NewsCrime Desk

Boxer to be sentenced for killing mum-of-two

Ray Gralton
Ray Gralton

An "accomplished boxer" will be sentenced next month for the manslaughter of a mother-of-two with whom he had been in a "turbulent relationship".

Ray Gralton (23) with an address at Mount Prospect, Roscommon was charged with the murder of 28 year old Sara Staunton at her home at Portagh, Mayo Abbey, Claremorris in Co. Mayo on December 13, 2013.

TRAGIC: Sara with her killer

He pleaded guilty to manslaughter in advance of the trial and the plea was accepted by the DPP.

Mr Brendan Grehan SC, counsel for the accused, read out a letter written by his client, which described Sara Staunton as a "kind, funny and beautiful person."

In the letter, Gralton says he will "never forgive" himself and he "prays to her, often in tears for forgiveness."

"We had a few arguments but the time we spent together was the happiest I have been" read Mr Grehan.

"I don’t expect Sara's family to ever forgive me and this was a tragic event that will haunt me for the rest of my life" concluded Mr Grehan.
 
Counsel for the DPP, Paddy McCarthy SC said the deceased Ms Staunton had two children with her former partner, who were living with their father in Claremorris at the time of her death.

Mr McCarthy called Detective Sergeant Gary Walsh to gave evidence, who told the court Gralton and Sara Staunton were together for twelve months prior to Sara's death.

"What did you know of their relationship?" asked Mr McCarthy.

"It was a turbulent relationship and there had been instances of domestic violence during the course of the year" replied Det Sgt Walsh.
 

"There was also a strong culture of alcohol abuse and intoxication on both sides” added Det Sgt Walsh.

Det Sgt Walsh said Gralton couldn't comprehend he could be responsible for his girlfriend's death and admitted to having slapped Sara during the course of the evening.

The court also heard from Det Sgt Walsh that Gralton was an "accomplished boxer" with 12 previous convictions, including public order offences.

Sara Staunton's best friend Grace McKenna was in Sara's bungalow on the night of her death with her boyfriend and Mr McCarthy told the court Ms McKenna had not been drinking on the occasion.

Counsel for the State Mr McCarthy told the court, Ms McKenna said she was concerned about Ms Staunton's behaviour, who had been drinking Jack Daniels and was becoming "rowdy and disruptive."

Mr Grehan said Grace McKenna tried to reason with her friend but without any success.

Mr McCarthy told the court that on the night, Sara Staunton was "after going mad" and turned the kitchen "upside down" after having received a phone call from someone.

"Sarah was fairly drunk at the time, she was grand on beer but couldn't handle spirits" Mr McCarthy said, recounting Ms McKenna's evidence.

After following Sara to the bedroom during the night, Mr McCarthy said Ms McKenna was told in "colourful language" to leave the room so she returned to the sitting room and sat with Gralton and her boyfriend.

Mr McCarthy told the court that Sara Staunton came into the sitting room around 9.30pm and according to her friend Grace was like the "devil" and wouldn't speak at all.

Mr McCarthy told the court that a computer was thrown later in the night by Sara and a row then erupted between Gralton and his girlfriend. 

Mr Grehan told the court, following this Gralton slapped his girlfriend across the face, she then kicked him in the private region, he hit her in the head and there were a few punches thrown at each other before Sara fell to the ground and when she got up she was bleeding.

Mr McCarthy told the court that Grace McKenna said she thought Sara kicked her boyfriend before he threw cans of partly wrapped Bavarian beer at Sara's head.

The court heard from Mr McCarthy that Gralton and Sara were fighting for approximately two hours with two to three physical fights during that period of time.

Sara Staunton 

Mr Grehan told the court Grace and her boyfriend left for Claremorris later that night but Gralton wasn't happy they were leaving as he didn't want to be left alone with Sara.

The court heard how Grace and her boyfriend returned to the Staunton household at 4.30am to collect drink they left behind, Gralton was sitting on the side of the bed and Sara was lying in the foetal position, and they assumed she was asleep.

After driving home, Grace McKenna rang Sara's house but received no answer.

Mr McCarthy told the court, Sara Staunton went to sleep but the following morning she would not wake up and Gralton tried to resuscitate her but to no avail.

The court heard that Ms Staunton was pronounced dead on December 14 2013 and the post-mortem carried out by Dr Michael Curtis said Ms Staunton "sustained severe blunt force trauma to the head region",  damage to the brain and there were "multiple bruises scattered over her body", as well as high levels of alcohol detected.

Mr McCarthy told the court, the accused admits "hitting" Ms Staunton and "using his fist" but the strike of the beer cans was the likely cause of death.

"The sense of bruising to her face and scalp, was consistent with someone being injured and not being aware of their internal injuries" said Mr McCarthy.

Wrapped cans of beer were found on the floor beside the bed, he added.

Two victim impact reports were read by Mr McCarthy to the court, the first from Ann Staunton, mother of the deceased who said their lives will never be the same" and how Sara was her only daughter.

Mr McCarthy read from Ann Staunton's statement describing how her grandchildren have lost their mum who was a talented writer and had a beautiful singing voice, and she misses her "every minute of everyday."

"Sara's son birthday is on December 15, the day after he lost his mum and he is asking will he get justice for his mum and I hope so. There are days when I'm on my own and I expect Sara to walk in the door but then it hits me that I will never see her again. I will miss and love my beautiful daughter Sara" concluded Mr McCarthy.

The second victim impact statement, again read by Mr McCarthy was by Sara's former partner, who said that on December 14, 2013, his children's lives changed forever, when he received a call to inform him his children's mum had been found dead.

"Her death affected my son most of all, his birthday brings back painful memories every year" read Mr McCarthy.

"I didn't always get along with her, but I saw a real willingness to improve her life before she died. She started to save for a car and was looking for work, this was unthinkable a few years ago" ended Mr McCarthy.

Mr Grehan for the accused told the court, his client had gone to bed with Sara and when the morning came he realised she wasn't moving and he went to a neighbours house for help

"He made an initial statement to gardai and had great difficulty coming to terms he had caused her death" said Mr Grehan.

Mr Grehan told the court that Sara had come to the door earlier in the night with a "poker" in her hand and Grace had said she looked "like someone with the divil in them."

Mr Grehan added that Gralton is very remorseful about what has happened and referred to the fact he loved the deceased notwithstanding the tempestuous standing of their relationship.

Mr Justice Paul Carney remanded Gralton in custody until April 13 2015, when he will be sentenced.