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Nadine Lott suffered ‘severe blunt force trauma’, murder trial is told

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Nadine Lott suffered “severe blunt force trauma” and stab injuries at the hands of her former partner “in a sustained attack” in her Arklow home, a Central Criminal Court jury has heard.

Opening the trial of Daniel Murtagh on Tuesday, prosecution counsel John O’Kelly SC said the court will hear evidence that the injuries to Ms Lott were “so serious” that she never regained consciousness and died three days later in St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin.

Mr Murtagh (34), of Melrose Grove, Bawnogue, Clondalkin, Dublin 22 has pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to the manslaughter of his 30-year-old ex-partner Ms Lott at her apartment in St Mary’s Court, Arklow, Co Wicklow on December 17th, 2019.

Following the opening address, defence counsel Brendan Grehan SC, for Mr Murtagh, made a number of admissions of fact to the court on behalf of his client. These included that the accused accepted that he had unlawfully killed Ms Lott and he “alone inflicted the injuries she suffered”.

The issue to be decided by the jury, Mr Grehan said, will be his intent and in the “broader sense his mental state at the time”.

Addressing the jury of seven men and five women, Mr O’Kelly said a case “like this can be very distressing” and there would be a lot of “very distressing issues” which will arise in the trial. “But you as judges have to approach the evidence objectively,” he said.

‘Probable consequences’

One cannot get inside the mind of Mr Murtagh on the day when he inflicted those injuries on Ms Lott, Mr O’Kelly said, but what one can do is look at his conduct when he inflicted them and “ask ourselves what are the natural and probable consequences of doing that to someone”.

“If you want to know what someone intended to do, look at what they did,” he added.

Counsel asked the jury to look at the facts, context and conduct of Mr Murtagh when he inflicted the injuries to Ms Lott. “On that basis you will reach your conclusion as to his intent at the time,” he indicated.

Outlining the facts of the case, Mr O’Kelly said that Ms Lott lived in Wicklow and it was arranged that Mr Murtagh would come down from Dublin on the evening of December 13th. It was later decided that Mr Murtagh would stay overnight in Ms Lott’s apartment.

One of the things that made this later arrangement more suitable, the barrister said, was that a birthday party had been organised for Ms Lott’s aunt, which was being held in the local pub. “Friends of the family were going along and Nadine was bringing a cake,” he remarked.

As a result of Mr Murtagh staying overnight in Ms Lott’s apartment, this meant Ms Lott could go to the “family do”, he said.

Met in Australia

Detailing the background of the accused and Ms Lott’s relationship, counsel said they had met in Darwin in Australia when the Arklow woman was on “a year’s working holiday”. Having spent some time in Perth, Ms Lott had moved to Darwin where she met Mr Murtagh, the court heard.

Despite the fact that both individuals were from Ireland, Mr O’Kelly said, they had never encountered each other before their meeting in Darwin. The pair started going out together and Ms Lott later arranged to return to Ireland, he said. Mr Murtagh stayed on in Australia for some months and then he also returned to Ireland.

Upon his return, Mr Murtagh lived with Ms Lott and her mother for some time. The accused and Ms Lott moved into an apartment after a few months but unfortunately that did not really work out, said counsel.

“It ended up with Nadine moving back into her mother’s and Mr Murtagh went back to his parents in Clondalkin,” he said.

Around 2016, Ms Lott and Mr Murtagh got back together again for a short while and they planned to get a house or an apartment but this “fell through”.

On the evening before the killing, Ms Lott got changed and went out to her aunt’s birthday party. The mother-of-one left the party around 1.30am and got a taxi with a couple of other people from the party back to her apartment.

Mr O’Kelly said the events of the next couple of hours are unclear but it did appear that Ms Lott had got dressed for bed as she had changed into her pyjamas and her dress had been folded.

Heard someone scream

Shortly after 3.30am, Mr O’Kelly said the evidence will be that a neighbour heard someone scream. “There was a lot of noise and some time after 4am, the neighbour looked out the window of their apartment and could see that the door to Ms Lott’s apartment was open,” he said.

Eventually one of the neighbours who had looked out of the window decided to go to Ms Lott’s apartment and see what was happening. She saw Ms Lott being “attacked” on the ground of the living room by Mr Murtagh.

The neighbour then contacted emergency services and paramedics came to the scene.

The court will also hear evidence, the lawyer said, from the first garda who arrived at the house before the paramedics. “She was taking instructions over the telephone for CPR,” he added.

Ms Lott’s mother also came to her daughter’s house before paramedics arrived and assisted at the scene.

Ms Lott was brought by ambulance to St Vincent’s Hospital. The jury will also hear evidence of how she was “moved on from the trauma team into the intensive care unit” and remained there “under intense treatment” for the next few days until she died on December 17th.

