30 Sept 2022

*Reader warning* Pensioner beaten and mutilated, had cardboard in mouth, pathologist tells Kilkenny murder trial


Accused: Trevor Rowe

Reader warning: This article contains graphic descriptions of injuries

The body of a pensioner was discovered in a mutilated state after she had been beaten, stabbed and had her throat slit in her own home, while a large piece of cardboard was also found in the back of her mouth, the Chief State Pathologist has told a murder trial.

Trevor Rowe (30), with an address at Abbey Street, Kilkenny has pleaded not guilty to murdering 71-year-old Ann Butler at her home at Maudlin Street, Kilkenny on March 20, 2020.

The court has heard evidence that on March 25, 2020 a number of 999 calls were made, including one where a male said he murdered someone and that the location of the body was on Maudlin Street in Kilkenny. When gardai called to the defendant's home, he fell to his knees, cried uncontrollably and said: "I killed a woman. I murdered a woman. I slit her throat and stuck a knife in her head". 

The jury has also heard that Mr Rowe accepted in a garda interview that he killed Ms Butler.
Giving evidence today (Thursday), Chief State Pathologist Linda Mulligan told John O'Kelly SC, prosecuting, that she conducted a postmortem on Ms Butler on March 26. The witness said she was informed by gardai that the deceased was discovered on the couch in the living room of her house. 

Dr Mulligan said she did not attend Maudlin Street but photographs of the scene were provided to her. "They showed the body of an elderly lady lying on a couch with a green discolouration of any exposed skin and swelling of the facial features," she said. 

The witness testified that there was blood-staining on the neck area and underneath Ms Butler's body on the couch. She had been found fully dressed, weighed about seven stone and was around 5ft 1 inch in height. 

There was evidence of a pinpoint bleed in the left upper eyelid. "Petechiae can be seen in cases of asphyxia and also cardiac death and resuscitation. Asphyxia is a blockage of oxygen so usually there is an obstruction of the airways so oxygen can't get up to the brain," she explained. 

Some of Ms Butler's left ear appeared to be missing due to an incised wound, which she said is usually caused by a sharp implement such as a knife. The court heard that "a strip" of Ms Butler's ear was later found in the living room and Dr Mulligan agreed with Mr O'Kelly that part of the ear had been cut off.

In her evidence, Dr Mulligan said her findings showed that Ms Butler's death had occurred at least several days prior to her being discovered in her home. 

There was an incised wound on the left side of the neck and below the left ear lobe. It's depth was approximately 6cm and it had cut through the left jugular vein and the carotid artery. "That is a fatal injury, any damage to either of those blood vessels is usually fatal," she added. 

Mr O'Kelly put it to the witness that this was a "cut throat injury" and she replied: "Yes, a slash wound across the throat/neck."

The witness agreed with Mr O'Kelly that the incised wound to the neck was compatible with the description given by Mr Rowe to gardai that he had slit the deceased's throat. 

There were six stab wounds to Ms Butler's back and three had penetrated the internal cavities of the body. 

Dr Mulligan said there was bleeding and bruising on the left side of the head and to a lesser extent on the right. 

The witness said she performed a formal layered dissection of the neck revealing a large 25cm piece of hard paper cardboard, which was folded over. "That was present in the back of the mouth and obstructing the upper airways," she pointed out, adding that asphyxia was "the most likely terminal event in this case". The hyoid bone was undamaged. 

In conclusion, Dr Mulligan said the obstruction of the airways almost certainly caused asphyxia in this case and there were multiple blunt force trauma impact injuries to the head.

Furthermore, the witness testified that injuries to the right eye and mouth "were in keeping with" an assault prior to death. Injuries to the left hand may have been defence type injuries. 

The witness said Ms Butler's cause of death was asphyxia in association with blunt force trauma to the head, an incised wound to the left side of the neck and stab wounds to the trunk.  

Earlier, Garda Liam Murphy told Garrett McCormack BL, prosecuting, that he brought Mr Rowe to the doctor's room in Kilkenny Garda Station on March 26 after he was arrested on suspicion of murdering Ms Butler. When in the doctor's room, Mr Rowe told the witness: "I'm in trouble now, it's going to be in the papers and on the news. My family don't know I killed her on Friday [sic]."

Gda Murphy then cautioned Mr Rowe and the accused replied: "I just had too much drink and tablets taken."

Forensic scientist Dr Alan McGee also told the jury that a Linden Village cider can, a crowbar and the wooden part of a crucifix were found in Ms Butler's living room on Maudlin Street. He said that a male DNA profile obtained from the Linden Village can matched Mr Rowe's DNA profile. There was insufficient DNA present on the crowbar, he added. 

The witness said he examined blood-stained gloves found on a coffee table in the accused's apartment on Abbey Street. "A female DNA matching that of Ms Butler was obtained from a sample of this blood-staining," he said. 

The jury has also heard that Mr Rowe told gardai: "I thought it was going to be an easy touch, what have I done."

The trial will continue tomorrow (Friday) before Ms Justice Karen O'Connor and a jury of seven men and five women, when it is expected that closing speeches will take place. 

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