Jasmine McMonagle’s killer told gardaí ‘there was no one to stop me’, trial heard
The young mother had been beaten to death while crouching on the floor in a corner of her own kitchen.
The trained crisis negotiator had been in tense talks with Richard Burke for hours when a tiny face appeared at a bedroom window.
It was at that point that gardaí knew the time for talk had passed and immediate action was needed. As Burke was seen moving from the kitchen of the rural semi-detached home to an under stairs area, where a bag containing knives, hammers and a balaclava was later found, the Armed Response Unit made their move, storming through the front door.
Burke was quickly barricaded in the rear of the property, where he immediately confronted the first officer to breach the barricade with a hammer. After refusing to put the weapon down, gardaí were forced to use a taser to subdue and handcuff the 32-year-old.
In the kitchen of the house in Forest Park, a housing estate in the village of Killygordon in Donegal, they were met with the sight of 28-year-old aspiring model Jasmine McMonagle lying in a pool of blood, her small dog having remained by her side.
The young mother had been beaten to death while crouching on the floor in a corner of her own kitchen.
She had been strangled with a rope by her on-and-off partner Richard Burke while her two young daughters, aged just eight and 18 months, were also in the house.
Richard Burke had a long history of drug and alcohol abuse, had never held down a job and had been homeless for periods of time.
Born in north London, Burke lived there until he was eight when he returned to Ireland, living initially with his grandparents until his parents and his younger brother moved back some months later. His father was a truck driver and his mother worked as a psychiatric nurse.
After finishing school, Burke attended Letterkenny IT but dropped out a short time later because of his burgeoning drug habit. He started smoking cannabis at 16 and experimented with drugs from a local head shop.
His dependency spiralled and he left college after his drug addiction, in his own words, “properly took hold of him". During this period he left his parent's house and was homeless for a time. He also came to garda attention after robbing the local head shop. Although he had a number of part-time jobs as a teenager, working variously as a chimney sweep, a cobbler and a waiter in a local hotel, Burke told forensic psychiatrist Dr Anthony Kearns that he had never managed to maintain a permanent job.
Burke’s first contact with Jasmine McMonagle was through an internet forum where they chatted online for a while before losing contact. However, about a year or so later they connected again through Facebook and arranged to meet at Jasmine’s house.
Burke, homeless and out of work at the time, said he fell in love with the young mum the moment “she opened the door” and the relationship “got serious quickly”.
Jasmine already had a child from a previous relationship and the couple quickly decided to try for a baby.
In December 2016, Jasmine became pregnant, but the cracks in the relationship were already beginning to show. Later that same month, Burke said Jasmine told him she did not want him around because he was disrupting the household.
In an effort to win her back, he bought a used Nissan Micra for his now ex-girlfriend and went to her house every day to try and “bring her round”.
His attempts were futile, however. Burke said on one date he woke up “absolutely fuming” and, in a fit of rage, he went to buy cannabis and cans of alcohol. He said after consuming these, he “jumped behind the wheel” of the car, crashed it and set fire to the gift he had bought Jasmine.
Burke had been due to appear in court that day in relation to other matters but because of the drink and drugs he had taken, he had forgotten to attend.
Jasmine's due date in August 2017 came and went but Burke said he heard nothing from her. He told the psychiatrist he once again sank into addiction, smoking cannabis and drinking heavily by September 2017.
Contact with Jasmine was re-established at the end of that month however, when Burke again began calling round to the house. Things went well for a while but once again “cracks began to show”, he told the psychiatrist.
Dr Kearns told the trial Burke harboured a persistent delusional belief that his partner had been unfaithful and was giving drugs to the children. The consultant psychiatrist said these beliefs were false and had no foundation in reality but rather they were delusions of Burke’s own mind.
In early January 2018, Jasmine contacted gardaí because she was worried about the way Burke was behaving. Gardaí spoke to him and after noting that his behaviour was erratic, they escorted him to a local psychiatric unit where he was detained for a period voluntarily.
Burke told Dr Kearns that he only agreed to go to the psychiatric hospital because he wanted to check that he was “not going mad”.
Dr Kearns said during this psychiatric admission, Burke reported auditory hallucinations and paranoid delusions and received a diagnosis of a psychotic illness.
In her evidence for the prosecution, consultant forensic psychiatrist at the Central Mental Hospital Dr Dearbhla Duffy said that descriptions of Burke's presentation on this occasion “echoed aspects of his presentation in January 2019” following Jasmine’s death.
She said that Burke had a history of self-harm. He told her that he had attempted to take his own life when he was 19-years-old and also outlined instances when he had self-harmed by cutting his arms and where he later attempted to take his own life with an overdose.
