Central Criminal Court
A prosecution barrister has told a jury it is "abundantly clear" that a mother-of-three intended to cause "at least serious injury" to her partner when she picked the biggest knife from a knife block and stabbed him four times with it.
In his closing address at the Central Criminal Court today (Wed), Counsel for the State Gerard Clarke SC noted that the prosecution did not have to prove an intention to kill and it was sufficient to prove an intention to cause serious injury.
Mr Clarke also said the accused's allegation that her partner sexually attacked her on the night was "an outrageous lie" told against a man who could not give any alternative account of events.
However, defence counsel Caroline Biggs SC submitted that her client is classified as "borderline intellectually disabled" and if there was a reasonable possibility that she had acted as a result of provocation then the jury must find her not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter.
Paula Farrell (47) of Rathmullen Park in Drogheda has pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to manslaughter for the unlawful killing of Wayne 'Quilly' McQuillan (30) at Ms Farrell's home on New Year's Day 2014.
The mother-of-three testified last week that Mr McQuillan had tried to have sex with her, that she did not want to have sex and that he had started strangling her with his hands before she went to the kitchen for a knife. "I thought I was dying, I couldn't breathe," she told her barrister Caroline Biggs SC. Ms Farrell has accepted in her evidence that she stabbed Mr McQuillan with a knife four times but said she only remembered stabbing him twice.
Evidence has been given that Ms Farrell was sexually abused by a named man between seven and 14 years of age and that she started to drink heavily when she was 20 years old. The court has also heard from two psychiatrists that Ms Farrell was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcohol dependency at the time she stabbed her boyfriend to death.
Addressing the jury today, Mr Clarke said that Ms Farrell had chosen the "biggest knife in the knife block" and the natural and probable consequences of this was that Mr McQuillan would be seriously injured.
Mr Clarke submitted in his closing speech that the defence will raise the partial defence of provocation, where one is not capable of controlling their actions and being a master of their mind. "I remind you that Ms Farrell never said in her evidence or to anyone in the six years since Mr McQuillan died that she was in a state of total loss of control," he remarked.
Mr Clarke said the provocation relied on by the accused was that Mr McQuillan had sexually attacked her on the night. The barrister called this "an outrageous lie" and said it had been told against a man who was now dead and could not give any alternative account of events.
Mr Clarke submitted that the account of a sexual attack taking place was first put forward by Ms Farrell 16 months after Mr McQuillan had died. The barrister told the jury that if they considered that the sexual attack on Ms Farrell was a lie and did not happen, then there was no basis for provocation and it did not arise.
He drew the jury’s attention to Ms Farrell's four interviews with gardai and submitted that there had been "no mention whatsoever" in them of a sexual attack and in fact it was "quite the opposite". Ms Farrell told gardai in her third interview that nothing sexual had happened between her and the deceased on the night, he said.
Mr Clarke called the sexual assault an "invented lie" and submitted that Ms Farrell had claimed that the deceased had turned into a "homicidal rapist for no reason".
Furthermore, the lawyer said none of the defence experts had sought in any way to explain how PTSD and childhood sexual abuse were related to the killing of Mr McQuillan. "This was because there are no connections. If there was a connection they would have told you," he argued.
Counsel went on to tell the jury that the only reason they had heard about Ms Farrell having PTSD and being sexually abused as a child was to create sympathy in their minds. He urged them to be cold and dispassionate in assessing the evidence and leave any sympathy aside.
He also pointed to interviews given by the psychiatrists that the killing of Mr McQuillan was due to Ms Farrell's intoxication on the night and not any mental problem. "That's their clear conclusion," he submitted.
Dr Brenda Wright, testifying on behalf of the defence, told the court that Ms Farrell's PTSD had not played a "significant role" in the killing. Dr Sally Linehan, testifying on behalf of the prosecution, told the jury that the accused's behaviour on the night was influenced by her intoxication and not her mental disorder.
Mr Clarke called Ms Farrell's account of being sexually assaulted by her boyfriend an "inventive lie" and said it was told in the hope that the jury would "swallow that lie" and return a verdict of manslaughter rather than murder.