The court heard there will be forensic evidence of what was found in the apartment and a report from the State Pathologist who carried out the post-mortem on the deceased.

Mr O’Kelly said there was evidence of extensive blunt force trauma to Ms Lott’s face, an incised wound to the left side of the neck and a stab wound to the right side of the neck.

“All the injuries combined to cause significant haemorrhage and blood loss and suggest a sustained assault from blunt force trauma. It led to the development of multiple cardiac arrest resulting in traumatic brain injury,” he said.

In relation to the evidence against the accused, Mr O’Kelly said he left the apartment around 4.30am after “the attack” and took his Volvo car from outside and drove it away. “We don’t know what happened for the next few hours,” he said.

Around 7am that morning and some 31 kms away from Ms Lott’s apartment, Mr Murtagh crashed his car into a ditch in Laragh and received some minor injuries.

Some people noticed him and stopped their car to look after him. The jury will hear that Mr Murtagh told the man that he had “killed his wife”.

Mr O’Kelly said the accused also told paramedics that he had “killed his girlfriend”.

“The prosecution submit that what is significant is that when Mr Murtagh met these people the next morning between 7.30am and 8am, his state of mind was that he had killed Nadine,” said counsel.

The trial continues this afternoon before Mr Justice Michael MacGrath and 12 jurors. It is expected to last two weeks.

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Courts Service contradicts Garda declaration journalists were barred from court

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The Courts Service has openly contradicted An Garda Síochána’s declaration that journalists were barred from a court sitting in Waterford earlier this month on the orders of a district justice.

Former Fianna Fáil election candidate Kieran Hartley appeared before Judge Brian O’Shea at Dungarvan District Court on October 13th on a Section 6 public order charge for allegedly committing an offence against a family member of a local garda.

Journalists Eoghan Dalton and Christy Parker were barred for more than three hours from entering the court chamber by two gardaí, who said they had been told the judge had directed that no press be allowed in.

The decision to bar the press – the second time that this has happened to a court hearing where Judge O’Shea was sitting following an incident at a Dublin hearing in 2017 – has now been raised with Garda management.

During exchanges with the reporters, who questioned the decision, one garda said “no one is allowed in this morning”, and while they “honestly” did not “know any details of it” they had been “directed by the court to not allow anyone into it”.

The Garda Press Office later that day insisted “the presiding judge had directed that the court be cleared of persons not involved in the case” as a “voir dire” was in operation.

A voir dire normally occurs when a judge seeks to determine an issue in the course of a trial rather than in advance of one, and very rarely applies at District Court level. Journalists may witness proceedings but not report the details.

Direction

Questioned later, however, the press office said: “The court garda cleared the court as requested by the judge”, and that “it is understood that members of the media who so arrived after that point were inadvertently prevented from accessing the courtroom”.

The Courts Service on Friday said: “At no stage did Judge O’Shea or Courts Service officials issue a direction that the case should be held otherwise than in public”.

“The court sitting at Dungarvan District Court on Wednesday, October 13th, was a public hearing. It involved the hearing of certain arguments in a case, before the ‘substantive’ matter might be heard at another time,” the spokesman said.

“In the absence of an order the law requires that the proceedings take place in public: we are committed to that principle. The alleged actions of gardaí in not allowing access to some media is a matter for Garda management.

“These issues have been raised with Garda management,” said the Courts Service, which is understood to have checked its own records carefully ahead of making its public statement.

When the case came to court on September 22nd, solicitor Paddy Gordon, acting for defence solicitor Frank Buttimer, questioned the legitimacy of statements presented by An Garda Síochána. Mr Gordon claimed they were “not our statements and we want them examined forensically”.

Deferring the matter to the October 13th sitting of Dungarvan District Court, Judge O’Shea instructed that investigating Garda Tom Daly be present, along with his notebook and all original statements.

The judge also asked that Tramore District Superintendent Paul O’Driscoll attend the hearing, which would commence at 10am prior to the main court business.

Candidate

Mr Hartley unsuccessfully contested the 2014 European elections as Fianna Fáil’s Ireland South candidate. He resigned from the party acrimoniously in 2018 following his criticism of its handling of matters related to convicted paedophile Bill Kenneally, whose cousin Brendan was a former Fianna Fáil junior minister.

Judge O’Shea did not issue a written verdict on the present case against Mr Hartley, but it is understood the Garda testaments will stand as presented when it is heard.

Mr Buttimer said he was “not in a position to comment at present”.

Sinn Féin’s justice spokesman Martin Kenny said it was “highly unusual” and that he would be writing to Garda headquarters seeking an explanation. “Justice has to be seen to be done as well as being done, and I find it quite alarming that we’d be in this situation.”

