The son accused of murdering his mother
The son and daughter-in-law of 75-year-old Annie McCartan have been charged with her murder.
David McCartan (35) and his wife Geraldine (34) appeared at Newry Magistrates' Court yesterday morning where they were both accused of stabbing and beating to death the Co Down mother-of-13 in her Warrenpoint home in June this year.
A packed courtroom lined with police officers heard that the couple's home at Rossmara Park in Warrenpoint had been bugged by police. They were also kept under surveillance as part of the murder investigation.
However, the officer in charge, Detective Chief Inspector Ricky Harkness, refused to disclose whether these techniques had resulted in any conclusive evidence which would prove the couple's guilt.
Mr McCartan, who was wearing a checked shirt and jeans, and Mrs McCartan, wearing a cream fleece and combat trousers, spoke only to confirm their names and dates of birth.
They appeared to be holding hands and remained largely still throughout the hearing, but Mrs McCartan did shake her head when DCI Harkness refused to comment on evidence which he claims describes Mrs McCartan's role in the murder of her mother-in-law.
Mrs McCartan's solicitor, Gerard Trainor, asked: "Before I conclude, DCI, can the court take it that while you say you can connect Geraldine to this crime you intend to leave here to look for further evidence which you think might be out there and that so far you have shown her no forensic evidence or witness evidence which places her at the scene of the crime?"
DCI Harkness replied: "This is phase one of a murder investigation. I have a duty to discover all evidence in an investigation whether it be supportive of the Crown case or the defence case."
DCI Harkness also refused to describe how he believed Mrs McCartan murdered her mother-in-law.
"This accused played a role in Mrs McCartan's murder which is known to me; however, I wish to reserve those matters at this time," he said.
He also refused to say whether Mrs McCartan inflicted any fatal injury on her mother-in-law.
DCI Harkness said that, in relation to Mr McCartan, he had "witness evidence, circumstantial evidence, forensic evidence and other evidence" which he said points to the fact that he murdered his mother.
He also told the court that he had liaised closely with the Public Prosecution Service as to whether the couple should be charged and that they had come to a joint decision on the matter.
Solicitors for both Mr and Mrs McCartan stressed that their clients had denied any involvement in Mrs McCartan's murder throughout the police investigation and during interview.
The court was told that, when charged with his mother's murder, Mr McCartan, a builder, replied: "Not guilty".
Mrs McCartan, a housewife, said: "No I didn't" when she was charged with murder, the court was told.
Mrs McCartan was found in her bathroom by her two sons when they called at her Summer Hill home in Warrenpoint on her 75th birthday.
She had been stabbed, her throat had been cut and she sustained horrific head injuries in the attack.
Yesterday's court appearance comes less than three weeks after the murder was featured on the BBC's Crimewatch programme.
Viewers heard that the pensioner returned home from a shopping trip at around 3pm and was making some lunch when she was attacked. It was also revealed that Mrs McCartan put up a fight when she was attacked.
Mr and Mrs McCartan were remanded in custody to appear via video link at Newry Magistrates' Court next Wednesday.