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Shovel and pitchfork used to break up husband's remains, court told

A woman on trial for the murder of her husband wept as her description of how she had used a shovel to break up her husband's charred remains was read out in court.

Vera McGrath (61) has pleaded not guilty to murdering her husband, Bernard Brian McGrath (43), at their home at Lower Coole, Co Westmeath, over 23 years ago.

Her former son-in-law, Colin Pinder (47), of Liverpool, England, has also pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to manslaughter on a date between March 10 and April 18, 1987. The court did not accept his plea of manslaughter.

Supt Aidan Glacken yesterday told the trial at the Central Criminal Court that Ms McGrath had given a voluntary 14-page statement to gardai on November 12, 1993, in which she had spoken "very freely, with a lot of detail".

She told gardai she had first met her husband at Portmarnock Strand in Dublin when she was just 12 years old and he was 16.

They kept in contact and became "boyfriend and girlfriend" when she was almost 18. He was in the British Army at the time, she thought.

They married and lived in England for several years where their daughter, Veronica, was born, but returned to Ireland and lived in Dublin, where their three sons were born.

She told gardai that throughout her marriage, she and her husband rowed on a daily basis.

Neither of them drank but "there was always tension" and on several occasions she went to stay in women's refuges.

In 1987, her daughter Veronica returned home from England to live with her boyfriend, Mr Pinder, at Coole, where they stayed in a caravan. In March 1987, Ms McGrath went to drop letters down to the young couple one evening.

She told her daughter and Mr Pinder that her husband was still fighting with her and said, "I wish he was dead."

She then claimed Mr Pinder said, "I've just the thing to do it," and he produced a kind of a "silver thing" with a knob on it, but told them that they would all have to agree about it.

"I must've been out of my mind, but I agreed," Ms McGrath told gardai, adding they had all shaken hands on it.

Later that evening, when they got to the house, they found themselves locked out. Ms McGrath got in her bedroom window and was standing in the room when she heard a bang, "like a thud".

Looking out the window, she saw her husband's body on the ground. Mr Pinder kept telling her that she would have to hit him as well. Eventually, she did hit him and there was "no moan or sound from Brian".

She went back into the house. Then Mr Pinder ran in to say her husband "wasn't there anymore".

Mr Pinder found him in the turf shed. She saw her husband run down the driveway but claimed Mr Pinder caught him, hitting him at least twice with a slash-hook on the legs, she said. Mr Pinder followed him into the hedge and she saw him raise the slash-hook again.

Then he said, "it's all over" and the three of them carried the body wrapped in Mr Pinder's coat up to the house, she said.

Ms McGrath heard a "rattling or gurgling sound" which she took to be his "dying gasp".

Mr Pinder then hit Mr McGrath "in a frenzy" with a small concrete mould "20 or 30 times", she told gardai. He told her daughter that he had done it "for you, because I love you".

They buried the body in a shallow grave and, the next morning, Ms McGrath and her daughter cleaned up the mess outside. There was "blood, thick clots and mucus" on the wall of the shed.

A few days after, Ms McGrath went to the UK with her sons, returning about seven weeks later. "We decided to destroy the body by burning (it)," she told gardai and, the day after her return, Mr Pinder lit "a big blaze".

Afterwards, Mr Pinder told them there was still some of the body left and began to break it up with a pitchfork, while Ms McGrath and her daughter banged with shovels, until she told him she couldn't do it anymore.

Source Irish Independent

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