Puppy row killing gets nine-year sentence for pregnant city woman

Victim’s sister ‘happy enough’ with sentence but says it ‘won’t bring my brother back.’

Una Black who was sentenced yesterday to nine years in jail.  Pic: Courtpix

Una Black who was sentenced yesterday to nine years in jail. Pic: Courtpix

An eight-months-pregnant Galway woman who stabbed her neighbour to death in a row over a puppy has been jailed for nine years at the Central Criminal Court.

Mr Justice Paul Carney said that he had to have regard for the "senseless reason" John Malone's life had been taken from him by Una Black in December 2006 and that the offence was "at the top end of the scale of gravity".

Mr Justice Carney said Black had "equipped herself with a knife" before going to the deceased's flat and that the resulting manslaughter merited a sentence of 12 years.

He said that term had to be discounted by factors "favourable" to Black such as her plea of guilty and the fact that she had no previous convictions.

He commented that the voluntary consumption of alcohol and drugs affords no defence in criminal responsibility, nor mitigation of a defendant's responsibility to society.

The court earlier heard that Black had been drinking and taking anti-depressants at the time she inflicted the single fatal stab wound to Mr Malone's upper chest.

Mr Justice Carney also said that the dysfunctional nature of a defendant's background was of "minimal importance" in distinguishing her behaviour from other cases.

On Monday he heard that Black had suffered sexual abuse as a young girl. A medical report revealed that she was depressive and had self harmed on occasion.

The 26-year-old woman pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of 42-year-old Mr Malone at Walter Macken Flats, Mervue, Galway on December 3 2006.

The two had lived in the flats and knew each other for some three years.

They drank and socialised together. On the night he died Mr Malone had gone to Black's flat where she lived with her boyfriend and they had been drinking together.

Mr Malone had been looking after a puppy for Black because her boyfriend's daughter did not like dogs. Black had had the flu for a week and Mr Malone was angry that she had not been to his flat to walk or look after the dog.

He told Black that he had sold the dog for €135 and then left to return to his own home.

She became upset and followed him to retrieve the dog. The pair struggled and she left the scene, armed herself with a knife, and returned for her dog.

She told gardaí that she simply wished to scare Mr Malone and keep him away from her. They struggled a second time and Mr Malone was fatally injured at around 5.30am.

Black rang the emergency services and told them she had seen men fighting and that one was lying on the ground. Medics found Mr Malone lying face down in a pool of blood. He was taken to hospital and pronounced dead.

Black was arrested and told gardaí that Mr Malone had produced the knife but later admitted that it was she who brought the weapon to the scene.

She was due to be tried for murder in April 2008 when the Central Criminal Court sat in Galway but failed to show up. She had gone to Wales and a European Arrest Warrant was issued for her. She returned to the jurisdiction voluntarily and has been in custody since April 11 2008.

The Director of Public Prosecutions then accepted a plea of guilty to manslaughter.

Black was pregnant at the time of the aborted trial and said she could not face it in her condition. She will now give birth in custody and her child will be taken from her after 18 months.

Outside court this morning Mr Malone's sister Josephine Malone said she was "happy enough" with the nine year sentence but said, "at the end of the day that won't bring our brother back".

Mr Malone, originally from Tullamore, was a single man living on disability benefit. He had also suffered from depression. He had a 17 year-old son Jonathan who was in court yesterday and described his father as, "a nice man, a lovely person who would do anything for you".


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