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Wednesday 19 December 2018

Webster stunned as jury finds him guilty of hammer murder

Roy Webster was found guilty of murder by a unanimous verdict of a jury at the Central Criminal Court. Photo: Collins
Roy Webster was found guilty of murder by a unanimous verdict of a jury at the Central Criminal Court. Photo: Collins

Roy Webster has begun a life sentence for savagely battering Anne Shortall to death with a hammer after she blackmailed him over a one-night stand.

A stunned Webster (40) was found guilty by a unanimous verdict of a jury at the Central Criminal Court of murdering the mother of three after she claimed she was pregnant and threatened to tell his wife.

He viciously beat her about the head, wrapped her face and hands with duct tape and drove her to his home, where he hid her body in his workshop for four days.

The father-of-two from Ashbree, Ashford, Co Wicklow, had admitted manslaughter but denied murdering Ms Shortall (47) on April 3, 2015, claiming he lost control when he carried out the frenzied attack and did not intend to kill or seriously harm her.

Stunned

Webster looked stunned when the jury delivered its verdict shortly before lunchtime yesterday.

Anne Shortall, who was battered to death with a hammer after blackmailing Roy Webster
Anne Shortall, who was battered to death with a hammer after blackmailing Roy Webster

After deliberating for nearly eight hours, the jurors had been told by Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy they could deliver a majority verdict. But when they returned, it was unanimous: guilty of murder.

Webster stared straight ahead with an eyebrow raised and his mouth gaped open.

Glancing from left to right for a few moments without moving, he then shook his head slightly and bowed it.

Anne Shortall's children, Emma, Alanna and David, were in court, as was her husband Colin and other family members.

A sigh of relief went up from the bench where they were sitting. Some wept and others held hands on hearing the verdict.

Webster's now-estranged wife Sinead had lifted her head and closed her eyes while awaiting the verdict, then opened them, showing little emotion.

Three minutes after the verdict was delivered, the jury of four women and seven men filed out.

Shaking his head again, Webster was led from the dock dressed in a black suit, white shirt and purple tie, carrying a red anorak on one arm.

An hour later, Webster sat and listened as victim impact statements were read out before his sentencing. His own brief apology was read to the court by his barrister Brendan Grehan.

"He wishes to apologise, to say sorry to all those affected by his actions, especially the children and family of Anne Shortall and his own family," Mr Grehan said. "While he bitterly regrets his actions, it was never his intention to injure her, much less kill her."

Webster wept as the mandatory life sentence was handed down and, as he was led from the courtroom, he was seen to mouth "I'm sorry" to the Shortall family.

Webster beat Ms Shortall nine times over the head with a hammer at The Murrough, Wicklow town, when she demanded £6,500 for an abortion and threatened to "reveal all" if he did not pay.

Messages

He wrapped her face and hands with duct tape and drove her to his home, where he hid her body in his workshop.

He went on to spend Easter weekend with his wife, four-year-old daughter and newborn son while Ms Shortall's body remained in the shed.

His phone number and text messages were still on her phone and he lied to Ms Shortall's daughters and the gardai about what had happened when they contacted him.

While still helping gardai with their enquiries, he eventually broke down and confessed to killing Ms Shortall when his wife confronted him at home.

He admitted the crime to his wife and gardai at his kitchen table and led officers to the body in his workshop, alongside blood-covered tools and the murder weapon.

He was arrested and had been in custody since April 7, 2015, pending his trial.

A guilty plea to manslaughter was not accepted by the prosecution and his lawyers failed to convince the jury that he had "lost control" under provocation when he beat Ms Shortall to death.

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