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Dublin: 1°C Thursday 20 January 2022

Roy Webster 'broke down and told gardaí he beat woman to death with a hammer', court hears

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

Roy Webster leaving court.
Roy Webster leaving court.
Image: Rónán Duffy.

WHEN THE MAN accused of murdering Anne Shortall was confronted by his wife about her disappearance he broke down and told gardaí he beat her to death with a hammer and stashed her body in his workshop, his trial heard 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 Good Friday April 3, 2015 at the Murrough, Co Wicklow. His plea was not accepted by the State.

Detective Garda Owen Martin told prosecuting counsel Paul Greene SC that Webster first gave a formal statement to gardaí on Monday 6 April. Anne Shortall went missing the previous Friday and Webster was linked to her by text messages on her mobile phone.

Detective Garda Martin said Webster gave a voluntary statement at Wicklow garda station in which he said he had known Anne Shortall for two years.

The previous Christmas he said he was out with a few lads for drinks, met Shortall and ended up kissing her. Some time later he received a phone call from her in the early hours. She said: “Check your Facebook page” and hung up.

When he tried to call her the following morning he got no response but they soon started exchanging text messages.

In one text she told him: “I hate to be the bearer of bad news but I’m pregnant.” Webster told Detective Garda Martin that he didn’t believe her because he had so much alcohol on the night that he didn’t ejaculate. He asked if he could see the pregnancy test but she refused.


Webster told gardaí that he arranged to meet Anne Shortall the previous Friday, Good Friday, between 3 and 4pm at the Leitrim Pub in Wicklow. She got into his van and they drove a little distance. He told her he wanted proof that he was the father. She told him she was going to England for an abortion. He said the last time he saw her was when he let her out of his van and she walked back towards Wicklow Town.

Later that same day Webster spoke to Detective Sergeant Fergus O’Brien of Wicklow Garda Station and gave a more detailed statement in which he said he had a “fling” with Anne Shortall at Christmas. He volunteered to let gardaí have his van and his phone.

The following day Detective Sergeant O’Brien received a call from Roy Webster in which Webster said he had told his wife about the “fling” with Anne Shortall. He asked the sergeant about the investigation into Anne Shortall’s disappearance. He wanted to know when they would be finished with his van and whether they had checked CCTV in the area.

He then confirmed that he had sex with Anne Shortall on December 20 and revealed that she asked him for e6,500 for an abortion. He said his wife calculated that she would be about 15 weeks pregnant and that an abortion at that stage would cost €700 plus the cost of flights.

Garda call

The following day, 7 April, Detective Sergeantt O’Brien called out to Webster’s home because he wanted him to explain exactly where he had let Anne Shortall out of his van the previous Friday.

When he arrived Webster’s wife Sinead invited him inside and asked him why her husband had been linked to Anne Shortall’s disappearance on social media. There was also a picture of him in a newspaper. She was annoyed about this and Detective Sergeant O’Brien told her not to be upsetting herself by reading newspapers.

Mrs Webster then confronted her husband saying: “Have you anything to say that you are not saying?”. “No,” he replied. She went on: “If you have something to say, speak now.”

When she asked: “Did you hurt her, Roy?” his head went down and he started to cry. “He said he had hurt her,” Detective Sergeant O’Brien told the court.

Detective Sergeant O’Brien immediately cautioned Webster before Mrs Webster continued to question her husband, this time more directly, saying: “Did you hit her Roy?”

Detective Sergeantt O’Brien said:

His head went down and he started to cry and he said: “I did. I hit her with a hammer”.

He revealed that her body was in the workshop. “Our workshop?” Mrs Webster asked. “Yes,” he replied.

O’Brien said: “At that stage we went quiet and Sinead fell on her knees and she may have let out a sound like a gasp.”

‘Emotional scene’

Webster began sobbing heavily, “in gulps of crying” and then started talking profusely. His wife made some phone calls and family members started arriving. It was an “emotional” scene, the sergeant said.

When Webster calmed down he gave a full statement in which he revealed that he met Anne Shortall and she got into his van. “She had me under so much pressure,” he said.

“She was just threatening and threatening.” He said she had him against the wall. He said he got out of the van, opened the side door and grabbed the first thing he could find, a hammer, and hit her.

He described it as a “mistake that is after ruining so many lives”. He kept her body in the van that Friday and then moved it to the workshop the following day.

Webster was crying and talking about his future and his children. His parents arrived and he apologised to them. His sister arrived “crying and distraught”.

Webster then took gardaí to the workshop and opened the door to where the body had lain since Saturday. Detective Sergeant O’Brien went in and saw some boards against a wall.

Inside he saw a pair of hands wrapped in silver duct tape. He walked out and called for crime scene investigators to take over. At 2.31pm he arrested Roy Webster on suspicion of the murder of Anne Shortall.

The trial continues on Monday in front of Justice Patrick McCarthy and a jury of seven men and four women.

Comments are closed as this case is before the courts.

Read: Roy Webster makes ‘no reply’ when charged with murder of Anne Shortall>

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