A 34-year-old man accused of murdering his ex-girlfriend Nadine Lott told a motorist he had “killed my wife because she was with my friend”, just hours after he assaulted her, a trial has heard.
The jury also heard on Thursday Daniel Murtagh told a paramedic that he had killed his “girlfriend” after crashing his car into a ditch in the early hours of the morning. “In the back of the ambulance he was telling me how much he loved his girlfriend but they had a fight,” the witness said.
Opening the trial on Tuesday, prosecution counsel John O’Kelly SC said Ms Lott suffered “severe blunt force trauma” and stab injuries at the hands of her former partner “in a sustained attack” in her Arklow home.
The barrister said the court will hear evidence that the injuries to Ms Lott were so serious she never regained consciousness after the attack on December 14th, 2019 and she died three days later in St Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin on December 17th. An intensive care nurse at the hospital has told the jury that Ms Lott was “completely unrecognisable” and she had never seen anybody so badly injured.
Mr Murtagh of Melrose Grove, Bawnogue, Clondalkin, Dublin has pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to the manslaughter of his 30-year-old ex-partner at her apartment in St Mary’s Court, Arklow, Co Wicklow on December 17th, 2019.
Giving evidence today, John Begley said he saw a car in a ditch as he was travelling over Bookies Bridge in Laragh, Co Wicklow with his wife on the morning of December 14th. He initially thought “some guy” was out at their Christmas party and had crashed their car into the ditch. When he saw no one was in the car he continued driving on but then saw “a chap” standing on the side of the road at Laragh GAA pitch.
“He was staggering, his legs weren’t moving. I presumed at the time that it was a guy who had a few drinks and had crashed his car,” he said.
‘I killed my wife’
The man fell to the ground as Mr Begley drove by so he reversed his car. Mr Begley said he spoke to the man, who was lying on his stomach, and asked if he was okay then got a coat and umbrella out of his vehicle to keep him dry.
“When he fell his head was facing back towards Rathdrum and his feet facing towards Laragh village,” he said, adding that his trousers and pants were around his knees and he had no shoes on. He asked his wife to ring an ambulance as he did not know how serious the man was hurt.
The witness said the man told him that his name was Daniel and he was from Clondalkin. He noticed the accused had blood on the side of his head and hand. “He asked me ‘are you a guard’ and told me ‘you’re not very good at interrogating’,” he said. Mr Begley was with the accused man for around an hour until the ambulance arrived.
When gardaí arrived at the scene, the witness said that Mr Murtagh got very agitated. Mr Begley continued: “He then said to me ‘you don’t know what I’ve done”. I said what did you do. He said ‘I killed my wife’. I didn’t think anything of it. He said it a second time and said he hoped she was not dead. He said ‘she was with my friend’.”
Mr Begley told the jury that what the accused said to him the first time had “passed” him by but he was “taken aback” or “stunned” when he said it a second time and “thought something serious is going on here”. The witness said he remained with the accused until the ambulance arrived at 8.50am.
Under cross-examination, the witness agreed with defence counsel Brendan Grehan SC that he had acted as the “good Samaritan who didn’t drive by” when he saw someone standing on the edge of the road needing help. He said the accused, who smelled of alcohol, had told him his name three times but he could not grasp it as it was “very slurred”.
Mr Begley told Mr Grehan gardaí had arrived at the scene but were further down the road when the accused said “you don’t know what I’ve done”. He agreed with Mr Grehan that the accused had also told him that he had killed his “wife because she was with his friend”. Mr Begley also recalled Mr Murtagh saying: “I hope she is not dead, tell my family I’m sorry.”
Paramedic Patrick Naughton testified that he got a call to go to the scene of a road traffic accident at Laragh on the morning of December 14th and arrived there at 8.48am. When he arrived, a passerby was attending to a man, who had a few jackets over him to keep him warm.
The witness said the patient, who he now knows to be Mr Murtagh, was complaining of neck, back and leg pain. He pulled a blanket away to check for injuries and he noted the man’s trousers were around his ankles. The patient told him he had post traumatic stress disorder and described him as confused. “He said he had taken two valium at 10pm the day before and had been drinking,” the witness add.
Mr Naughton said he was shocked when Murtagh told him he had killed his girlfriend. “I didn’t know what to say and he said it again,” he continued. The witness told his colleague what the accused had said and the other paramedic informed gardaí. “He then asked me was I with him or against him; my reply was that I was impartial,” he said.
Mr Murtagh’s nose was bleeding, he had a bruise to the left temple and he was about 100m away from where the crash had occurred. When asked what had happened, Mr Murtagh said he had been driving and “it was a good crash”.
