Veronica McGrath rubbed her face hard. Today was her third day on the stand and the tension in the courtroom was palpable. Through hours of cross examination from barristers representing both her mother and her ex husband she had steadfastly stuck to her account of what happened the day her father met a violent end.
Facing her was her husband’s barrister, Conor Devally SC. His questioning had started gently enough, a break after the more antagonistic approach of Patrick Gageby SC, defending her mother. She frowned through the early memories of the early days of her relationship with her ex, Colin Pinder, who denies murdering her father Brendan Brian McGrath in the spring of 1987 but admits his manslaughter.
She had been living in a bedsit in Liverpool, a teenage runaway out of touch with her dysfunctional family. This flat had been broken into and Pinder had come in like a knight in shining armour and whisked her away to the safety of his flat a couple of streets away. That first night he had given her his bed and slept on the couch but it wasn’t long before a romance developed.
Ms McGrath denied telling him that the rift with her family was the fault of her father, a former inmate of the Artane Industrial School now grown into a man of violent rages and the suggestion of madness. She had also denied conspiring with her mother to have her father committed to St Loman’s Psychiatric Hospital, clinging instead to the idea that her father was fair and reasoned man who had no problem with anyone. It would have been unfair, she agreed from the stand, to tell stories which resulted in her father being sent away for a week in St Loman’s.
Mr Devally had turned to the details of the night of her father’s death, by her own account a horrific, brutal event carried out by her mother and her fiancé. Mr Devally put an alternative scenario to her. That her father had taken exception to her choice of mate when she and Mr Pinder had returned to Ireland shortly before they were due to marry. She was adamant that she had never heard her father say that he would never have a “darkie” staying under his roof.
She absolutely denied the account put to her, his client’s instructions Mr Devally explained, that her father had come home on the night her died to find Colin Pinder in his kitchen. So unhappy was he about the thought of his daughter’s future husband that he had arranged for the caravan they were staying in to be towed to a neighbours land miles away from the house.
She denied that her father was so angry to find Pinder in his kitchen that he had lost his temper and attempted to throw him out, that Pinder had hit him – hard – and that he had fallen and hit his head on the kitchen range.
She denied that all three had been convinced he was dead and taken the “body” outside only to see her father rise like Lazarus. She again denied her and her mother urging Pinder to finish the deed and taking up arms themselves when he refused. It was absolutely not true,she said ,that she and her mother had threatened that he would never see the child he thought she was expecting if he told anyone.
She will have to face a third day of gruelling cross examination tomorrow. Her fourth day in the stand.