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Russell Steele suffocated Giselle in Newry flat before raping teen daughter in ‘barbaric’ murder-suicide

Coroner tells court boyfriend suffocated Colombian mother before raping teenager in 'barbaric' murder-suicide

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Giselle Marimon-Herrera (37) and her 15-year-old daughter, Allison

Giselle Marimon-Herrera (37) and her 15-year-old daughter, Allison

Russell Steele

Russell Steele

Police at the scene of the deaths in the Glin Ree Court area of Newry

Police at the scene of the deaths in the Glin Ree Court area of Newry

Giselle Marimon-Herrera (37) and her 15-year-old daughter, Allison

A woman killed by her partner, who then brutally raped and murdered her daughter, were the victims of a "barbaric act" committed by a man with a history of violence, a coroner has said.

Coroner Joe McCrisken made the statement at an inquest into the deaths of Giselle Marimon-Herrera (37) and her teenage daughter, Allison (15).

The inquest at Armagh Courthouse on Thursday heard distressing details of how Russell Steele (38) murdered the mother and raped her daughter at their Newry home before hanging himself last March.

Delivering his findings, Mr McCrisken said it was one of the most difficult inquests he had presided over during his career.

The inquest heard Ms Marimon-Herrera's daughter - who moved from Spain to Northern Ireland in 2017 - had been seriously sexually assaulted by Steele before she was suffocated by him.

Injuries consistent with rape were detected in a post-mortem examination, Assistant State Pathologist for NI, Dr Peter Ingram revealed.

Russell Steele

Allison, who attended Newry High School, was found dead lying on a bed in the Glin Ree Court apartment she shared with her mother and Steele - originally from Scotland - on March 7, 2019.

Her mother was found lying face down on the bed in another bedroom by a police officer who gained entry to the property by forcing in the front door after concerned loved ones of both women contacted the PSNI.

Their pet dog, a chihuahua called Benny, was discovered dead in a bin located in the kitchen. The inquest heard the canine had been covered with rubbish.

Steele was discovered in another area of the property with "two passports, a mobile phone and torn lady's underwear" on his person.

Forensic analysis of the item revealed DNA detected matched that of Allison and Steele.

Mr McCrisken heard that Ms Marimon-Herrera, who was originally from Colombia, and her daughter are believed to have been seen alive during the early hours of Sunday, March 3.

The evening before, the mother had been enjoying a night out in the Brass Monkey bar in Newry with Steele and two of his male work colleagues, Szymon Kosecki and Pawel Bronk.

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Police at the scene of the deaths in the Glin Ree Court area of Newry

Police at the scene of the deaths in the Glin Ree Court area of Newry

Police at the scene of the deaths in the Glin Ree Court area of Newry

The group then returned to the couple's flat, where Steele and Ms Marimon-Herrera proceeded to use a "rolled bank note" to snort a white substance believed to be cocaine, according to the men's witness statements.

The men, who also reported seeing Allison in the apartment with the dog, left the flat around 3am.

The inquest heard Steele, who was originally from Kilmarnock in Scotland, was later spotted 12 hours later outside the apartment complex by a fellow resident.

Gerard Doran, from the witness box, told the inquest that he observed Steele hovering outside the apartment entrance around 3pm on Sunday, March 3.

"He had a holdall in one hand and a plastic bag in the other," explained Mr Doran.

Describing Steele's behaviour as "odd", Mr Doran said the Scottish man - who was a manual worker - appeared to be in an "agitated" and jittery state.

"I thought his behaviour was very strange at the time," he continued.

Mr McCrisken heard police were alerted to the apartment by Ms Marimon-Herrera's sister Paola - who attended the inquest - who had reported her sister and niece missing to police after repeated messages to the pair went unanswered.

Ward Devlin, an ex-boyfriend of Ms Marimon-Herrera, gave evidence to the inquest about how he also raised the alarm after being unable to get in touch.

The killing of Ms Giselle Marimon-Herrera and her daughter Allison by Russell Steele was barbaric Coroner Joe McCrisken

Paola said that Ms Marimon-Herrera had expressed that she wanted to end her relationship with Steele on February 26 last year.

"Russell was very controlling, he would check her mobile phone," she said.

Ms Herrera revealed that her sister had arrived here in 2016 after separating from her Portuguese husband and was followed by her daughter a year later.

A PSNI investigating officer said text exchanges between Steele and Ms Marimon-Herrera revealed that an argument between the couple had taken place in the lead up to the murder-suicide.

Mr McCrisken noted this could provide some context to Steele's motivation, however, he said no-one would ever truly know what happened in that apartment.

The officer also revealed a laptop found in the apartment showed an internet research for fatal doses of paracetamol logged at around 5.30am on Monday March 4, 2019.

Mr McCrisken asked Ms Holmes if she believed Steele had been preparing to flee the scene before changing his mind and returning to the apartment to take his own life.

Agreeing with the coroner's assessment, the PSNI officer added that phones believed to have been used by the mother and daughter had been subsequently wiped - with no information left to be recovered.

"It appears that the information was deleted from both devices," said the officer.

Steele's family had been invited to take part in the inquest, but no relatives were present. However, a statement was read out by Steele's estranged wife, Margaret, who revealed her husband - with whom she had two children - had been a heroin addict with a criminal history.

The pair had met at church and had endured a temporary split in 2010 when he relapsed but had reconciled until she discovered her husband was having an affair with Ms Marimon-Herrera, who he had previously met in Spain before reconnecting via Facebook.

The inquest heard that Steele's criminal history included an eight-month jail sentence for assault. Mr McCrisken found Ms Marimon-Herrera died from asphyxiation and suffocation and Miss Marimon-Herrera died due to manual strangulation and suffocation.

He said that while he could find Allison had been sexually assaulted by Steele, he could not be satisfied the same had happened to her mother.

"The killing of Ms Giselle Marimon-Herrera and her daughter Allison by Russell Steele was barbaric," he said.

"Giselle Marimon-Herrera was a woman of small stature. Her 15-year-old daughter and she would not have been able to offer any resistance to an attack."

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