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Murder case

Married man beat woman to death after she threatened to reveal affair, court hears

Roy Webster has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Anne Shortall, but pleaded guilty to her manslaughter.

AFTER A WOMAN threatened to reveal all about a sexual encounter she had with a married man, he beat her to death with a hammer, a prosecution barrister told a jury at the Central Criminal Court today.

Roy Webster (40) from Ashbree, Ashford, Co Wicklow has pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to the manslaughter of Anne Shortall (47) on 3 April, 2015 at The Murrough, Co Wicklow.

The plea was not accepted by the State.

Opening the trial today, Paul Greene SC said the prosecution’s case is that Webster and the deceased had a “sexual encounter” after meeting at a pub on 22 December 2014.

He said that seemed to be the end of it until some time later Shortall started trying to contact the accused by phone and through a mutual friend on Facebook.

When she made contact with the accused she told him she was pregnant and wanted money for an abortion.

Webster was married at the time and his second child had recently been born. He asked Shortall for proof that she was pregnant, and that he was responsible.

Greene said Shortall was in debt. She owed a couple of thousand euro to her landlord and a similar amount in electricity bills.

On 3 April, 2015, Greene said Webster and Shortall met in Wicklow Town and were seen sitting in his van.

He said the jury will hear that there was a dispute about whether he would give her money and she threatened to “reveal all” about their earlier encounter.

He hit her on the head with a hammer and drove her back to his work premises with her hands secured by duct tape.

A pathologist’s report would show that she received nine blows to the head, he said.

Her body remained at Webster’s workshop until 7 April when he told gardaí her whereabouts.

When she went missing on 3 April efforts were made to find her and Webster was interviewed by gardaí on 6 April, having spent the weekend with her body at his work premises.

He did not reveal his part in her death but by the following day gardaí had become suspicious and spoke to him again.

It was then that he revealed the location of her body, which was discovered behind wood panels in his workshop.

Webster’s barrister Brendan Grehan SC told the jury that his client accepts that he met Shortall by arrangement and that he assaulted her and is responsible for her death.

He also admits tying her hands with tape and lying to the gardaí in his initial statement.

Greene further explained to the jury that their role in the trial is to decide if Mr Webster is guilty of murder or manslaughter.

He said the prosecution intends to prove beyond reasonable doubt that he is guilty of murder.

Jamie Shortt took the stand this afternoon and told Mr Greene that he was out with the accused and some other men on December 20.

They went for a couple of pints at a pub known as the Bridge before moving on to The Forge.

It was a busy pub, he said, and he remembers seeing Mr Webster speaking to a woman for much of the night. He was still speaking to her when Mr Shortt left.

A few days later he said he saw Mr Webster again and they spoke about that night. He said Mr Webster told him he had gone to a house party, slept on a couch and went home the next day.

Speaking to defence counsel Brendan Grehan SC he said that Mr Webster always “came across as okay” and agreed that he had previously described him as “one hundred percent genuine”.

The trial continues tomorrow in front of Justice Patrick McCarthy and a jury of seven women and five men.

Comments have been closed as this case is before the courts.

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