A man has admitted killing his partner of five years on her 51st birthday and the day they were due to wed.
Paul Stockman (53), from Bendigo Street, Belfast, had been charged with murdering Patricia Bardon in the apartment they shared at Elm Court, off Donegall Pass, in south Belfast, on August 23 last year.
However, the charge was dropped when Stockman pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of his bride-to-be when he appeared before Belfast Crown Court.
Stockman's case had been listed for a mention before Mr Justice Hart when his defence QC, Terence McDonald, asked that he be rearraigned and for the murder charge to be put to him.
Initially Stockman hesitated, and seemed unsure what was expected of him, before replying to the charge: “Not guilty to murder ... but guilty to manslaughter.”
Prosecution QC Ciaran Murphy said that, having had “the opportunity to take detailed instructions” on the matter, the guilty plea to the lesser charge in the circumstances was acceptable to the Crown.
Mr Justice Hart, who indicated he will sentence Stockman next month, said that the plea to manslaughter seemed entirely appropriate as it “meets the justice of the case, but that is not to suggest that it is not a serious case of manslaughter”.
No details surrounding the death of Ms Bardon were given to the court. However, previous hearing were told that she and Stockman both had alcohol problems.
During an earlier court appearance Stockman’s defence solicitor was asked whether both the victim and Stockman had an alcohol dependency, to which he replied: “Yes... alcohol does seem to have been a problem with them.”
Ms Bardon was found dead on the day of her birthday, and also the day she was due to be married to Stockman, who had lived in Australia before returning to Northern Ireland.
It is believed she had two children from a previous marriage.
It is also understood from the previous court hearings that she had facial injuries, caused by blunt force trauma.
However, the actual cause of Ms Bardon's death has not been revealed so far.
During a court appearance in October 2010, Stockman had claimed his partner of five years had injured herself during two falls, one on the day of her death and the other two days earlier. At the time of Ms Bardon’s death police described it as a “terrible tragedy”.
Neighbours of the deceased had also expressed their “terrible shock” upon hearing about her death.
They described how Ms Bardon was often seen outside her home pruning the roses in the courtyard at the centre of the apartment complex in south Belfast.