The paramedics brought him by ambulance to Tallaght Hospital and they arrived at the resuscitation unit at 10.06am. “In the back of the ambulance he was telling me how much he loved his girlfriend but they had a fight,” said Mr Naughton, adding that he got the impression that the couple had been together for years.
Under cross-examination, the witness told Mr Grehan that his client was confused throughout his dealings with him and was not able to inform him how his car had ended up in the ditch. He said he had killed his girlfriend “out of the blue”. He agreed that Mr Murtagh had kept repeating that he loved his girlfriend in the back of the ambulance, that they had been together for years but they had a fight.
CCTV footage was also shown to the jury of Mr Murtagh driving his Volvo car “somewhat erratically” from St Mary’s Court at 4.22am on December 14th. Under cross-examination, Detective Garda Róisín Rowley-Brook agreed with Mr Grehan that two witnesses gave evidence yesterday that the accused had left the scene in Ms Lott’s BMW car but they were “clearly wrong about that”.
Fingerprint expert Det Sgt Conor Lawler testified that a fingermark found on a press in Ms Lott’s kitchen was made by Mr Murtagh’s left ring finger. He agreed with Mr Grehan that there was only a match for one fingerprint belonging to Mr Murtagh at the scene despite 15 marks being sent for analysis.
Det Gda Alan Curry, who is a trained scene of crimes examiner, said he arrived at Ms Lott’s house at 2pm on December 14th and noted that there was a lot of broken glass in the living room and the major concentration of blood was found between two sofas.
There was a lot of blood in the kitchen, he said, and a lot of broken ornaments. “The blood was consistent with a sustained attack,” he stated. The witness said he found hair and clumps of hair in the apartment as well as strands of hair on the skirting board on the side of a door.
Det Gda Curry agreed with Mr Grehan that quite a number of people had been through a very tight space that night, especially the kitchen, which was only about three foot wide. He also agreed that paramedics had moved Nadine from the corner of the kitchen into the sitting room so they could attempt CPR on her for quite a while.
He further agreed that Nadine was bleeding from a number of different places but particularly her face. Given the amount of blood present at St Mary’s Court, the witness said an assault had taken place.
The trial continues before Mr Justice Michael MacGrath.
The Covid-19 pandemic divided the world in two: those who tackled personal projects, taking advantage of the collapse, and those who later regretted not having done so. For Chuck Palahniuk, 60, confinement was not as problematic – after all, a writer needs a certain degree of isolation in order to concentrate – as the closing of the gyms. Suddenly, he had no way of working up. So, he set himself a new routine: building a castle with his bare hands on top of a cliff outside of Portland. He chuckles as he recalls: “I changed a completely abstract activity in the gym for lifting rocks weighing more than 40 pounds. I started with a simple room and before I knew it I was making windows, niches for statues, a patio… There it is, without ceilings, like a strange uninhabitable fantasy.” During those months, he took on something he had been avoiding: teaching and preparing a manual for aspiring novelists: Consider This: Moments in My Writing Life After Which Everything Was Different (Grand Central Publishing).
Question. You start this book by saying that you never wanted to write it. What made you change your mind?
Answer. Before publishingFight Club, I used to work on a truck assembly line. There were so many of us journalists in that company that we joked that they should teach welding during the career. Then I signed up for the writing workshop of Tom Spanbauer [author of The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon] and everything changed. I owe him a lot of what I know. Thanks to him, I was able to develop my career. And since Tom is not in good health and was never going to write this book, I owed it to him.
Q. Tom Spanbauer created the concept of “dangerous writing,” which you practice. What is it about?
A. It’s about exploring something threatening and unresolved in your life, overcoming fears from painful personal truths.
Q. What advice, as a writer, would you have given to yourself as a young person?
A. Relax. You need to take your time to publish something that matters; you only have one first novel.
Q. In your case, it was Fight Club. You did take your time… you wrote it when you were 33.
A. I was still young, wasn’t I? [Laughs]
Q. How did you manage to keep grounded after its success?
A. It was not a success, on the contrary. During my first promotional tour, in Seattle two people showed up, and in San Francisco, nobody. And even though the film rights were acquired, nothing indicated that it would actually be filmed. When it was finally released, it lasted a couple of weeks in the theaters. By then, it had hardly been sold; almost all copies of the book remained in a warehouse. It wasn’t until Fox released it on DVD that it really found its audience.
