Salthill stabbing victim had been unable to defend himself, trial hears

Maura Thornton

Maura Thornton

A man who was stabbed 18 times by his then girlfriend had toxic levels of alcohol in his system and had a major fracture to his arm rendering him virtually unable to defend himself during the attack at a Salthill apartment which resulted in a punctured left pulmonary artery and lung.

The trial of Maura Thornton (31 ) of Inverin, Connemara, who denies murdering Kevin Joyce (59 ) at an apartment at Upper Salthill, Galway on July 31, 2011, continued yesterday at the Central Criminal Court sitting in Galway.

Day three of the trial saw deputy state pathologist Dr Khaled Jaber outline the results of the post mortem, carried out at 2pm on August 1, 2011, to the jury members describing how there were “18 stabbing wounds and one smaller superficial injury” on Mr Joyce’s body and that “out of the 18, all except two, were located on the left side of the body”. Dr Jaber further explained that two of the 18 stab wounds were fatal and were injuries to the thoracic organs and structures which led to large internal bleeding and collection of blood. While 14 of the stab wounds penetrated to 5cms and were not life threatening, the four remaining wounds were more serious - two in particular were fatal. Dr Jaber said that one wound went was 7cm deep and penetrated the left pleura (the soft lining membrane of the thoracic cavity ) and the left lung. One of the fatal wounds were further into the chest area to a depth of 9cm, perforating the pleura, the left lobe of the lung, and puncturing the left pulmonary artery, while the second fatal wound was also 9cm deep and caused similar injuries.

Dr Jaber also noted that there were large bruises to Mr Joyce’s left arm and that following further examination it was found that there was a major fracture to the humerus caused within 18 hours of his death. Dr Jaber explained that it was difficult to tell whether this “complete fracture” had been caused while Mr Joyce was making his way to the apartment before the encounter took place or whether it occurred during it, however he later added that the absence of blood around the fracture could suggest that the injury had been sustained “at the time when circulation wasn’t able to release the blood, probably at the end of the encounter or after, if he was stumbling still, surviving, and moved, then hit himself hard enough to cause the fracture”. Dr Jaber also added that the fracture to the arm would have limited Mr Joyce’s ability to defend himself. The jury then heard how toxicology results showed that there was 328mg of alcohol in the blood, which meant that Mr Joyce was “over six times the legal limit for driving”, and urine analysis showed results of 414mg of alcohol. Dr Jaber said that the results showed Mr Joyce “had been drinking very close to the time he passed away and that the two levels fall into the acute level of intoxication”.

According to Dr Jaber the primary cause of death was “multiple stab wounds” - particularly the injury to the left lung - the resulting loss of blood and other contributing causes such as the blunt force trauma (fracture ) to the left arm and the acute level of intoxication and its effects on the person’s ability to breath correctly.

Giving further explanation to the latter, Dr Jaber said “the presence of this large amount of alcohol, its effects on circulation and on the brain, would be in my opinion a contributing cause of death”.

On Tuesday the jury heard extracts from a statement by Garda Greg Fleming describing how Thornton had been found in her living room, along with her mother Breege Ridge Thornton and her mother’s partner Brendan Lydon. Garda Fleming described how he found Mr Joyce on the roof area, in a collapsed state and a pool of blood around his head. While a colleague phoned an ambulance, Garda Fleming went back inside the apartment and spoke to Mr Lydon who was clearly shaken. “He [Mr Lydon] indicated to me that Maura Thornton may have stabbed Kevin Joyce,” said Garda Fleming before adding that at this point Thornton had been sitting on the couch in an intoxicated state smoking a cigerette. Garda Fleming noted that there were a number of cider cans and some whiskey on the coffee table as well as a black handled knife. When asked about what had happened to Mr Joyce, Thornton made “certain admissions”. After cautioning her a second time Thornton told Garda Fleming: “He annoyed me all day. Banging, banging, banging. I told him I’d kill him.” Thornton was arrested for assault causing serious harm and brought to Mill Street Garda Station where she was detained for questioning. Following medical examination it was determined that Thornton could not be questioned until the following morning because of her level of intoxication. On the morning of August 1 Thornton was re-arrested and charged with the murder of Mr Joyce.

Giving evidence Detective Garda Thomas O’Flaherty, attached to the Crime Investigation Unit at Salthill Garda Station, confirmed that the first interview took place at 10.28am on August 1 in which Thornton had been informed that Mr Joyce had died from his injuries and asked what had happened. In reply to this she told gardai: “I didn’t mean to kill him.” Thornton further said that Mr Joyce, whom she had met while studying an arts degree as a mature student, had been obsessed with her, that he had turned up to the apartment earlier that day, forced open a window and stole €50. The jury were told that Thornton had started drinking earlier that day, on top of taking Prozak and Xanax medication, and had been on her second bottle of whiskey by the time Mr Joyce returned that night. In the interview Thornton said that she did not recall using her mother’s phones to call gardai or what she had said to Garda Fleming. She told gardai: “I didn’t think I killed the c**t... he came to the same window. He called me a c**t and a whore. I threatened him with the gardai again. I got up and took the knife from the coffee table. I was angry and embarassed.” When asked by Detective O’Flaherty if she intended to cause serious harm to Mr Joyce, Thornton replied: “I intended to give him a few prods... I just could not stop.” When asked if Mr Joyce had said anything when stabbed, Thornton replied: “Yes, ‘Maura don’t do this’ or ‘Maura stop’.” Breaking down in the interview room Thornton told gardai that she didn’t want to kill him, that she was sorry, and that the man she had been in a relationship with for two to three weeks “didn’t deserve to die”.

Detective Garda Michael Staunton then gave evidence that during the second interview Thornton had told them: “I went around back, outside, just to hurt him, I was sick of him coming around. I told him I was going to call the cops. I don’t think he saw the knife at the start. He said go on call them, I don’t care... He pushed the wrong button. Kevin, I’m almost certain, was already on the ground. I was sitting on him and then I just lost it. I don’t know if I was putting holes in him or the jacket.” Det Garda Staunton put it to Thornton that she had been angry, that no amount of pleadings from Mr Joyce was going to change her mind in carrying on with the stabbing. The court heard that as Mr Joyce was in an intoxicated state and had stumbled to the ground he did not pose a physical threat to Thornton and that he had been in a vulnerable position when Thornton sat on him making it impossible for him to get up.

The trial continues


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