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Anne Shortall died from nine blows to her head and blockage to her airways, court hears

Roy Webster has pleaded not guilty to her murder but guilty to her manslaughter.

Roy Webster leaving court in 2015
Roy Webster leaving court in 2015
Image: Rónán Duffy/TheJournal.ie

ANNE SHORTALL DIED from nine blows to her head and blockage to her airways caused by duct tape her attacker wrapped around her head, State Pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy told the Central Criminal Court today.

Roy Webster (40), of Ashbree, Ashford, Co Wicklow has pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to the manslaughter of Shortall (47) on Good Friday 3 April, 2015 at the Murrough, Co Wicklow. His plea was not accepted by the State.

Professor Cassidy told prosecuting counsel Paul Greene SC she examined Shortall’s body shortly after it was discovered in a workshop on the grounds of Webster’s home on 7 April, 2015. She identified nine lacerations to her head, each one caused by a separate blow with a blunt object.

Shortall’s nose and mouth were obstructed by duct tape that had been wrapped around her head when she was either unconscious or dead. Professor Cassidy said it would be “very difficult” to wrap the tape around her head and face in that manner if she were still conscious.

She said that if Shortall was still alive before her mouth and nose were covered, the blockage to her airways would have excluded all possibility of survival. Further injuries to Shortall’s hands suggest she may have tried to defend herself from her attacker.

Five of the fatal blows landed on the top of her head but Professor Cassidy said none of them caused fractures to the skull and her brain was intact, although slightly swollen. She said the injuries were consistent with hammer blows and suggest that her attacker used “moderate force”.

Shortall’s jaw was fractured in two places and minor injuries to her neck suggested she may have been “gripped or grabbed” by the neck but there was no evidence of an attempt at strangulation.

When asked to give the cause of death she said: “Blunt force trauma to the head and obstruction of the airways.”

Not pregnant 

The court also heard that Shortall knew she was not pregnant when she is alleged to have demanded money for an abortion from Webster.

The jury has already heard that the accused said he beat Shortall to death after she threatened to tell his wife about a fling they had if he didn’t give her Stg £6,500 (about €7,400) for an abortion.

Dr Geraldine O’Kelly told defending counsel Brendan Grehan SC she was Shortall’s GP. On 12 January 2015, less than one month after Shortall’s sexual encounter with Webster, Shortall came to her complaining of having very heavy periods.

O’Kelly said this would not be compatible with being pregnant and added: “I’m satisfied she was not pregnant and she knew she was not.”

She said Shortall was referred to a gynaecologist who saw her on 16 March and carried out a test on her womb that would also be incompatible with a person being pregnant. She said the specialist would have checked to find out if she was pregnant beforehand.

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

Comments are closed as legal proceedings are ongoing. 

Read: Murder accused said he fell asleep in front of TV after beating woman to death with hammer

Read: Roy Webster ‘broke down and told gardaí he beat woman to death with a hammer’, court hears

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Eoin Reynolds

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