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Dublin man 'snapped' and stabbed wife after she hit him with bottle, murder trial told

Alan Ward (54) is charged with the murder of Catherine Ward (41) at their home in Clondalkin
Alan Ward

Alan Ward

Alison O’Riordan

A man whose marriage was "marked" by arguments and disputes told gardai that he "snapped" and stabbed his wife, who was 10 years his junior, after she had hit him with a bottle, a murder trial jury is to hear.

However, prosecution counsel also told the jury on Tuesday that when later asked in interview if he had stabbed his wife, the accused man said it was "possible he did" but claimed he had no memory of it.

Counsel said the jury will hear medical evidence about the mental state of the accused and the fact he previously had a stroke.

Alan Ward (54) is charged with the murder of Catherine Ward (41) at their home on Greenfort Drive, Clondalkin, Dublin 22 on March 1, 2019.

Mr Ward also faces two other charges in relation to the same incident.

He is also accused of making a threat to kill or cause serious harm to Adam Ward, intending him to believe that it would be carried out.

He is further accused of attempting to stab Adam Ward on the same date.

He has pleaded not guilty to each of the three counts.

In his opening address on Tuesday morning, prosecution counsel Bernard Condon SC called it a "difficult case" and said it was "about the most tragic type" of case that one can imagine. "One is in the dock, the other is dead and they have sons," he said.

In relation to the evidence against the accused, Mr Condon said the jury will hear from his sons, whose lives now "revolve" around the fact that their father stabbed their mother to death. "This is a tragedy of monumental scale which you are being asked to deal with," he added.

Addressing the 12 jurors, Mr Condon said that they may have feelings of anger, sympathy and revulsion but they were here to be judges. "You don't leave your humanity outside the door but you do leave your emotion," he pointed out.

The court heard Mr Ward was 51-years-old at the time of the killing. "I doubt there will be much of an issue with the fact that he did kill his wife, the issues are likely to be elsewhere," he said.

Outlining the facts of the case, Mr Condon said that Catherine Ward was born Catherine Doyle and was ten years younger than her husband. They had been married for 23 years when she met her death, he said, and she would have been 19-years-old when she got married.

Tragedy: Cathy Ward

Tragedy: Cathy Ward

The prosecution barrister went on to tell the court that the couple initially lived in Killinarden in Tallaght and in more recent times they lived in Greenfort Drive in Clondalkin, near Liffey Valley.

The couple's son Martin is 24 years old, while his brother Adam is 23.

Mr Condon said the evidence will be that the marriage was "marked" by arguments and disputes over the years. There was also some drinking going on.

The court will also hear evidence from the sons, the lawyer said, as to how Mr Ward behaved in the house, how he treated their mother and the disputes which occurred.

Detailing the circumstances of Catherine's death, Mr Condon said the eldest son Martin Ward was in his bedroom with his girlfriend. Adam Ward was playing the playstation in his bedroom.

There will be evidence, Mr Condon said, that the accused was seen coming up the stairs with a knife while Mrs Ward then went into her bedroom. Counsel said that a commotion was then heard in the parent's bedroom.

"Adam goes into the bedroom, he hears his mother screaming, he sees her lying on the floor with her head near the door. She had been stabbed," he said.

The barrister further stated that the former Deputy State Pathologist Michael Curtis carried out a postmortem on Mrs Ward and found multiple stab wounds to her body. "The most serious wound was to the front of her neck, which penetrated the trachea. It would have proved rapidly fatal," he said.

There were also stab wounds to Mrs Ward's face, chin, left ear and chest. The court heard there were defensive type wounds to her hand. Her cause of death was the stab wound to the neck.

The court heard further evidence will be that Adam Ward came into the bedroom and grabbed his father. "He swiped at Adam and tried to stab him," he said, adding that Mr Ward then threatened to kill his son Adam.

Efforts were made to resuscitate Mrs Ward but these were tragically unsuccessful and she was pronounced dead.

Mr Ward had a stroke two years prior to this event, said the lawyer, and his sons will tell the jury about the extent of their father's speech impediment.

The accused spoke to several gardai, one of whom kept a note. "The garda records that he asked Mr Ward where the knife was and this person, who had a bad stutter, indicated towards the house," said Mr Condon.

Two knives were found in the sitting room and one of these knives had inflicted these catastrophic wounds to Mrs Ward.

"Mr Ward said that whilst he was in the sitting room his wife hit him several times whilst he was having a drink. He told her to stop. He said he was sorry he snapped as they had a row and were always fighting. He said he picked up a knife and stabbed her with it.

He said he was sorry and hoped she wasn't dead. He claimed she had hit him in the left eye with a bottle," said Mr Condon.

When interviewed by gardai, Mr Ward told them that he had a knife but on occasion he purported not to remember what had happened upstairs. Asked in another interview if he had stabbed his wife, Mr Ward said it was "possible he did" but claimed he had no memory of it.

The jury will hear evidence from doctors and psychiatrists about the mental state of the accused and the fact he previously had a stroke.

Mr Condon added: "There may be issues about the man's mental health. If there is, the burden of proof is on the defence to establish diminished responsibility on the balance of probabilities.

"Where someone has a mental illness in the background it may diminish substantially their responsibility for what happened. The doctors may differ on that but you will decide what is relevant in the case."

The trial continues tomorrow before Mr Justice Tony Hunt and a jury of nine men and three women. It is expected to last two weeks.

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