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Murder trial Deirdre Morley suffocated children with plastic bags and tape, court hears

The court heard their bodies were found by their father Andrew McGinley at the family home in Parson's Court, Newcastle, Co Dublin after he returned from a business trip to Cork.

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A mother used plastic bags and sticky tape to suffocate her three children to death, the Central Criminal Court has heard.

Clinical nurse Deirdre Morley (44) accepts she killed her sons Conor McGinley (9) and Darragh McGinley (7) and daughter Carla McGinley (3) on January 24 last year.

But she has pleaded not guilty to their murders by reason of insanity.

The court heard their bodies were found by their father Andrew McGinley at the family home in Parson's Court, Newcastle, Co Dublin after he returned from a business trip to Cork.

On the opening day of her trial, a jury of ten men and two women were told evidence about the mental state of Ms Deirdre Morley would be crucial to determining whether she was guilty.

Prosecution counsel Anne-Marie Lawlor SC said: “In this case there is no issue as to what happened and how the children died.”

But she told jurors that a person was to be found not guilty by reason of insanity if they were suffering from a mental disorder and the disorder was such that they should not be held responsible.

There were three elements to this, she said.

One was that the person did not know what they were doing, the second was that they didn’t know what they were doing was wrong, and the third was whether they had the capacity to refrain from the act.

The court heard Ms Morley had been suffering from mental health difficulties and suffered a breakdown in July 2019, after which she spent a period at St Patrick’s Hospital in Dublin.

The jury was told they would hear evidence from two consultant psychiatrists, both of whom concluded she had a mental disorder.

Opening the case, Ms Lawlor told jurors there would be a “distressing” level of detail in the account they would hear.

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“Understandably, this is a very sad case, but we here in this room all have functions to perform,” Ms Lawlor said.

Addressing the jurors, she said: “You have to properly consider the evidence.”

The prosecution counsel said Ms Morley told gardaí she had believed the children were “damaged” through her parenting and that the best outcome was to take their lives.

The accused said she determined it was best if they all went together and that she had intended ending her own life as well by taking medication and jumping from an overpass.

Ms Lawlor said the accused was in “a good marriage” and there was no question but that the children were well cared for and loved by their parents.

She said the marriage “had been challenged” in the year prior to the deaths of the children, as a result of her mental health difficulties.

By January 2020, her family understood or believed Ms Morley’s mental health had improved.

“It transpired that was not the case,” said Ms Lawlor.

The day before the children were killed, January 23, 2020, Mr McGinley left the family home and travelled to Cork for work.

That evening Ms Morley tried to take the lives of the children by administering medication to their food and drink, Ms Lawlor said.

This involved putting morphine in cereal the two boys were given and a painkiller called Tylex was put in Carla’s drink.

Ms Lawlor said the children spat out the food and drink as they didn’t like the taste and Ms Morley abandoned her attempt to kill them.

Evidence was heard from Detective Sergeant Dara Kenny, who led the investigation.

The court heard that on January 22, Ms Morley had done Google searches for “a noose” and “how to make a noose”, as well as the N7 flyover between Newcastle and Rathcoole.

On January 23, she purchased a rope from a hardware store.

Det Sgt Kenny agreed that Ms Morley told gardaí she believed she had to kill them as her parenting meant they could not live normal lives.

The court heard that Ms Morley killed her son Darragh first, in a play tent sent up for the children in the living room. Darragh had not been sent to school that day.

She told gardaí they had a disagreement over the amount of “screen time” he was having watching television that morning.

She put a bag over his head and said “sorry”. After he had expired, she brought his body to a bedroom upstairs.

Then she attempted to kill Carla. After bringing her body upstairs, she realised her daughter was not dead and she proceeded to suffocate her again until she was gone.

Ms Morley then went to collect her son Conor from school at 1.50pm.

In a book recording the reason for taking him home early, she wrote “family reasons”.

The court heard another parent who was there said, in retrospect, Ms Morley had “a disturbed look” on her face.

They stopped at Tesco on the way home and Conor bought a sandwich roll.

At 1.58pm, her husband was in contact to say he had to go to a wake that evening but would be home afterwards. The court heard there would be other phone calls between them later in the day.

“During the course of the phone calls, she behaved normally,” said Det Sgt Kenny.

When Ms Morley and Conor arrived home, her son went into the play tent. Ms Morley went in and suffocated him.

“She said she had intended to take him up the stairs, but she left him in the tent,” said Det Sgt Kenny.

He agreed with Ms Lawlor that plastic bags and remnants of sticky tape were found in the house.

These were examined for DNA and matches were found for the children.

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