott, who denies murdering his 76-year-old aunt Chrissie Treacy, was "enraged" and said words to the effect that "this will end badly" when Ms Treacy proposed dividing the land that they jointly owned, a witness has told his trial.

The trial also heard on Thursday that the accused man told gardaí that he was "in fair debt", having spent about €120,000 on sheds and a silo and thousands more on fencing.

State Pathologist Dr Linda Mulligan also gave evidence on Thursday, telling the jury that Ms Treacy would have died "almost instantaneously, within seconds" of being run over and there was no evidence that she was assaulted before suffering the crush injuries which caused her death.

Michael Scott (58), of Gortanumera, Portumna, Co Galway, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Ms Treacy outside her home in Derryhiney, Portumna, Co Galway on April 27th, 2018.

The prosecution's case is that Mr Scott deliberately ran over Ms Treacy in an agricultural teleporter following a long-running dispute over land. Mr Scott's lawyers have claimed her death was a tragic accident.

Leasing plan

Joseph Carty told Dean Kelly SC, for the prosecution, that he worked for Mr Scott as an agricultural consultant from 2014 to 2018.

In December 2017, Mr Scott showed Mr Carty a letter from Ms Treacy's solicitor saying that if he agreed to divide the farm they jointly owned at Derryhiney she would consider leasing her share to him.

Mr Scott was "enraged" by the letter, Mr Carty said, and said "something to the effect that this will end badly". Mr Carty said he was "taken aback by the level of his anger" but did not respond at the time.

Later that day, Mr Scott phoned Mr Carty and told him he had been accused of intimidating Ms Treacy. Mr Carty said: "When I had had time to think about it, I felt I had to warn him about his behaviour towards his aunt. I said, 'if you lay a finger on Chrissie that will be the end of you and me'."

Mr Scott responded: "You know what lads like me are like, we are all talk."

'Tenants in common'

The trial has heard that following the deaths of her brothers, Ms Treacy came to own a 40-acre farm at Kiltormer and half of a 140-acre farm around her home at Derryhiney. The other half of the Derryhiney farm was owned by Mr Scott.

The jury has heard that they were joint owners and "tenants in common", meaning the farm was not partitioned and neither one owned specific lots or fields, but "every blade of grass was held at 50 per cent each".

Mr Carty agreed that in early 2017 Mr Scott was annoyed that the lease on land he had been renting from Ms Treacy in Kiltormer was going up for auction.

Mr Scott said he did not want to bid for the lease because he did not like the auctioneer Declan McHugh, who had previously been an adviser to Mr Scott. Mr Scott had enough land to sustain his herd in 2017 and therefore did not need the Kiltormer land and did not bid on it, the court heard.

Towards the end of 2017, Mr Scott was concerned that the lease he had on Ms Treacy's half of the land at Derryhiney had expired, the witness said.

If he did not get the lease, he could lose his herd number and would not be able to keep his dairy cattle. There were also consequences for payments and entitlements, Mr Carty said.

Mr Carty agreed with Paul Greene SC, for the defence, that when Mr Scott became enraged he was frustrated and that was the only time he heard Mr Scott speak like that about his aunt.

The trial also heard that following Ms Treacy's death, Mr Scott told gardaí in a voluntary interview that his lease arrangement with his aunt had "worked the finest".

He said he did not mind when he received a letter from Mr McHugh earlier on the day of Ms Treacy's death telling him not to make a single farm payment application in respect of three plots of land at Derryhiney.

Ms Treacy, the trial has heard, intended to claim the payments for herself.

I had enough of land, it didn't bother me

Det Sgt Paul Duane told prosecution counsel Conall MacCarthy BL that Mr Scott came to Loughrea Garda station by arrangement on May 4th, 2018.

Sgt Duane agreed with Mr MacCarthy that the accused said that some time after 2pm on the day Ms Treacy died, his wife showed him the letter telling him not to make a claim for three parcels of land.

Mr Scott said he had been waiting months for the letter and he did not mind as it meant he knew which areas of land he could claim for his own payment.

"At least I knew where I stood. I had enough of land, it didn't bother me," he said.

After seeing the letter, he said he headed to Derryhiney to replace a milking trough. He parked his jeep in the yard beside Ms Treacy's home, got into the teleporter and started reversing.

He felt he had hit something and said: "I thought it was a trailer I hit. I got out and I seen Chrissie on the ground."

He said he called his friend Francis Hardiman because he did not know that he could call 999 for an ambulance and did not know the number of any doctors.

When reversing the teleporter, Mr Scott said he did no know how fast he was going, adding he only had a mirror on one side and it "wouldn't be great" because the boom would block his vision. Normally, he said he would look over his right shoulder and said he thought his visibility was "okay".

When he thought he hit the trailer he said he pulled forward to get the teleporter on level ground before getting down and finding Ms Treacy lying on the ground behind the teleporter. He said he called to her and thought he saw her moving her head and right arm.

When Mr Hardiman arrived, Mr Scott said he went for his gun because, he said: "I couldn't cope with it. I wanted to take my own life. I wish to god I had."

He said Mr Hardiman pulled the gun off him and he "got pure dizzy after that".

Lease agreement

Sgt Duane asked how the lease of Ms Treacy's half of the land had worked out. Mr Scott said it "worked the finest" but the lease had expired for some time before he realised.

He said he "worked away, it wasn't an issue" and he had enough land with his own farm in Gortrea and with his half of Derryhiney.

He said he was "in fair debt" having spent about €120,000 on sheds and a silo at Derryhiney and thousands more on fencing.

He also told gardaí that the "nicest thing I got" was a phone call from Ms Treacy on the evening prior to her death telling him that "it had been worked out now" and "everything is ok" in relation to a new lease on her portion of the farm.

"Jesus, I was delighted," he told gardaí, adding that he was happy he would be able to put up a new shed on the land which he had not wanted to do before sorting the lease. He said his payment for the lease was to increase from €6,000 to €8,000 per year.

Under cross-examination, Sgt Duane told Mr Greene that Mr Scott "appeared to be crying" at times during the interview and at one point said he felt sick.

'Instantaneous death'

Dr Mulligan told Mr Kelly that Ms Treacy would have died "almost instantaneously, within seconds" of being run over, identifying multiple "runover or crush injuries" to the victim's limbs, spine and chest.

A fracture injury to her spine would have resulted in spinal shock and "almost instantaneous death", she said, adding that areas of skin had been removed from Ms Treacy's left arm, leg and back.

The cause of death was multiple traumatic injuries consistent with a pedestrian being run over by a teleporter, she said. She could not say if the injuries were caused by a single or multiple passes of the teleporter.

Dr Mulligan said there was no evidence that Ms Treacy was assaulted before suffering the crush injuries that caused her death. She found no evidence of defensive or offensive injuries to Ms Treacy's arms and no assault-type injuries to the face or damage to the throat consistent with strangulation.

The trial continues next week in front of Ms Justice Caroline Biggs and a jury of eight men and seven women.

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