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Nadine Lott died after traumatic head, neck and chest injuries, Chief Pathologist tells trial

The jury also heard from the expert witness that the blunt force injuries were caused by hands, fists or feet.

Nadine Lott
Nadine Lott

NADINE LOTT DIED after suffering “traumatic head, neck and chest injuries” and her brain was swollen following a “sustained and violent attack” in her Arklow home, the Chief State Pathologist has told her murder trial.

The jury also heard from the expert witness that the blunt force injuries were caused by hands, fists or feet and the use of a blunt weapon could not be ruled out. In cross-examination by defence counsel, the pathologist also said she was “very sceptical” that Ms Lott would have been able to move around following her injuries.

The Central Criminal Court was also told today that there were 64 individual injuries observed all over Nadine’s body, which could not be accounted for through medical intervention.

Daniel 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 Nadine Lott at her apartment in St Mary’s Court, Arklow, Co Wicklow on 17 December 2019.

Opening the trial of Murtagh, prosecution counsel John O’Kelly SC said Nadine 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 Nadine were so serious that she never regained consciousness and died three days later in St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin. An intensive care nurse at the hospital has told the jury that Nadine was “completely unrecognisable” and that she had never seen anybody so badly injured.

A paramedic who attended to the Arklow woman at her home told the jury that the call will “haunt” him for the rest of his career and was one of the most “horrendous scenes” he had ever walked into in his life. The garda who telephoned ambulance control informed them that Nadine had been “beaten to a pulp”.

Giving evidence today, Chief State Pathologist Dr Linda Mulligan told O’Kelly that she conducted a postmortem on Nadine, who was dressed in a hospital gown, at Dublin City Mortuary on the afternoon of December 18th. “She weighed 78kg which included the body bag so she probably weighed less,” she said.

The witness said she was informed that the deceased, who was found lying in a pool of blood in her apartment, had suffered a serious assault at the hands of her former partner after returning home from a Christmas party at 1.30am on 14 December. 

Nadine was “flat lining” when the paramedics arrived at her home, she noted, and was resuscitated at the scene before being transferred to St Vincent’s Hospital at 6.43am that morning but never regained consciousness. She was transferred to intensive care at 10.58am and passed away three days later on 17 December at 3.16pm as a result of her injuries, she said.

Dr Mulligan also said she was aware that there had been a significant disturbance in the kitchen and living area of Nadine’s home and a large amount of blood was found at the scene.

Swelling

In her evidence, Dr Mulligan said there was swelling to both the deceased’s eyes, “generalised swelling of the face” and petechiae [small spots of bleeding] were identified in the whites of her eyes and in the membranes under her eyelids.

The left eye was difficult to visualise due to the marked bruising and swelling and the left ear lobe was damaged due to an incised wound to the left side of the neck. There were nasal bone fractures as well as fractures to the lower jaw and blood was “oozing” from each nostril. There was extensive bruising to the inside of her upper lip, in front of the gum and it continued all the way into the gum line.

The witness said there was evidence of extensive blunt force trauma to Nadine’s face and a stab wound to the right side of the neck was visible.

The blunt force trauma had caused bruising over the right eye and side of the head, severe swelling with lacerations over the left eye and pulverisation of the left-sided facial muscles. The deceased also had displaced fractures of the facial bones and the eye socket as well as a fracture to the jawbone, she said.

The expert witness testified that the incised wound which extended from the left earlobe to the left side of the neck caused significant damage to muscles and small vessels of the neck.

The stab wound to the front of the right side of the neck, above the Adam’s apple, which travelled behind the jawbone and into the mouth, had caused soft tissue and muscle damage as well as damage to the structures in the oral cavity. All of these injuries would have combined to cause significant haemorrhage and blood loss, she said.

Dr Mulligan said there were posterior rib fractures and bruising under the shoulder blades, which suggested that force was applied to Nadine’s trunk during the assault.