Q. Is it true that after you were introduced to Brad Pitt on the set, you wanted to get his lips?
A. [Laughs] We all have our insecurities. I, for example, have been trying to hide my neck since I was a child. It’s too long. That’s why I always had my promotional photos taken with a turtleneck. But I hadn’t paid attention to my mouth until a friend told me: “Have you noticed how the attractive thing about Brad Pitt are his perfect lips?” They are very pronounced, very full. That made me self-conscious about mine; they are quite thin. I needed lips like those. So I called several cosmetic surgery offices to get information and tried one of those telemarketing-style inventions that do suction to achieve a fuller effect. It was a complete disaster. And I took the opportunity to write about it, of course.
Q. Why are you so keen on exploring the limits of the body?
A. Funny you should mention it, because I have realized that the stories that most attract me as a reader are those that include some physical element. And that is always present in my writing: it could be in violence, in sex, in drugs or in illness. Creating a very intense feeling of the character’s body generates a physical reaction in the reader.
Q. When would you say you moved on from your obsession with provoking?
A. The 1990s was the decade of transgressive novels. It started with American Psycho and continued with Trainspotting and Fight Club. Novels about bored kids who would try anything to feel alive. But everything changed with 9/11. Suddenly, anything transgressive was in danger of being accused of inciting terrorism, and publishers decided not to take legal responsibility for their authors. That is why there was such a strong revival of codified formulas of transgression, such as horror. I published my own horror trilogy: Lullaby, Diary and Haunted. I had to sharpen my wits to hide the message. I don’t see it as something bad; on the contrary, it forces the reader to exercise their intelligence to decode what you’re really telling them.
Q. You have a short story, Guts, about risky forms of masturbation that can end in tragedy. It is famous for causing fainting among the audience. Why do you like to read it in public so much?
A.Guts comes from true stories. I wrote it as a personal challenge, thinking about Shirley Jackson and her story The Lottery. When she published it in The New Yorker in the 1950s, the magazine lost subscribers; some people were very offended. I was obsessed with the idea: what would a story capable of amassing the same level of anger look like today? Reading it in public is the most humiliating thing I can do, because I have to put all my dignity aside. It is a message especially for the youngest: in order to create, the first thing you have to lose is shame – only then do you end up facing your own fears.
Q. Shirley Jackson’s daughter sold her mother’s ashes online, and gave you some. Where do you keep them?
A. They are too precious a relic to keep in my hands. I bought two beautiful wooden boxes from an antiques dealer, split them up and sent them to my agent and publisher. The truth is that I’m not particularly fetishist.
Q. In your book, you raise two unanswered questions: why are we so obsessed with stories about losers? Why do high culture tales end badly?
A. In most movies of my generation the good guys used to lose. Rocky lost, Rosemary gave birth to the devil’s son, Taxi Driver croaks, Carrie kills everyone and then herself, Midnight Cowboy ends terribly… Everyone goes after an ideal and loses the battle, although many persevere. Someone named this “romantic fatalism.” We had seen the failure of Vietnam, Nixon’s corruption, the environmental crisis… Nobody was going to go for a nice ending, we had to see the hero try and try and fail. The decline of the Summer of Love would give rise to the Me Generation of the 1970s and the yuppies of the 1980s. And so, we have remained in love with tragic endings until today.
Q. In 2018, you experienced a particularly difficult moment: you lost the income of your last years due to the embezzlement committed by your literary agency’s accountant. What was it like to suddenly find yourself in scarcity?
A. It was disturbing, but it helped me not to be so confident. In any case, I didn’t start writing for money, and it has never been my main goal. I’m not a big spender either. So, essentially, nothing changed. At that time, much worse things happened to me, like the death of my father-in-law from cancer.
Q. You have always been very discreet about your relationship with your husband, with whom you’ve been with for almost 30 years. But you now talk about it more openly. What has changed?
A. The death of my parents was decisive. I didn’t want to embarrass them when they were alive, because homosexuality wasn’t something they quite agreed with. Also, my husband feels more comfortable with it. In 2018, we were invited to the Rome Film Festival, and when I walked the red carpet we posed together and he hugged me from behind. It was a natural gesture that we don’t usually do in public.
Q. You’ve had no problem writing about your addiction to sedatives, but I read that you’ve given them up. What drove you to do it?
A. I started because I suffer from insomnia. I can spend weeks wandering sleeplessly. Then I discovered that they were a fantastic tool for writing in one sitting or for keeping up with the pace of promotional tours. Vicodin or Ambien were useful to turn my body into a machine that responded to the need to rest or to be awake when needed. Until I was invited to a cultural festival in Borelo, Palermo, and I got hammered mixing pills with booze. I ended up acting like a jerk in front of people I admire, like the writer John Irving. On my return to Portland, I was so embarrassed that I said to myself: never again.