She also noted that a psychiatrist who had assessed Burke in 2011 identified him as having some traits of avoidant personality disorder and as someone who would benefit from anger management treatment.
Dr Duffy said Burke had told her that prior to Jasmine's killing, he was trying to kill himself and said he was “tired of the torment he was living”.
Burke told Dr Kearns that in the days before the killing, he had taken a large number of Lyrica tablets. The jury heard that Lyrica is a prescribed drug which is commonly used for anxiety and mood problems. Burke said he had been taking it for two or three days before killing Jasmine and had also been drinking vodka on the night.
Dr Kearns said in the course of compiling his report he also spoke to Burke’s mother, Ann-Marie Burke in July 2020. She told the psychiatrist she felt she had lost her son when he started using drugs.
Ms Burke told him: “The head shop destroyed my son”.
Ms Burke said that although she did not meet Jasmine until January 2018 when she heard her son had been brought to hospital, she had a very good relationship with her.
She said following the killing and Burke’s arrest, she visited her son in prison and he was still preoccupied with the false idea that Jasmine had given the children drugs. Ms Burke told the doctor this was "complete nonsense" and the kids were "perfect.”
The trial heard that following Jasmine’s distressed 999 call at 4:21am on January 4, 2019 gardaí from Lifford made the 16km journey to her home within 20 minutes. They knocked on the front door and got no response.
The officers continued to bang on the door and the windows before going to the rear of the property. The curtains on the large kitchen window were closed, while a smaller window was covered with what appeared to be a towel.
After seeking advice, the officers used a glass breaker to gain entry to the property.
But as they did so, a bloodstained, meat-cleaver wielding Richard Burke appeared, telling the two members of the force that his name was Charlie Thatcher and that they had no business being there.
Attempts were made to subdue Burke with pepper spray but it had no effect. He retreated into the house and when gardaí followed, he swung the cleaver at one officer, slashing through the sleeve of his jacket and narrowly missing his arm.
The gardaí were forced to retreat from the property but quickly called for back-up, with more members of the force arriving on the scene soon after.
A garda went to the rear of the property shortly after 5am and, peering through a small gap in the curtain, they could see a slipper and a person's leg on the kitchen floor surrounded by a pool of blood. A small dog lay close by.
By 6.15am, a trained crisis negotiator was on the scene and from that point on he was the only person who had verbal contact with Burke, engaging with him in an effort to deescalate the situation and find out what had happened inside the house.
Burke told the negotiator that there were two children up in bed and that Jasmine was "sleeping". Repeated requests were made to gain access to the house, while in the background the Armed Response Unit were being mobilised.
At 7.29am, Burke was observed leaving the kitchen and appeared to bend down under the stairs in the hall. Two minutes later, a paramedic saw a young child appear at the upstairs front window – Jasmine’s eight-year-old daughter.
A decision was made that “immediate and forced entry” to the property was needed.
As gardaí entered the house, Burke was barricaded in the rear of the property. When he confronted the first officer with a glass breaking hammer and refused to put it down, Burke was tasered, handcuffed and searched.
A knife in a scabbard was found in his jacket along with two phones; one his own, the other the mobile phone belonging to Jasmine that had been used to make the 999 call.
Jasmine’s older daughter was found upstairs, while her younger daughter was discovered in a cot in the front room of the property. Both were uninjured.
Their mother's body, however, was found in a pool of blood in the kitchen and it was clear that she was already dead.
After his arrest, Burke was brought to Letterkenny Garda Station where he was seen by a psychiatrist who deemed him fit to be interviewed. During the first of three garda interviews which took place in the hours after, Burke made admissions that he had killed Jasmine McMonagle.
Burke said he and Jasmine had been in her kitchen listening to music when he began shouting. “I started saying you’ll see a different side of me if you don’t cop on,” he told gardaí.
Burke began to cry as he told gardaí what happened in the moments leading up to Jasmine’s death. He said he was “shouting and screaming” and was very angry after realising Jasmine had phoned gardaí while he was out of the room.
“Once I heard guards, that was the end of it,” he said.
“All I remember is punching her; my mind is a pure blank, it’s like someone else took over. I remember my hand being sore. I do remember strangling her and then tap tap tap. Fuck.”
He told investigating officers that he “went ballistic” and started punching the 28-year-old and strangling her with a rope.
“I have a real bad temper, I just blanked; I went ballistic, absolutely fucking ballistic,” Burke said.
“Because I hate guards I just went ballistic, started punching the f**k out of her then strangling her with a rope. I was only trying to make her see sense.”
