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Saturday 21 October 2017

Monster who strangled mum tried to kill her before

Convicted murderer Danny Keena
Convicted murderer Danny Keena

Murderer Danny Keena, who strangled his partner, Brigid Maguire, to death, had choked her until she stopped breathing in an earlier attack.

It emerged during his trial that Keena, who now faces life in prison for killing Ms Maguire, had previously throttled her.

After that earlier assault, the mother-of-two told one of Keena's sisters: "I was in heaven for a few minutes."

Keena and Ms Maguire both described the chilling incident to his sister, Mary Wallace, who gave an account to gardai in a statement.

Provocation

However, she did not repeat the details in her evidence in court and, although the statement was read out during legal argument, the jury never saw it and never knew the full extent of the assault.

Keena, of Empor, Ballynacargy, Co Westmeath, was found guilty yesterday by a jury of murdering Ms Maguire at her home on Main Street, Ballynacargy, on November 14, 2015.

His defence claimed provocation, saying he had "lost his mind" when she called him a bad father during a row.

The jury returned an 11 to one majority verdict after four hours and 55 minutes of deliberations.

Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy adjourned sentencing to Friday for the preparation of victim impact statements.

Keena stared straight ahead and did not react when the verdict was read out.

During the trial, the jury heard Ms Maguire had moved out of the family home weeks before she was killed to a rented house with her now 14-year-old son and daughter Jade.

Jade found her mother's body on arriving home.

"I was shouting, 'Mammy!', but I didn't get no response," she said.

Keena was "always very violent towards my mother, very abusive, literally the whole time" and once waved a hammer in her face, "saying he was going to kill her", she said.

Keena went missing following the discovery of the body and turned up at a neighbour's house 24 hours later after "running wild" through woods and sleeping in a barn.

Keena told gardai he had argued with Ms Maguire after he went to her house to talk about their son having missed school.

"She said, 'You are no good to them children'," he told gardai.

"I said, 'You're some mother to them, whoring in and around Mullingar'."

The court heard Keena had suspected her of cheating on him.

"She jumped up off the bed and came at me real violently," he said. She had her two hands out into his face and he put his hands on to her shoulders to block her.

"That's when I flipped," he said. "I moved them on to her neck."

He "had her up against the wardrobe, choking her for 60 seconds" before she fell down, he said.

"Her tongue was all blue, she was fighting for her life at this stage."

He tried unsuccessfully to revive her by "rubbing her belly", he said. He denied he had meant to kill Ms Maguire.

"I didn't know what I was at, I lost control of myself," he said.

A post-mortem showed Ms Maguire had died by hypoxia caused by "excessive pressure applied externally to the neck".

Keena accepted he had a "temper" and told gardai he was aware of his own strength.

He said he "knew he was after killing her" and ran without calling an ambulance because he "panicked".

He "drove home like a mad man", he added.

He told gardai he got a rope to try to hang himself, then jumped into the River Inny to try to drown himself after the killing, but did not go through with taking his own life on either occasion because he "saw my son's face".

Keena's son gave evidence at the trial via video link, describing his father as a "bully" and telling the jury Keena would "always take everything out on Mammy".

He also described an earlier incident in which Keena had poured milk over his mother's head.

In her statement, Ms Wallace said Keena told her in a phone call earlier in 2015 that "he choked her, she wasn't breathing".

He told her he had choked Ms Maguire with his hands, it was a moment of madness and he thought she was dead, Ms Wallace said in her statement.

"I said, 'Leave her alone or you'll end up in jail'", she said she had told him.

In her statement, Ms Wallace said she spoke to Ms Maguire two days after the phone call with her brother.

She said Ms Maguire had told her "I was in heaven for a few minutes".

"I said, 'Oh, Brigie, get out of there'," she told gardai, adding that Ms Maguire had replied: "I'm not leaving my home for no one."

Ms Wallace agreed she had made the statement as it was read back to her, and that it was true and accurate.

Hurtful

In cross-examination, with the jury present, prosecutor Remy Farrell asked her if Keena had said in his statement how Ms Maguire was after he choked her.

"He said she was OK after," she said.

In his closing speech, Colm Smyth, defending, said Keena had been sent "utterly out of control" by the remark that he was a bad father, which was "one of the most hurtful things you could say to a man".

"This case is a great tragedy by any stretch of the imagination," he said.

However, the prosecution did not accept Keena had been provoked. Mr Farrell told the jury it was "one of the clearest cases of murder you might hope for".

"The reason Danny Keena did what he did is because he was angry, he was jealous, he was bitter, he was thin-skinned," and he "strangled the life out of" Brigid, Mr Farrell said.

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