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Darlington is cheapest for homes, London’s Kensington most expensive

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We all know about the North-South divide. We all know about the Prime Minister’s attempt at ‘levelling up’. We all know about the crumbling Red Wall.

But when it comes to property, the facts of the matter tell their own story. According to Churchill Home Insurance, Darlington in County Durham is the cheapest place to buy a property in the country, at just £58 per square foot.

Which is staggering when you compare it to the most expensive — Kensington in central London, where the average price per square foot stands at £1,721. 

Imposing: The Clock Tower in Darlington, County Durham - the cheapest place to buy a property in the country, at just £58 per square foot

Imposing: The Clock Tower in Darlington, County Durham – the cheapest place to buy a property in the country, at just £58 per square foot

Music giants Robbie Williams and Eric Clapton have homes in this exclusive royal borough home, as do entrepreneurs Sir Richard Branson and Sir James Dyson.

But here’s the twist: anyone looking to take advantage of Darlington’s prices might have to move fast because there are plans to turn this market town into the hottest property in the north.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is opening up a smart new division of the Treasury there over the next five years, moving about a quarter of the department. 

That’s about 400 people, many of whom will be local recruits. ‘We’re giving talented people in the North-East the opportunity to work in the heart of Government, making decisions on important issues for our country,’ explains Sunak.

So what are the draws of these polar-opposite locations?

Kensington is one of the crown jewels of London neighbourhoods featuring not just top museums but also a host of chic cafes, boutique shops, and even Kensington Palace, where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge live with their children.

There are three Zone 1 underground stations and several independent schools, and you’re a stroll away from the West End. 

Upmarket: A terrace in Kensington, London, where the average price per square foot stands at £1,721

Upmarket: A terrace in Kensington, London, where the average price per square foot stands at £1,721

Top restaurants include Daphne’s and Launceston Place — both favourites of the late Princess Diana — and the iconic Bibendum with two Michelin stars.

There’s no surprises when it comes to property values in this area; they’re stellar. The cheapest property in Kensington for sale on Rightmove in the middle of October was priced at £40,000 and that was just a space in a car park. 

The most expensive listing, by contrast, was a seven- bedroom semi, with an eye-watering asking price of £30 million.

Of just over 510 property sales in the past year, the average price was a slightly more modest £2,169,235, according to Zoopla, but that’s after prices took a 4 per cent knock as fewer people bought in London during the pandemic.

It’s a different story in Darlington, which has a modest average property price of £172,724, according to Zoopla. 

But things are changing; there have been more than 1,600 property sales in the past 12 months and prices have gently risen 4.5 per cent. The most expensive home on sale is a four-bedroom detached house with grounds, for £700,000.

However that’s still an exception, with many more at the other end of the scale, where there are several two-bedroom terrace houses for sale at £45,000.

If you’re moving in, bone up on railway history — the world’s first steam train service began here almost 200 years ago. 

Otherwise, look out for a twice-weekly street market, the revamped Hippodrome theatre and the odd tribute to comic Vic Reeves and businessman Duncan Bannatyne, both brought up in the town.

Darlington is brimming with well-preserved Victorian buildings while you can stroll in the beautiful South Park. If you’re after the best of local food, the two-Michelin starred Raby Hunt Restaurant is the place to go.

The town has the buzz of a place on the move — there are modernisations under way at both the railway station (2 ½ hours to London, 30 minutes to Newcastle) and the indoor market.

Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak’s Treasury initiative is already putting Darlington on the map. ‘I know of several people from London who have moved here thanks to working remotely,’ says estate agent Henry Carver of Carver Residential. 

On the market: North-South divide 

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Facebook admits high-profile users are treated differently

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Facebook’s oversight board said the social media company hadn’t been “fully forthcoming” about internal rules that allowed some high-profile users to be exempt from content restrictions and said it will make recommendations on how to change the system.

In the first of its quarterly transparency reports published Thursday, the board said that on some occasions, Facebook “failed to provide relevant information to the board,” and in other instances the information it did provide was incomplete.

For example, when Facebook referred the case involving former US president Donald Trump to the board, it didn’t mention its internal “cross-check system” that allowed for a different set of rules for high-profile users.

Facebook only mentioned cross-check, or XCheck, to the board when asked whether Trump’s page or account had been subject to ordinary content moderation processes.

The cross-check system was disclosed in recent reporting by the Wall Street Journal, based in part on documents from a whistle-blower.

The journal described how the cross-check system, originally intended to be a quality-control measure for a select few high-profile users and designed to avoid public relations backlash over famous people who mistakenly have their posts taken down, had ballooned to include millions of accounts.

The oversight board said it will undertake a review of the cross-check system and make suggestions on how to improve it.

As part of the process, Facebook has agreed to share with the board relevant documents about the cross-check system as reported in the Wall Street Journal. – Bloomberg

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