In summary, Mr Clarke indicated that there may be a reluctance to find a female guilty of murder but said all the evidence put forward in the case supported this verdict. "It is abundantly clear that Ms Farrell intended to cause at least serious injury by picking the biggest knife in the knife block and stabbing Mr McQuillan four times with it," he said.
In her closing statement, defence counsel Ms Biggs asked the jury to look at the partial defence of provocation if they came to the view that Ms Farrell intended to kill or cause serious injury to Mr McQuillan. The barrister asked them to consider Ms Farrell's own state of mind when she committed this "heinous act", which she said her client was not seeking to justify.
Ms Biggs said her client repeatedly said in her evidence that she never wanted to kill or cause serious injury to Mr McQuillan. "She said she didn't want him dead and just wanted to hurt him and she said she didn't realise she had used the biggest knife," reiterated Ms Biggs.
She said her client had never resiled from her central position from the moment she was questioned by gardai which was that she only wanted to hurt Mr McQuillan like he had hurt her that night.
The barrister said Ms Farrell is classified as "borderline intellectually disabled" and notwithstanding that went through continuous cross-examination from the prosecution over a number of days.
She reminded the jury that Ms Farrell had six litres of alcohol in her system on the night and asked whether the accused could have formed the specific intent or was there a reasonable possibility because of the state she found herself in that she did not think through the consequences of her actions.
"If there was a reasonable possibility that Ms Farrell had acted as a result of provocation you convict her of manslaughter," she submitted, adding that the jury must look at the issue of provocation from the point of view of a reasonable person.
Ms Biggs asked the jury to look at her client as a person with a mental illness saying: "You must look if she lost self-control from her particular situation and decide if she was provoked. PTSD is relative to her subjective state of mind."
She said two psychiatrists had given evidence that Ms Farrell suffered from PTSD from being sexually abused as a child. Self-loathing, guilt, shame, disgust and having no meaningful development from seven years of age had stemmed from the sexual abuse, she explained.
Ms Biggs pointed out that Ms Farrell had described the sexual attack on her by Mr McQuillan as intensely private and said it had taken her client five years of sobriety to be able to discuss her feelings with counsellors. "People who have suffered child sexual abuse put a lid on everything sexual," she remarked.
The defence lawyer submitted that whilst there were inconsistencies in Ms Farrell's account, she had remained resolute on the critical and core issues in the case.
She said there was clear evidence that Ms Farrell was choked or strangled on the night from the injuries to both sides of her neck. "How does the prosecution account for those injuries?" she asked, adding that there had been no time for passions to cool and it had been a rapid as well as a dynamic event.
In conclusion, Ms Biggs said her client had great difficulty managing her internal state and regulating her emotions. "A marked feature of PTSD is an inability to regulate emotions and behaviour," she continued.
Ms Biggs submitted that whilst both psychiatrists had substantially favoured intoxication as the reason why events had occurred on the night, they had also agreed that mental factors had played a role.
The barrister finally thanked the 11 jurors for serving in these "extraordinary times" and pointed out that without them no other determination of her client's guilt could be made. "I ask you to take the time notwithstanding the pressures from the outside world and consider the verdict of behalf of Ms Farrell of not guilty to murder but guilty to manslaughter," she concluded.
Mr Justice Paul McDermott will continuing charging the seven men and four women of the jury tomorrow (Thurs) morning.
The jury has heard that Ms Farrell told gardai in her interviews that she and Mr McQuillan had started "tackling each other" in the kitchen on the night and "he had me by the wrist and neck and I got a bump on my head from him." She said Mr McQuillan "had me on the two-seater in the kitchen" and when she got up, she said, "I didn't want him to get the better of me. I got the knife then and I stuck the knife in him." She thought she stabbed him "towards the top of his chest" and a second time "a bit lower down", the court heard.
Evidence has also been given by former Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis that he found four stab wounds on Mr McQuillan, one to the upper right arm, one to the front of the chest and two wounds to the left shoulder which were situated 1.1cm apart from each other and parallel. The expert witness told the jury that there could have been “potential survival with prompt medical intervention” for Mr McQuillan.