Belfast Telegraph

Back in court over a new knife crime: the woman jailed for stabbing her soldier husband to death 19 years ago

By Staff Reporter

One of Northern Ireland's most notorious female murderers - who stabbed her soldier husband to death - has confessed to a new knife crime.

Karen Elizabeth Carson stabbed her Royal Irish Regiment husband, Joe McDonnell, to death in 1997 near Ballymena, Co Antrim, where she is originally from.

The 51-year-old has been living in Donegall Avenue, south Belfast since being released from prison on licence.

But yesterday, Carson appeared at Coleraine Magistrates' Court where she pleaded guilty to being disorderly in Ballymoney's Bush Tavern bar on June 19 last year, and admitted a second offence - possessing a knife as an offensive weapon during the incident.

Using her maiden name on the court charge sheet, Carson was allowed to sit outside the dock. Details of the incident have yet to be outlined, and sentencing was adjourned until September.

Carson was sentenced to life for the murder of her 40-year-old husband, Thomas Joseph McDonnell, on June 8, 1997.

The conviction came at the end of a retrial, the original conviction having been quashed by the Court of Appeal on January 12, 2000. A tariff hearing then ruled in 2004 that Carson should serve 12 years for the murder.

The murder shocked the close-knit Moorfields area on the road between Ballymena and Larne.

Shortly after 11pm on Saturday June 7, 1997, police were called to an address in McNeill Park in Moorfields.

After they arrived, Carson came running into the house, in an excited and drunken state, shouting, "Joe's been stabbed, Joe's been stabbed."

The police made their way to the house next door, where they found Carson's husband on the floor, lying partly on his back with his right side on the bottom rung of a clothes dryer, groaning with pain.

There was broken glass on the floor in several rooms.

One empty and one partly-full bottle of vodka were found in the kitchen. Police took possession of a black handled, bloodied, knife that was lying on a window ledge. Carson had called an ambulance but the police arrived first and attempted first aid.

They saw that Mr McDonnell was losing blood from his upper left chest. The ambulance arrived at 11.24pm and rushed Mr McDonnell to Antrim Area Hospital, but he died shortly afterwards.

The victim had been a Lance Corporal and physical training instructor in the Royal Irish Regiment.

While waiting for the ambulance, Carson is said to have been "almost hysterical", shouting, "I didn't stab him, I was upstairs in bed, he threw me down the stairs, somebody must have come in and stabbed him."

Carson told a police officer at the scene that her husband had been at home with an unnamed man while she had been out with her sister that evening.

She said: "We have a row every day and I am fed up with it, I have moved into the back bedroom to be on my own. I was up there sleeping when I heard Joe shouting and I ran down to find him there." She later told police she had a struggle with her husband with a knife, saying: "We had a bit of a struggle and I got it off him. I was holding it and he came at me again and that's when he got stabbed."

A friend of Carson's made a statement to the police on June 9, 1997, in which he claimed she had asked him the day before the murder to kill her husband, offering him £1,000.

He stated he was with the McDonnells at their home until around 9.45pm on the evening of the murder which she was later convicted of. When jailed, Carson was referred to in sections of the press as one of the 'Witches of East Wing' - a reference to the part of a jail she shared with other husband killers Julie McGinley and Jackie Crymble.

While in jail, Carson formed a relationship with killer bank official John Murdock, who got life in 1994 for strangling his colleague and lover, Norma Murdock (no relation). The two killers later wed behind bars.

Belfast Telegraph


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