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Nadine Lott trial: Judge says 'murder is a crime of specific intent' as he presents charge to jury

Daniel Murtagh (34) has pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to manslaughter.

A JUDGE HAS told the jury in the case of a man accused of murdering his former partner Nadine Lott that they must act clinically, dispassionately and without sympathy towards both the deceased and the accused. 

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

The jury has heard that Ms Lott suffered “severe blunt force trauma” and stab injuries at the hands of her former partner “in a sustained and violent attack” in her Arklow home.

They have heard 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.

An intensive care nurse at the hospital gave evidence that Ms Lott was “completely unrecognisable” and that she had never seen anybody so badly injured.

A paramedic who attended to Ms Lott 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.

The garda who telephoned ambulance control informed them that Ms Lott had been “beaten to a pulp”.

In his charge this morning, Mr Justice Michael MacGrath asked the jurors to act clinically, dispassionately and without sympathy towards the deceased, her family, the accused or his family. 

The judge said the jurors must confine their deliberations to the evidence which had been presented to them in the courtroom and they could not speculate. 

Referring to the presumption of innocence, Mr Justice MacGrath said the fact Mr Murtagh had pleaded guilty to manslaughter did not alter his presumption of innocence, which he enjoyed in respect of the charge of murder.

“The burden lies on the prosecution to prove every element of the offence,” he added. 

He said the date on the indictment was the date that Ms. Lott had died despite the assault taking place three days previously, into the early hours of 14 December.

“That is why it is constructed in the way it is. Murder is not an offence until someone dies,” he explained. 

Murder, he said, was a crime of specific intent, which occurs when one person unlawfully killed another, intending that person to be killed or caused serious injury. 

The judge said the accused had pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to manslaughter, which meant that Mr Murtagh accepted that he had killed Ms Lott by his acts and that the killing was unlawful.

However, he said it also meant that Mr Murtagh does not accept he had the necessary mental element when he did the acts to Nadine Lott. 

He asked the jurors to focus on the accused’s intention that night.

If the jury decided that the accused did not intend to kill Ms. Lott, they must consider whether he intended to seriously injure her, he said.

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“If you come to the conclusion that the evidence establishes that he did intend to seriously injure her but not kill her that is still murder as murder is a crime of specific intent,” he explained. 

Furthermore, the judge said intoxication may act as a defence to reduce the offence of murder to manslaughter and indicated that he would return to this issue later this afternoon. 

Mr Murtagh told gardai that “this would never have happened but for the drink and drugs” and his defence counsel Brendan Grehan SC asked the jury to consider his client’s level of intoxication that night.

Mr Murtagh said that he did not intend to kill or seriously injure Nadine and told gardai that “if he did want to kill her he would have”.

The jury can return two verdicts in relation to the murder charge against Mr Murtagh, namely; guilty of murder or not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter. 

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

Mr Justice MacGrath will continue charging the jury of seven men and five women this afternoon.

About the author:

Alison O'Riordan

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