Ann Burke told gardai that she didn’t think there was anything wrong when her new husband beat her up on their wedding night in 1975. It wasn’t the first time and even his mother had asked her why she wanted to marry him.
After 32 years of marriage the now alcoholic 56-year-old took a hammer and used it to hit her husband over the head around 23 times before trying to kill herself.
Mrs Burke’s four children sat around her while the prosecution read out the transcripts of the interviews she had with gardai. A litany of abuse ranging from casual cruelty to more serious threats against her life.
She told gardai that she and her husband had been arguing constantly since she had spent a couple of days in the psychiatric wing of Portlaoise General Hospital the week before his death in August 2007. She said he had told her that if she didn’t leave without treatment she needn’t bother coming home at all. She said that when she did return, on the Wednesday of that week, he told her he was ashamed of her for having spent time in the psychiatric wing.
Mrs Burke cried, dabbing her red eyes with a tissue handed to her by one of her daughters, as Garda Pat Lynn confirmed the voluntary statements she made when gardai accompanied her to hospital after her husband’s death on the Sunday of that same week.
She was heavily intoxicated and repeatedly told doctors and gardai that she knew what she had done and that her life was over. Her concern was mainly for her youngest son, still living at home, and for her inability to kill herself. Over and over she said that she wanted to die but couldn’t “do it right”.
In an interview with gardai a week after the events of August 19th she explained what had happened. The atmosphere had been tense since she had come home from hospital the previous week, she said. At around 7.30 on the Saturday her husband Pat went into Portlaoise to go drinking. She went to bed but at some time after 3am he rang her to tell her about phonecalls he had received from another woman.
A little before 6am he arrived home. She told gardai that she let him in when he hammered on the door. He had his own keys but always banged on the door for her to let him in – she said she always did so because otherwise he would try to break down the door.
He was drunk and as soon as he came in the argument started. It quickly degenerated into a shoving match and her daughter, Linda, who was back home for the weekend, came downstairs to separate them as she had done many times before. The row raged on and on until eventually her husband went to bed at around 9am.
Mrs Burke told gardai that she had had enough. She went out to a local shop to get a bottle of wine and the Sunday papers then at around 4.30 she took a hammer she said was already in the room from fixing curtains a few days previously. Then she beat her husband about the head. She told gardai she didn’t know why, couldn’t even remember the blows. It was as if it was all in a haze.
He fell off the bed and lay on the floor, dead. She wrote yet another suicide note apologising to her children and leaving instructions on how to use the electricity metre and what to do with the house. She wrote that she could not live with what she had done and was now sitting near her husband touching his cooling face. He had always said he would come back and haunt her, she wrote, but it hadn’t happened yet.
Today’s evidence painted a grim picture of a marriage. Tomorrow the story will be fleshed out as further witnesses add their input to the prosecution case. The trial isn’t expected to last long and to conclude by the end of the week.