Central Criminal Court
A pathologist has told a Drogheda murder trial that ‘there would be a reasonable expectation at least of survival’ had the deceased received prompt attention for his stab wounds.
Other witnesses testified that there was so much blood on his bare upper body while he waited for an ambulance that they thought he was wearing a Liverpool jersey.
They were giving evidence to the Central Criminal Court today in the trial of a 46-year-old woman, who is charged with murdering her boyfriend in her Drogheda home five years ago.
Paula Farrell of Rathmullen Park in the town, has pleaded not guilty to murdering 30-year-old Wayne McQuillan, but guilty to his manslaughter by stabbing him four times at that address on January 1, 2014.
The court previously heard details of Ms Farrell’s injuries following her arrest, including a bite mark to her face. She had said: ‘He attacked me’.
The Deputy State Pathologist yesterday outlined the injuries he found on the deceased man’s body during a post-mortem exam. Dr Michael Curtis stated that he’d died of a stab wound to his shoulder, which sliced a substantial blood vessel before going right through his lung.
He described dozens of bruises and scratches found on his face and body, some of which appeared to be fingernail scratches.
“These were all recent,” he told Gerard Clarke SC, prosecuting. “They indicated a fracas or struggle.”
Dr Curtis also found four stab wounds, one to the chest, one to the right upper arm and two to the front of the left shoulder.
Three of these had not hit any vital structures, but one of the wounds to the left shoulder had proved fatal. It had coursed downwards at an angle of 45 degrees.
“It sliced the left subclavian vein, the main vein that drains blood from the arm back into the chest,” he said, explaining that this was a substantial blood vessel.
The pathologist said that it had then entered the left chest cavity between the first and second ribs.
“It continued to transfix the upper lobe of the left lung, so a through and through wound,” he continued.
He testified that the total track depth was approximately 18cm.
“That’s a severe wound. It sliced a big vein,” he explained.” It’s also punctured the lung. It’s gone through and through, releasing air and blood into the left chest cavity, which will cause the collapse of the left lung.”
The witness was then asked to examine two knives found at the scene, one larger than the other. He put on protective gloves and took the knives out of their protective cases.
While the wound to the right upper arm could have been caused by either knife, he said that ‘the relatively large size of the others’ would be more consistent with their infliction by the larger knife, which had a 20cm-long blade.
Dr Curtis also said that high levels of alcohol were recorded in his system.
“This is gross intoxication,” he explained, describing the possible effects as diminished reflexes, being unsteady, incoordinate movements, staggering and slurred speech.
“This is somebody who's very, very drunk,” he added.
He said that death resulted from hemorrhage and air into the chest due to multiple stab wounds, with injuries to the left subclavian vein and left lung.
Dr Curtis was cross examined by Caroline Biggs SC, defending.
He agreed with her that putting some of the minor hand injuries together might suggest that a blow had been delivered by the deceased.
Scratches to the knee caps could be consistent with falling or being moved, he said, and those to the toe could have been caused by being lifted or knocked against something.
He also agreed that some of the leg injuries were common in people with terminal collapse.
Ms Biggs asked him about the ‘variable’ ways that different people react to alcohol in various situations.
Dr Curtis agreed that it could cause aggressive behaviour, inappropriate sexual behaviour, misreading of social cues and misinterpreting of other people’s behaviour. He agreed that the level of alcohol found in the deceased could also be lethal.
He was asked about whether the fatal stab wound had been incompatible with life.
“Certain injuries are incompatible with life,” he said. “Others…, with prompt attention, prompt rescue, correction of bleeding and so on, they are at least potentially survivable. This would fall into this category.”
He agreed that Mr McQuillan would have stood a better chance with prompt care.
“With prompt attention, there would be a reasonable expectation at least of survival,” he concluded.
The jury also heard from a number of witnesses, who came on the scene in the very early hours of that morning. Two of these had left a New Year’s Eve party nearby, after hearing that someone had been stabbed.
“When I first saw him, I thought he was wearing a red Liverpool football jersey,” said Colm Reynolds of the deceased. “When I got closer I realised it was all blood.”
The court heard that the ambulance was so delayed in getting to the scene that the deceased was eventually taken to hospital in the back of a garda car.
The trial continues on Monday before Ms Justice Carmel Stewart and a jury of eight women and four men.