Norway’s prime minister said Friday the country, which has become Europe’s biggest supplier of natural gas, had accepted military contributions from France, Germany and Britain to secure its oil and gas sector.
Published: 30 September 2022 19:01 CEST
File Photo: Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store addresses the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York City on September 22, 2022. (Photo by Tomothy A. Clary / AFP)
“We are in discussions with our allies to increase the (military) presence in the Norwegian sector and have accepted German, French and British contributions,” Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store told a press conference, following the alleged sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea.
His comments came days after four leaks were discovered in the Nord Stream gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea, which bring Russian gas to Europe.
The leaks were caused by underwater explosions corresponding to hundreds of kilogrammes of explosives and look like a deliberate act, a Danish-Swedish report said Friday.
“I understand that people are worried about the consequences that the situation in the Baltic Sea may have and that something similar may happen to the oil installations,” Store said.
“We have no indication that there are any direct threats to the Norwegian oil sector,” the Norwegian leader added.
Following the Nord Stream explosions and leaks, Norway had already said it would beef up security around its oil installations, amid allegations of sabotage.
“The government has decided to put measures in place to increase security at infrastructure sites, land terminals and platforms on the Norwegian continental shelf,” Norwegian Energy Minister Terje Aasland said in a statement on Tuesday.
Norway has become Europe’s main gas supplier in the wake of the war in Ukraine, taking the place of Russia.
The Scandinavian country has a vast network of pipelines, stretching for almost 9,000 kilometres, linking it to the continent, which experts have said are at risk of sabotage.
On Friday, Støre said that two Norwegian Coast Guard vessels had been diverted to patrol near oil platforms and that the area was also being monitored by a maritime patrol aircraft.
The Norwegian prime minister met several European leaders and the head of NATO on Friday, and is expected to visit the Sleipner oil platform in the North Sea on Saturday.
Norway, as well as Britain, France, and Germany, are all members of the NATO military alliance.
Although the last publications in Ladino – or Judeo-Spanish – have been surviving in Turkey against all odds, this Romance language is about to disappear.
“We are the last generation of Sephardic Jews who speak Ladino… even my children barely understand it,” warns Ivo Molinas, 60, director of the weekly Salom and the monthly El Amaneser. Both papers – founded 75 years ago – are published entirely in the language used by the Sephardic community in Turkey.
Molinas notes that he directs the only press in the world that has published uninterruptedly in Ladino. The reasons he gives for the decline in the language – which is in real danger of extinction – are both demographic and cultural. The Turkish Sephardic community has decreased over the last few decades from about 50,000 to only 16,000 members, with the vast majority concentrated in Istanbul. Meanwhile, the new generation prefers to speak Turkish, English… and now Spanish, since Spain granted Spanish nationality to the descendants of Jews expelled in 1492 by Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. It makes more sense to use some of the world’s major languages, rather than learning a minor one that’s on life support.
“In fact, while 40% of the community understands it, we no longer speak Ladino like our parents did,” Molinas explains. However, he believes that the use of the old language will survive through the newspapers: more than 3,000 copies of Salom are sold weekly, with even more readers checking out the online version. He thinks that there will always be someone to take care of these publications – even if it’s just out of love.
Newspapers written entirely in Ladino were very popular in Turkey in the past. Since 1492 – when Jews were expelled from Spain – the language laid down roots in the area. In Izmir – where there was once a large Sephardic community – three newspapers with many readers were published at the end of the 19th century: La Buena Esperanza, El Novelista and El Meseret. In the first years of the 20th century, El Pregonero, La Boz de Izmir, La Boz del Pueblo and El Comercial joined the list, according to Dina Damon, professor of Judaic Studies at Binghamton University in New York.
The director of Salom points out that Spain does not show much interest in the preservation of Ladino… although he recognizes that the real problem is the disinterest of his own community. In fact, the Cervantes Institute in Istanbul had to cancel some free Judeo-Spanish courses last year due to a lack of students. The Sephardic Jews who come to the Institute are more interested in learning Spanish.
Gonzalo Manglano, director of the Cervantes Institute in Istanbul, argues that Spain does everything possible so that Ladino does not disappear: “Together, with the Saramago Foundation of Portugal and the Jewish community of Turkey, the Cervantes Institute has requested a tender within the EU Horizon Program for a €3-million project aimed at rescuing languages in danger of extinction.”
If the funds for this project are obtained, the Cervantes Institute will lead the project, in coordination with the Casa Sefarad of Madrid and the Turkish Ministry of Culture. This initiative plans to renovate the Selaniko synagogue in Istanbul, which will host a cultural center that promotes – using modern technology – the preservation of Ladino… a language that any Spanish-speaker can understand.