She pointed out that there was a fracture of the hyoid bone and bruising around the neck area which suggested that force was also applied to the neck during the assault. There was extensive bruising to the tongue and the strap muscles of the neck.

Referring to the brain, the witness said it was “diffusely swollen” as it had limited capacity to expand within the skull and there was damage to the nerve cells in the brain. There was also discolouration in the brain stem due to the compromised blood supply, she added.

The court heard there were 64 individual injuries observed all over Nadine’s body, which could not be accounted for through medical intervention.

Sustained Assault

Dr Mulligan said the injuries suggested a sustained assault involving both blunt and sharp force trauma. The combination of all of these injuries and their associated blood loss led to the development of multiple cardiac arrests and resulted in traumatic brain injury and hypoxic (decreased oxygen supply) ischaemic encephalopathy.

Furthermore, the witness explained that a neuropathological examination of the brain confirmed hypoxic/ischaemic injury and noted axonal injury which is common in cases of assault.

In conclusion, the witness said that death was due to hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy as a result of cardiac arrests, she was suffering from severe traumatic head and neck injuries including a stab wound to the right side of the neck, an incised wound to the left side of the neck and severe blunt force trauma to the head.

Dr Mulligan said Nadine’s cause of death was hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy due to traumatic head, neck and chest injuries.

Referring to a request for additional information from the State, the witness told the jury that the blunt force injuries were consistent with injuries caused by hands, fists or feet and she could not rule out the use of a blunt weapon. Sharp-edged objects, usually knives, cause stab wounds and incised wounds but they can be caused by other sharp objects such as glass fragments, she explained.

The stab wound to Nadine was 5cm deep, which suggested it was caused by a knife or a knife shaped object, she said.

Petechiae, she said, has numerous causes including cardiopulmonary resuscitation, traumatic head injuries and asphyxia. She said at least some of the petechiae were caused by asphyxia in the context of neck compression but all three factors were present in the case.

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She said she was sceptical that the deceased was able to mobilise in the aftermath of such severe injuries and particularly such severe head injuries.

In summary, the witness said there was significant force used in what she called a “sustained and violent attack.”

Under cross-examination, Dr Mulligan agreed with defence counsel Brendan Grehan SC that she found multiple sites of blunt force trauma in particular to the head, face and neck area.

When asked if she was satisfied that fists could have done the damage, she said she was but could not rule out feet or the use of a blunt weapon.

Dr Mulligan also agreed with Grehan that she was not saying asphyxia was the cause of death and this was not a “strangulation case”. She said petechiae can have multiple causes and can be part of the overall picture for multiple traumatic injuries.

She further agreed with the barrister that the hyoid bone is very fragile and can be easily broken. The jaw bone requires more force to fracture, she said, and is a common injury in people who are assaulted.

The court heard during the cross-examination that the blunt force trauma to the head meant that the brain was moving back and forwards within the skull cavity, which can cause bleeding.

Grehan put it to the witness that she was sceptical that Nadine had moved about following the incident. “Yes, with the incised wound to the neck, the rib fractures and the multiple facial bone fractures, I would be very sceptical that she would be able to move to any degree following those injuries,” she replied, adding that it was possible but unlikely.

Referring to the stab wound above the thyroid cartilage on the right side of the neck, Dr Mulligan told the lawyer that any knife shaped object could have caused that injury.

The court also heard that Nadine’s facial damage was “quite severe” so there was a lot of haemorrhage and bruising.

Last week, a forensic scientist told the murder trial that the amount of blood splatter found in the kitchen of the deceased’s apartment suggested there had been a “sustained assault” on her when she was lying on the floor there.

At the outset of the trial, Grehan 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,Grehan said, will be his intent and in the “broader sense his mental state at the time”.

The trial continues tomorrow before Mr Justice Michael MacGrath and a jury of seven men and five women.

About the author:

Alison O'Riordan

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