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Friday 18 August 2017

Mum 'wanted €5k from murder suspect to pay for abortion',trial told

Accused Roy Webster: Admits manslaughter but denies murder. Photo: Collins Courts
Accused Roy Webster: Admits manslaughter but denies murder. Photo: Collins Courts

Murder accused Roy Webster lied to Anne Shortall's worried daughters about his meeting with her on the day she died, the Central Criminal Court has heard.

Mr Webster repeatedly lied after Ms Shortall's daughters contacted him on finding a text exchange between the pair in which they were arranging to meet that day.

The jury was told he first said to one daughter she had the "wrong number" and told another her mother was going to London to meet a friend.

He told gardai who were searching for Ms Shortall that she had called him out of the blue after he "shifted her months ago".

As evidence for the prosecution continued, the court was also told that Ms Shortall sent a Facebook message to a stranger weeks before she was killed, saying she wanted "€5,000 for an abortion" from Mr Webster.

The mother-of-three and grandmother-of-three had sent a private message to the wrong profile, intending to contact a cousin of the accused.

Hammer

Mr Webster (39), of Ashbree, Ashford, Co Wicklow, denies the murder of Ms Shortall (47) on April 3, 2015 at the Murrough, also in Wicklow.

He has pleaded guilty to her manslaughter. The jury previously heard he beat her to death with a hammer after she threatened to "reveal all" about a sexual encounter they had the previous December.

Emma Shortall (22) said her mother suffered from depression and had been on anti-depressants for a number of years.

If she went out, she would always take her cigarettes and mobile phone, but she had left her phone charging and a full box of Marlboro Lights at home that day.

Ms Shortall said her mother was asleep in bed, seemed "fine" and they had a "chit chat" at around 2pm.

At around 3.50pm, she heard the door bang and thought her mother had gone out to the shop. Later, she went out herself and texted her mother but there was no reply.

She returned home at 12.30am on April 4. Her mother was still not there.

Her sister Alanna had already been at the apartment and told her about a message on their mother's phone saying "I'm at the Leitrim" and a number with the name 'Ashwood'.

When she rang the phone it went to voicemail and the name was Roy Webster. She called it again and a man answered.

"I asked him had he seen my mother because there was a text saying he was going to meet her.

"He said you have the wrong number, he hadn't a clue what I was talking about," Emma Shortall told the court.

She texted him asking "had he seen my mum, that his number was on her phone and he was texting her saying she was meeting him".

"It wasn't like her not to tell me where she was or what she was doing," Ms Shortall said.

The next morning, she went to the gardai with her aunt and uncle.

Alanna Shortall (19) said when she could not contact her mother she went to her apartment at about 4.40pm.

Her mother's phone was charging under a pillow and she checked and saw a message from Ashwood Kitchens.

The message said "meet at the Leitrim" and her mother had replied: "on way".

She rang but the call went straight to messages so she saved the number to her own phone. The next morning, she texted the number but there was no reply.

She texted again, saying: "If you don't reply to me, I am going to bring your contact number to the gardai."

Eviction

She said Mr Webster replied: "All I know is she is going to meet a friend in London. As far as I know she was flying out at about seven tonight."

Both daughters said they were not aware of their mother's financial difficulties - her rent arrears or a notice of eviction that she had received.

Garda Neil Doyle said he was at Wicklow Garda Station when James Doyle came in and reported his sister missing.

Emma Shortall told him about contacting Mr Webster and a conversation they had in which she said the accused told her he had not told the truth.

Ms Shortall said he told her he had met her mother only briefly and did not know where she was.

Gda Doyle phoned the accused who told him he did meet Anne Shortall at the Leitrim Lounge for a few minutes, and she was "talking about going to London to meet a friend".

"I asked him how he had met her and he said in his words he had shifted her months ago and she wanted to meet up for a relationship," Gda Doyle said.

Stephen Armstrong recalled getting a Facebook message from an Anne Shortall at 1.30am on a date in late March 2015.

He did not know her and the message read: "Tell your mate Roy that I need €5,000 for an abortion."

On April 7, he became aware that a woman was missing in Wicklow, that a body had been found and it was Anne Shortall.

This triggered his recollection of the messages and he contacted the gardai.

The trial continues.

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