A man murdered his wife of 34 years "on an ordinary Sunday morning" by thrusting a samurai sword into her 16 times before turning to their son and telling him "you're next", the Central Criminal Court heard on Friday.
Dillon Eagers told the court on Friday that he had tried in vain to save his mother Jean as she was horrifically murdered by his father William in their home, and now suffers constant night terrors and has undergone hours of therapy as a result.
William Eagers told gardaí that he couldn't recollect what had happened during the attack on Father's Day 2020 and claimed that he "lost his memory and blacked out".
Sentencing judge Ms Justice Mary Ellen Ring noted the "horrific circumstances" of the killing and said no child should be put in the position where they see their father murder their mother "in circumstances that can only be described as terrible".
The judge refused to backdate Eagers' sentence to when he went into custody three years ago, stating that this matter had been resolved at a "very, very late stage in the proceedings". She added: "I note the family's victim impact statements and the distress that the past three years has caused to them. The court is aware this is an aggravating element for victims and families in cases such as this".
The testimonies were heard as part of three emotional victim impact statements read on Friday to the Central Criminal Court, where William Eagers was sentenced to the mandatory term of life imprisonment for murdering his wife Jean.
Defence counsel Sean Guerin SC, for Eagers, said his client wanted to apologise to his family for "the horrific acts" he committed that day and convey his deep sense of shame and remorse. "He loves his wife and doesn't know why he did what he did," he added.
Eagers (62) appeared at the court today for his sentence hearing, having pleaded guilty earlier this month to the murder of Jean Eagers in their home at Willow Wood Grove in Clonsilla, north Dublin on June 21st, 2020.
Mother-of-two Ms Eagers (57) died of her wounds at the house in Willow Wood Grove estate on the morning of June 21st. A previous hearing of the case heard that a family member raised the alarm on the day and that the Garda Armed Support Unit forced entry to the house following a stand-off where Jean Eagers was discovered with serious injuries.
Eagers, a former export operations manager and part-time taxi driver, had been charged with murder and the production of a samurai sword while committing the offence in the course of a dispute.
At Friday's sentencing hearing, Garda Shane McCarthy detailed the background to the murder. He told prosecution counsel Sean Gillane SC that William and Jean had been married since 1986 and that the incident took place at their home in Hartstown in Dublin 15, which had been the family home for most of the couple's married lives.
Their son Dillon, who was 24 years old at the time, was also living in the three bed semi-detached dormer bungalow with his parents. Dillon's sister Michele no longer lived in the family home.
Outlining the events that led up to the murder, Mr Gillane said that Dillon's bedroom was on the ground floor of the house adjacent to the sitting room. Dillon was asleep in the downstairs bedroom that morning when he was awoken by his father shouting.
Dillon heard his father shouting "shut up shut up" and went to the sitting room door to see what was going on. The door was locked but he was able to see inside the wooden door through two upper glass panels.
Dillon could see his father striking his mother and thought at first that he was hitting her with a belt. When Dillon saw his father standing over Jean he realised that the defendant had a samurai sword in his hand, which he had acquired some time before on a family holiday.
The court heard that Dillon saw his father "plunging" the sword in a downward motion towards her. When Dillon shouted at his father to stop, William shouted back: "Alright, you're next" and began to move in the direction of the door. At this point, Dillon ran into the back garden and made his way to a neighbour's house, where he was observed to be in a stressed state.
The neighbour Philip Lacey approached the Eagers house and looked inside the front window of the house. Mr Lacey could see that Jean was wearing a dressing gown and was in a sitting position on the couch with her eyes closed.
Mr Lacey's wife Antoinette had earlier heard a female voice crying out "save me, save me" and a weight falling against a wall. Ms Lacey was concerned so she approached the address and observed William Eagers "pacing" inside the house. She heard the defendant say "she made me do it". Ms Lacey asked William to allow her into the house but he refused.
Dillon was brought to his sister's house in Clonsilla where he raised the alarm before returning to Willow Wood Grove. The emergency services were called and gardaí looked for support to deal with the accused who was armed inside the house. The armed support unit breached the door and gained access to the hallway.
They made a number of attempts to speak to William but they were unsuccessful and he refused to comply.
Mr Gillane said an emergency response plan was put into action and in a coordinated operation they used a battering ram to gain access to the premises to distract and disarm the defendant. Gardaí tackled William to the floor where he was restrained, arrested and removed from the premises.
Medical personnel observed Jean in the sitting room but she was unresponsive and had no pulse. They noted a number of stab wounds to her body and attempted CPR but were ultimately unsuccessful.
Counsel said that Jean had suffered 16 stab wounds and her cause of death was multiple stab wounds to the chest, arms, face and back. Massive blood loss had occurred and the depth of her injuries were between 2.2cm and 14cm.
Mr Gillane said death was rapid due to acute blood loss. The defendant was brought to Connolly Hospital as he had a self-inflicted stab wound from where he had injured himself with the samurai sword. William Eagers was also heard to say to gardaí "why didn't you shoot me".
During his five interviews William Eagers was able to describe to gardaí that it had been an ordinary Sunday morning but said he couldn't recollect what had happened. "It was typical of any house on a Sunday morning, right up to what he said he lost his memory and blacked out," said Gda McCarthy.
Mr Gillane told the court that Jean Eagers was raised in Ringsend and was the youngest of three siblings. She was a shop assistant in Marks and Spencers, was very well known in her community, very well liked and respected.
The court heard that Eagers has one previous conviction from 1983 for malicious damage where he received the probation act.
The couple were well known in their community and had two children; Dillon and Michele.
