sword slaying | 

Ireland’s most gruesome contract killer Paul Hopkins walks free from prison

Pub bouncer hired to kill Jacqui Noble’s abusive partner 22 years ago created a bloodbath

Paul Hopkins has been in Loughan House in Co Cavan

Eamon DillonSunday World

The saga of Ireland’s most gruesome contract murder has begun its final chapter with the pre-Christmas release of killer Paul Hopkins.

Hopkins was hired by Jacqui Noble to kill her abusive partner Derek Benson in Dublin in May 2000, after she had suffered years of violent domestic abuse.

But the hired killer, who used a samurai sword in the gruesome slaying, left such a mess that he attempted to set fire to the scene, and gardai were quickly alerted to the body in the Ballymun flat.

Hopkins has been serving his life sentence at Loughan House open prison in Co Cavan, while Ms Noble has been free since 2018 after being released from the Dochas centre where she served 14 years.

Both are now free on licence which means their sentences can be re-activated if they commit any other offences.

Speaking to the media following her release, Noble said at the time: “What’s done is done, you know. I’m glad I’m out. I just want to get on with it.”

The trial in 2004 heard disturbing evidence about how Benson regularly beat and raped Noble in front of her daughter, but a defence of provocation was not allowed to be used.

There was evidence of how Noble had been hospitalised for injuries inflicted on her by Benson, such as fractured ribs and extensive bruising.

During the 30-day trial, Noble told how Benson punched, kicked and hit her with objects.

Jacqui Noble

She described the abuse in graphic detail, along with acts of depravity carried out by Benson after he tied her to a chair or a bed. She said he would threaten her with a knife while wearing a balaclava.

A garda also gave evidence of how Benson tried to push her down stairs after she had arrested him for breaching a barring order.

Noble had paid Hopkins IR£200 to carry out the killing at a flat in Ballymun with the promise of more cash if successful, it was heard in court.

At the time of the killing, Noble had left the flat and gone to live at her parents’ home at nearby Knowth Court.

Both her parents had died and she was due to inherit a sum of money and the house from her father, but Benson was demanding a share of the money.

She and Hopkins formed a plan to kill Benson, and it was agreed she would go to the flat and drug Benson and call in the killer when he had passed out.

Paul Hopkins has been in Loughan House in Co Cavan

Noble fed Benson the tablets as he lay in bed recovering from dentistry work before leaving and alerting Hopkins with a phone he had given her.

Neighbours heard screaming at around 3am and saw smoke and fire coming from the flat.

The murder weapon, a samurai sword Hopkins had bought for IR£50, was later found in a wardrobe in the house of a friend of Hopkins’.

Evidence was given about how Benson was hacked to death and had the sword run through his body from front to back.

The then Deputy State Pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy said the 33-year-old suffered 17 wounds to the head and neck. One of these was a “gaping wound” that cut through to the cervical spine and was a “slicing or hacking injury”, as if an attempt was made to cut off his head.

She said Benson suffered wounds to the arms and hands which severed multiple muscle tendons, and said a number of these cuts to the forearms and palms were consistent with defensive-type injuries.

Dr Cassidy said the multiple injuries suffered by Mr Benson were consistent with a “sustained and vicious assault”.

The direction of the injuries showed that “at some stage” the deceased “was on the ground during the attack”.

In his evidence, Hopkins told the court that he had been bullied, threatened and assaulted by Mr Benson on a number of occasions over four years.

When Benson threatened his girlfriend and their baby daughter that he would burn them after he “was finished with them”, Hopkins took it as a threat that Benson intended to rape them.

As the verdict of guilty was read out, two female jurors were in tears and two male jurors were visibly upset in the court room.

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