Linda Burke’s earliest memory was standing in her pyjamas with her older brother at the top of the stairs looking down at her father. He was holding a loaded shotgun and shouting that he would blow their heads off. She would have been three or four at the time.
Her mother Ann is on trial in the Central Criminal Court, charged with murdering the man whose abuse was catalogued for the jury today. Linda described sitting in school on a Tuesday, the day her father was paid his dole when she was a child. Those days her mind was not on her lessons as she worried about what row would meet her when she went home.
When she was six her father taught her to tell the time. When she got the little and big hands mixed up he hit her across the face. When she cried in the face of the stinging pain he hit her to shut up and when she couldn’t he picked her up and threw her across the room.
Her father and mother were always fighting, she told the court. When she was thirteen her father hit her mother over the head with a sweeping brush, splitting her forehead open. He wouldn’t let Linda call for an ambulance forcing her to treat her mother herself as best she could.
Ann Burke had also had a childhood marred by violence. Her father, a carpenter, would hit the pub every Sunday, arriving home to batter his wife and children and throw the dinner on the floor. She told psychiatrists after the killing about lying in bed waiting for her father to come home drunk on a Sunday night.
Her mother eventually took a stand when she was diagnosed with cancer. Ann’s eldest brother was still living at home, a quiet man who had never married and who was completely unable to stand up to his father. Their mother got a barring order against their father banning from the family home but by then the damage had already been done and Ann, the baby of the family, was already destined to follow in her footsteps.
She left school at thirteen to follow her siblings into a knitwear factory. She met Pat Burke when she was 18 or 19.
Ann Burke didn’t consider it odd when her new husband beat her. It was all she had ever known. But the abusive life eventually took it’s toll. She started drinking because it was the only way she had enough courage to stand up to her husband’s drunken rages. She had tried to leave but always went back to him. The barring order she eventually took out in 2004 was short lived. Pat Burke simply refused to go.
By the time August 2007 arrived she was suffering from a severe depressive illness. Her self confidence was destroyed, she felt worthless and thought that her children’s lives would be better if she took her own life, sparing them the constant rows. She told the psychiatrists she spoke to that her husband had taken to raping her when she refused him sex and she could not see any way out of her situation.
On August 19th 2007, after her husband had arrived home in the small hours of the morning drunk and abusive yet again, she picked up the hammer that was lying in the bedroom and hit him over the head around 23 times, shattering his skull and irreparably damaging his brain. Pat Burke would have died quickly from his injuries. Ann Burke wanted to follow him.
Psychiatrists for both the Defence and the Prosecution agreed that she acted with diminished responsibility as a result of the mental illness she was suffering from. They told the jury the depression existed even when she wasn’t drinking and alcohol, while present, was not the driving force between the attack. Her feelings of desperation had driven her to the violent and tragic act.
The case is expected to finish tomorrow. The speeches won’t be long. Then it’s up to the jury.
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