A former businesswoman who was beaten to death by the leg of a chair in Craughwell is one of six cases under the spotlight by a new documentary series examining cases where women were killed by their partners.
Fir, Marú agus Grá gives a startling insight into “intimate partner homicides”. The common thread of the six cases is the turbulent relationships that often precede the killings, explained the producer Medb Johnstone of Midas Productions.
On July 17, 2005, Catherine McEnery was found dead in the bedroom of a picturesque thatched cottage outside Craughwell.
Her partner of ten years, Kieran Lynch, was tried for murder two years later in the first murder trial held in the county since the Maam Trasna murders in 1882. He was found guilty of murder after the jury rejected his claims that he was provoked into “a crime of passion” after she had allegedly hit him with a plank of wood.
The court heard that both Kieran Lynch and Catherine McEnery struggled seriously with alcohol and abused it regularly with prescription drugs. Ms McEnery had previously run a successful catering business before her relationship with Lynch. He described her during the trial as “as the closest you’ll ever get to an angel”.
Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis had found Ms McEnery had endured a multiplicity of blows to her head, face, trunk and limbs and had sustained a fractured skull, broken cheek bone and jaw, multiple fractured ribs as well as defensive injuries to her hands, which also had broken fingers. He found the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head, face and chest.
Gardaí gave evidence they found a broken leg of a chair inside the cottage with bloodstains and hair. There was blood throughout the home, while “clumps of hair” were found on the door frame leading into the bedroom.
While serving a life sentence, Lynch won an appeal against his conviction for murder. The Court of Criminal Appeal found the Mr Justice Paul Carney’s responses to questions from the jury concerning provocation, while “entirely well meant”, were “misconceived and confusing”.
A retrial was ordered and at his arraignment he pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was given a reduced sentence of 12 years – with the final four years suspended.
As he had already served ten years, he was released from prison and placed on probation for two years.
Ms McEnery’s case is featured in the fifth episode of the series.
The first examined the trial of Laois man Robert Corbet for the killing of Aoife Phelan in 2012. Some 13 days after she was first reported missing by her family, Aoife’s body was discovered in an oil barrel buried ten feet underground on Corbet’s land.
The second episode looks into the killing of Catherine Smart, whose body was found in her home on Easter Sunday 2010 in Middleton, Co Cork. Arrested for the first time 38 days after the death, Derrick Daly stood trial for her murder in 2011.
The next one explores the death of Romanian nurse Loredana Pricajan, whose body was discovered in a Dublin hotel by the night porter on duty. Her ex-boyfriend, Romanian national Mihalache Marian, stood trial for her murder a year later.
Episode number four examines the trial of Goodwill Udechukwu for the murder of his wife, Jamaican mother of two, Natasha Gray, in her apartment in Phibsboro in 2003. After killing Natasha, Goodwill disappeared without trace only to be arrested for a different crime in London in 2005.
The final case – the first where a person accused of murder in Ireland is tried in Britain – examines the evidence presented at the murder trial of Christopher Newman for the murder of Georgina Eager in Walkinstown, Dublin in 2003.
“We very much wanted to shine a light on these cases as many victims of violent crime are too quickly forgotten. We wanted to show the evidence, how these men were caught, the hard work that goes into piecing that evidence together,” Medb explained.
“Every one of the perpetrators denied it. No one was able to speak up for the victim. They had no voice, nobody was there to speak up about how they met their death other than the killer.”
Medb points to statistics which show that in Ireland nearly nine in every ten women who are killed are killed by a male known to them.
“By and large, these ‘intimate partner homicides’ are usually preceded by physical or mental abuse, controlling behaviour and harassment. But separation can also be a catalyst for violence and for women, it is often a dangerous time to be around the men they wish to leave.”