Under cross-examination, the garda agreed with defence counsel Sean Guerin SC that there was a recording on his client's phone where he expressed remorse. He said the defendant had become emotional and upset when he was informed that his wife Jean had died. The garda agreed that there was also evidence of alcohol use.
Ms Justice Ring sentenced the defendant to the mandatory term of life imprisonment for murder. She noted that his guilty plea was entered on March 10th, ten days before his trial was due to take place. She did not backdate his life sentence and said it would commence from March 10th, 2023. The court heard that the defendant has been in custody since June 21st, 2020.
After sentencing William Eagers, Ms Justice Ring said: "I note the family's victim impact statements and the distress that the past three years has caused to them. This matter was resolved at a very very late stage in the proceedings. The court is aware this is an aggravating element for victims and families in cases such as this. I won't give him credit for time spent in custody for the past three years. He will commence his sentence from the date of his plea on March 10th".
The judge added that the court had heard the "horrific circumstances" of the incident and in particular the position Dillon Eagers had been put in. She said no child should be put in the position where they see their father murder their mother "in circumstances that can only be described as terrible".
She said Ms Eagers right to life had been taken away from her in "inexplicable circumstances" and that her children and her grandson had lost their "maternal stability" and the "lifeline a mother and grandmother brings to a family".
Ms Justice Ring said that Jean Eagers was a young woman and in the ordinary course of events she had many years left to live and had much to give to her children and grandchildren.
She said her work colleagues had lost a friend and companion in their workplace and had been deprived of her life into the future. "The court is left with an apology which is given and beyond that I'll say nothing. The explanation that he didn't know what he did, the family and community can deal with that explanation as they see fit".
She said she could only wish Dillon and Michele some kind of peace into the future, which was "not likely to come for many years into the future if at all". She said in light of the pain caused to the family the defendant's life sentence would only start from the date on which the plea was entered.
Mr Guerin informed the judge that there had been substantial delays in court at the time due to Covid-19 and that psychiatric reports had taken a substantial amount of time to receive. "For those reasons I ask the court to backdate the sentence in the usual way which is the norm even for people that go to trial," he said. He said the approach adopted by the judge unbalanced the scales of justice.
Sean Gillane SC, prosecuting, said it was incumbent on the State to bring the defendant's remand period to the court's attention.
Ms Justice Ring said the governor of the prison can take into account when the defendant went into custody. She said that William Eagers' life sentence would commence from March 10th, 2023.
Victim impact statements
The deceased's daughter Michele Connolly cried in the witness box as she told the court that her mum was her best friend and they shared a relationship that most people could only wish for. "She was my rock, a strong caring and warm person that made people want to be in her company. She always knew what to say and was always right, I don't have that comfort anymore," she said.
Ms Connolly said her family home was always a safe place and was a "normal, family home". She said she had two great parents that loved her but on June 21st that was "ripped" from her.
She said she was 14 weeks pregnant with her first child at the time and that day was supposed to be a happy day as it was Father's Day. She said she learned about an accident in her parent's house and "arrived to chaos and so much fear".
She added: "I could never have expected it to be dad, a dad is meant to protect you from pain. I couldn't believe it was real. It is hard to put into words how much it has changed my life and destroyed it. I am heartbroken, sad, worry more and suffer from anxiety".
She continued: "I'm broken and shattered and my heart hurts with the loss of my mam. At night I go to sleep and I don't want to wake up the next morning. Living this life without her is too painful, my heart aches with the pain".
Addressing her father in the statement, Ms Connolly said: "I don't think you will ever comprehend how much you have destroyed me. I worry how my little brother processes that day. You have robbed so much from happy newlyweds and the excitement of a new baby. You have robbed us of our support system. Trying to navigate loss and grief when becoming a mother is so difficult".
She said that becoming a mother was meant to be such a happy time but it had been ruined by her father's selfish actions. "My mam was so excited to become a nanny and you took that from her. It kills me that my son will never know my mam. My son will never get to experience her warm hugs and kisses. Life is hard now, family occasions are filled with pain and sorrow".
At the close of her statement, Ms Connolly said she aches for her mother as she was "simply the best". "She was fun, sassy and had a heart of gold. The pain of living without her is unbearable at times. When I think of the pain she suffered and how scared she must have been it breaks my heart".
"She gave your family a loving home, was always there when you needed her and this is how you repay her. Losing your mam under any circumstances is heartbreaking but trying to process this is just incredibly hard. There is no comfort in this plea for me, you made it three long years of heartbreak and setbacks.
"There are no winners in this situations, my mam is never coming back, my dad is never coming back. My parents are gone and that is the reality now. No one will ever love you the way mam loves you. Thank you mam for being you. I love you so much and I miss you more than you'll ever know".
Dillon Eagers said in his statement that he witnessed his mother being brutally murdered nearly three years ago by a person that was supposed to protect her; "my dad". "When I was trying to get into the room to save my mum, he looked at me and said 'you're next'".
Dillon said he has constant night terrors, undergoes hours of therapy and the incident had ruined relationships with his family and friends. He said he has lost the only home he has ever known. "One of the hardest things is to see my sister become a mother without her mother by her side," he said. He called his mother an amazing person and said she was someone who always gave to others and wanted nothing in return. "I love you mam, I miss you so much," he said.
The deceased's brother, Ronnie O'Farrell, said in his statement that the defendant had shown no remorse for almost three years and had chosen to prolong the agony for his family and the deceased's family. "Father's Day is to be enjoyed with our families until I got a call at 1.25pm to say that Jean had been murdered by her husband.
"Jean's home should have been a place of safety and comfort but you have destroyed that. Her life was taken by the one person she should have been able to trust in the world, you, her husband. Most of all you have robbed the world of a beautiful woman, our heartache will never end because of you".