Burke demonstrated to interviewing officers how he strangled Jasmine and said he still had a hold of the rope when he heard gardaí knocking on the kitchen window.
“I just put the rope round her neck, just pulled on it. I was standing holding the rope when the gardaí knocked.”
He said he was standing up, not on top of her, and had his foot by her side. He said Jasmine was in a “massive pool of blood” and said he called her name and tried to check for a pulse but couldn’t find one.
He said gardaí were “banging really hard” and the baby was asleep in the sitting room.
Burke recounted how he was afraid gardaí would wake the baby up and said his temper was “rising and rising”. He said at one point, Jasmine's eight-year-old daughter came downstairs calling for her Mammy.
He said after he “came around” he took the rope from Jasmine's neck and used a high chair to block the door in case gardaí tried to get in.
Burke said he then started cleaning the kitchen cupboards and walls, adding: “They [gardaí] smashed the back door and that set me off again. I had a meat cleaver and I stuck it in his arm.”
Asked where the meat cleaver came into the equation, Burke said: “To be honest with you I don’t know. It was my special knife so I must have thought I was going to use my special knife.”
Burke claimed he hated violence towards women and denied using the meat cleaver to attack Jasmine. “I didn’t use weapons, just fists”.
He said “the blood was everywhere” and it was starting to clot. “I tried to lift her, the blood just poured out of her mouth.”
Asked how many times he had hit Jasmine, he replied: “How long is a piece of string”.
Burke said he was “like a bull” and there was “no one to stop me. Normally other people are there to calm me down.”
Asked about the rope used to strangle the mother-of-two, Burke said: “I don’t know if it was the rope or the beating. I reckon it was the rope that finished it.”
“I killed her. I didn’t want to, man. I loved her so much.”
A post mortem was carried out by Chief State Pathologist Dr Linda Mulligan, who found that a mark around Jasmine’s neck measuring 1cm in diameter may have been caused by the blue rope found at the scene or by a similar sized ligature.
She said the mother-of-two was most likely unconscious when the strangulation occurred.
Dr Mulligan noted the blunt force trauma to the face may have been caused by fists, feet, the glass safety hammer found near the body or a similar weapon.
She concluded death was as a result of ligature strangulation, with concussion and blood loss from multiple blunt and sharp force injuries as a contributory factor.
Analysis of the blood splatter patterns in the kitchen suggested that most of the beating sustained by Jasmine occurred in the corner of the kitchen while she was sitting crouched or on the floor.
Giving expert evidence for the defence, Dr Anthony Kearns, a consultant psychiatrist at the Central Mental Hospital, told the trial it was his view that Burke was suffering from a mental disorder that substantially diminished his responsibility for the killing of Jasmine.
The psychiatrist said this mental disorder was complicated by the accused’s use of drugs over many years.
Giving evidence for the prosecution, Dr Duffy said it was her view that Burke was “acutely psychotic” at the time of the alleged offences and for a short period afterwards.
She said she was satisfied that Burke was suffering from an acute psychotic episode at the time of the offence and that this substantially diminished his responsibility.
The jury at the Central Criminal Court trial, which sat in Monaghan Town, heard Burke acknowledged that he had killed Jasmine McMonagle. What they were asked to decide upon was his state of mind at the time.
They heard that both psychiatrists were in agreement that Burke was suffering from a mental illness at the time of the killing which substantially diminished his responsibility.
In her final address to the jury, prosecution counsel Anne-Marie Lawlor SC said it was impossible to imagine that they would not have "enormous sympathy" for the McMonagle family.
Jasmine, she said, was a devoted mother to two children and was deeply loved by her friends and family. Her death was "senseless and horrific" and had left her family devastated. "So putting sympathy for her family aside will be difficult but it is nevertheless required of you," counsel said.
She added: "The evidence is all in one direction. There is nothing before you to suggest that the psychiatrists are incorrect in their conclusion regarding the mental state of Burke."
Michael Bowman SC, for the defence, said that the evidence from two "eminent psychiatrists" was that Burke was suffering from a mental disorder and should be found guilty of manslaughter rather than murder by reason of diminished responsibility.
Before sending the jury out to consider their verdict, trial judge Mr Justice Paul Burns told them that the parties were all in agreement on the evidence. "The medical evidence all goes one way, in favour or a verdict of not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility. That is the medical evidence: it is not disputed," the judge said.
After hearing both closing addresses and the judge's charge on the same day, the jury of seven women and five men took just over one hour to agree, acquitting Burke of murder but convicting him of manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility by unanimous verdict.
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