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Wednesday 29 March 2017

Mum-of-three 'killed with hammer after threat to reveal sexual encounter'

Mum Anne Shortall
Mum Anne Shortall

A mother-of-three was bludgeoned to death by a married man after she threatened to "reveal all" about a sexual encounter they had, the Central Criminal Court has been told.

Anne Shortall (47) made the threat after telling the man she was pregnant and asking him to pay for an abortion.

Roy Webster (39), a cabinetmaker, then hit Ms Shortall about the head with a hammer.

After the assault, the father-of-two tied up her body and drove it to his home, where he left it in his workshed while he spent the weekend with his family.

Ms Shortall owed thousands in rent arrears and unpaid bills at the time she was killed, a lawyer for the prosecution said.

The jury heard that gardai found her body four days later, after the accused made admissions.

Webster, of Ashbree, Ashford, Co Wicklow, denies murdering Ms Shortall on April 3, 2015 at The Murrough, Co Wicklow, but admits her manslaughter.

Paul Greene, prosecuting, said it would be alleged that Webster used a hammer to inflict serious injuries resulting in Ms Shortall's death.

Divorce

Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis would give evidence that there were "likely nine blows by a hammer to the head", though it was suggested there were fewer.

Mr Greene said Ms Shortall had three adult children and had been in the process of getting a divorce.

At the time, Webster had a four-year-old daughter. His son was born only weeks before the alleged crime.

The case had its "genesis" in events that took place on December 20, 2014, said Mr Greene.

Webster was with friends for a meal and drinks in a pub and was seen to engage in a conversation with Ms Shortall.

They had a sexual encounter in her flat and he got a taxi home to his family early the next day.

Afterwards, there was "some degree of telephonic contact" and efforts made by Ms Shortall to get in touch with Webster.

"It would appear that Ms Shortall was in a very difficult place financially," said Mr Greene.

She indicated to Webster that she had become pregnant by their "encounter", she wanted to terminate the pregnancy and she wanted financial assistance.

It would be alleged that Webster requested proof from Ms Shortall that he was responsible for the pregnancy and that she was indeed pregnant.

On April 3, 2015, Webster was working to be paid the balance on an account but the banks were closed, Mr Greene said.

There would be evidence he was in Wicklow town until about 2pm and his van arrived back at about 3.40pm.

The prosecution would say the defendant and Ms Shortall arranged by text to meet near the Leitrim Lounge pub in Wicklow town.

There would be evidence that the pair travelled in the accused's van to The Murrough where they were seen talking.

"It appears there was a disagreement with respect to the question of the pregnancy and the question of whether the money should be paid over," said Mr Greene.

"It will be alleged that threats were made by the late Ms Shortall that she was going to reveal all about their encounter."

The argument continued and Ms Shortall was struck on the head by Webster, "likely to be twice".

In the van, Mr Webster secured her hands behind her back with duct tape.

He also put duct tape around her head and other parts of her body and took her back to his work premises next to his home.

Efforts were made by Ms Shortall's family to find her, and Web- ster's number was on her phone.

Admissions

He gave a witness statement to gardai on April 6. The next day he admitted that Ms Shortall's body was in his work shed.

Mr Greene advised the jury that the accused is presumed innocent of the murder charge.

Brendan Grehan, for the defence, made a number of admissions on behalf of Webster.

Among these, he admitted he assaulted Ms Shortall and was responsible for her death. He admitted tying her up with tape.

It was admitted that he lied in his initial contacts with Ms Shortall's family and the gardai.

A mechanic, Jamie Shortt, said he was out with Webster on December 20, 2014.

He saw the accused talking to a woman just inside the door of the Forge pub. He did not recall who she was.

Later, Mr Webster told him "he went to a party and stayed on a couch and went home the next day", said Mr Shortt.

The trial continues.

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