Today the Neligan family watched their daughter’s killer sentenced to life in prison. Brian McBarron’s mother sobbed audibly as her 26-year-old son sat impassively as the sentence was handed down. Sara Neligan had died from knife wounds inflicted on her by the man who supposedly loved her.
She was seen by a friend with bruises on her arms some weeks before she died. She told the same friend that she planned to leave him and made plans to catch the 7.30 train to Wexford. She never made it.
He told gardai when interviewed that he had wanted to take her with him when he killed himself. A blue nylon rope was found tied in a noose above the bed where Sara’s bloody body lay. He told gardai that he didn’t know what had happened to him. “I just went out of my mind”.
He went to the kitchen, grabbed a knife and slit Sara’s throat as she sat on the sofa. The 33-year-old intensive care nurse put up a fight and managed to make it as far as the bathroom but McBarron had followed her there. He stabbed her “a good few times”. A post mortem revealed that she had suffered three fatal stab wound to her chest and neck as well as the slash to her throat. Sara died where she lay in the bathroom.
He moved her body to the bedroom and laid her on the bed. He estimated he had spent around an hour cleaning out the apartment and threw out three bags of bloodstained clothes – both hers and his. CCTV footage from the Wintergarden Apartments on Pearse Street where the couple lived showed him making the trip to dispose of the incriminating evidence at around 2 o’clock in the morning.
The following afternoon he went to the local hardware shop to buy some rope. But he didn’t hang himself. He stayed in the flat with Sara’s body until he let gardai into the apartment at around 8 o’clock that evening.
He always admitted the killing, saying today, in a statement read to the court by his barrister Richard Kean SC that Sara was “a beautiful and talented young woman who had the world to live for”. She didn’t deserve to die that way, he went on.
Sara Neligan became the latest woman whose partner was convicted of her murder. She joins women like Colleen Mulder, Karen Guinee and Siobhan Kearney, who were killed because they wanted to leave the relationship. Sadly, she will not be the last.
She and McBarron had met in Waterford some months before her death. On the night of her murder they went for dinner in the Holiday Inn beside their apartment building. The last sighting of her alive was by the CCTV cameras that watched her walking across the complex towards her apartment.
McBarron told gardai they didn’t argue that night but admitted he knew of her plan to take the early morning strain to Wexford. He told gardai when they charged him with Sara’s murder that he was “deeply sorry” for what he had done.
Sara was the middle daughter of retired cardiac consultant Maurice Neligan and his GP wife, Patricia. In a victim impact statement read to the court by prosecution barrister Paul Coffey SC her family described her as “a beautiful, kind, caring and dignified young woman” who had died “long before her proper time”.
She worked as a nurse at the Mater Hospital, the place where her father had been a consultant for many years. She could not have known, when she moved in with McBarron, that he was capable of killing her, even though, as the court heard today, he had a previous conviction for assault causing harm.
Speaking afterwards, family friend and solicitor, the Sheriff of Dublin Brendan Walsh spoke to journalists gathered outside the Four Courts. After watching the photographers chase Mr Neligan down the road to get that perfect shot he asked for the family’s privacy to be respected.
People stay in abusive relationships for any number of reasons, sometimes simply because it’s all too easy to ignore the confrontations when the heat has died down. There will always be men who think of women as possessions and would rather kill them than think of them having a life without them. Over the past couple of years, cases like this have appeared before the Irish courts with depressing regularity.
Working in the Four Courts you see far too many cases like this and eventually familiarity breeds desensitisation and you stop getting annoyed by the sheer waste of it all. You get to see trials like this as nothing more than a familiar story guaranteed to shift newsprint. But every now and then the stark reminder breaks through the cynical veneer and you realise that there are way too many of these trials these days.
Hearing the sentiment read out so clearly in court is enough to widen the cracks as the killer’s words “she belonged to me”, “I wanted to take her with me” become shocking “gold plated” news…until this trial slips inevitably into obscurity and the latest tragedy takes it’s place.