"I couldn't recognize her face. I couldn't recognize it was Nadine."
-Claire Lott, Nadine Lott's mother
It was the 14th of December 2019. A Saturday. Police received a call around 4.25am from Amela Kulenovic. She told police that her neighbor, Nadine Lott, needed urgent help. She had been stabbed.
Police arrived at thirty year old beauty therapist Nadine Lott's apartment in Arklow, Wicklow, Ireland and found her mother, Claire Lott, trying to help her. Nadine was lying on the floor in the kitchen. She was unconscious and had sustained severe injuries. Police called the ambulance and told them that Nadine had been "beaten to a pulp."
Amela told police that she went to Nadine's apartment as she heard screams and when she entered the apartment, she saw Nadine's ex partner, Daniel Murtagh, crouched over her. He was inflicting blows on Nadine and was making growling noises. Amela told police that he was vicious with rage and was like a wild animal. She called police and she also called Nadine's sister Phoebe Lott. Phoebe lived with her mother Claire close to Nadine's apartment so they were there within minutes.
When police arrived at Nadine's apartment, Daniel wasn't there. Police discovered that Daniel and Nadine met in 2012 when they were both working in Darwin in Australia. Nadine worked there as a beauty therapist in a beauty salon and enjoyed it but moved back to Ireland after a year. Daniel also moved home a few months after Nadine. They initially planned to try to make their relationship work and wanted to move in together but the relationship ended. Nadine moved in to an apartment in Arklow with their daughter Kya and Daniel lived with his parents in Dublin.
Daniel Murtagh and Nadine Lott
Police learned that on the night of the 13th of December, Daniel traveled to Arklow to spend the night in Nadine's apartment while she went out to celebrate her aunt's birthday. What happened when Nadine arrived home?
When the paramedics arrived that morning, Nadine was taken to hospital and Daniel was arrested a few hours later. At 7.30am, Daniel hit a tree while driving his Volvo car and ended up in a ditch in Laragh. A motorist saw his car in a ditch as he was traveling over Bookies Bridge in Laragh and saw Daniel standing at the side of the road. The motorist, John Begley, stopped to see if Daniel needed help. Daniel told him that he had "killed my wife because she was with my friend".
Daniel was taken to the police station to be interviewed and as the questioning went on, some of the details of the horror he had inflicted on Nadine began to emerge.
When police initially asked him what happened to Nadine, he told them that he couldn't remember as he was intoxicated. He then claimed that he hit her a slap after she went for him because he was drinking and smoking in her apartment. Further questioning led to him admitting he gave Nadine five or six slaps. He told police some of them were applied with force. But police knew that the extent of Nadine's injuries had not been caused by five or six slaps so they continued questioning him and Daniel, who was a boxer, admitted that he was "pounding" Nadine and "punching like mad". He said:
"I knew she was with a lad in Arklow and I was just trying to get it out of her."
Police asked Daniel why his hands were not badly damaged and he told them that his knuckles were conditioned due to years of boxing. According to Daniel, he got an awful fright and shit himself after seeing blood coming out of Nadine's nose and lips.He insisted that Nadine was still alive when he left the apartment.
Nadine had a stab wound to the right side of her neck. When police asked him about a knife found beside Nadine, Daniel told them that it was a butter knife that he had used the night before to cut up a burger and a battered sausage. Police asked him where the assault took place and he said it all happened in the living room. When police told him that Nadine was found in the kitchen, he claimed that she must have walked into the kitchen herself after he left and maybe collapsed there. Police informed him that there were what appeared to be drag marks leading into the kitchen but he again said that he hit Nadine in the living room only.
Police asked him what he used to attack Nadine with and he initially said just his fists:
"I'm telling you straight I hit her with my hands. I hit her with my hands is all."
Daniel then told police that he had a tyre pump charger and the wire wrapped around his knuckles as he beat her:
"It was long and getting in the way when I was hitting her, I stood on it and broke it and wrapped the rest of it around my hand."
Daniel also accepted he may have used a cigarette charger in a hammer type motion. He denied using the mirror that was found in Nadine's apartment. When police entered the apartment there was broken glass in the living room and leading down the hallway and in the kitchen. Part of the frame from the mirror was found in the kitchen.
In his final interview with police, he told them that he was lying on the sofa and woke up when he heard Nadine shouting and screaming:
"I gave her a slap and she went back and onto the ground beside the cabinet."
He stood over her and was pounding her and he only realized how bad it was when he saw the blood. Daniel claimed that he didn't want to hurt Nadine and that he loved her and she loved him.
He told police that if he had wanted to kill Nadine "she would be gone."
Three days after the assault on Nadine, Nadine died. Her injuries were so severe that she never regained consciousness and she died in hospital. Daniel was charged with murder.
Daniel pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to manslaughter. He admitted that he. and he alone, had caused Nadine's death but claimed he didn't have the required intent to make him guilty of murder. Daniel argued that had it not been for the drugs and drink he consumed that night, he would never have assaulted Nadine. The Jury would have to decide whether he intended to kill or cause serious harm to Nadine.
Daniel's Attorney made a number of admissions of fact at the outset of the Trial. The Court heard that Daniel accepted he had unlawfully killed Nadine and he "alone inflicted the injuries she suffered".
The Judge told the Jury that murder was a crime of specific intent which occurs when one person unlawfully kills another, intending that person to be killed or caused serious injury. He told the Jury that Daniel had pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to manslaughter. That meant that he accepted that he had killed Nadine by his acts and that the killing was unlawful. But Daniel did not accept he had the necessary mental element when he did the acts to Nadine due to a defense he was relying on-the defense of intoxication.
The Judge told the Jury that it is a defense for a crime of specific intent such as murder and can reduce the offence of murder to manslaughter.
It was the Prosecution's case that this was a clear case of murder and that Nadine had suffered a violent and sustained attack in her own home by a man known to her. She had been brutally beaten and stabbed due to the jealous rage of her ex partner.
The Court heard that in the weeks leading up to Nadine's death, it was clear from their messages to each other that Daniel wanted to be in a relationship with Nadine but she did not. Even though they were not in a relationship, Daniel referred to Nadine as his girlfriend and wife to be. The Prosecutor told the Jury:
"This was coming from his head, look at the WhatsApp exchanges; they are clear and unequivocal. She makes it clear that she wants nothing more to do with him on that level. Just because they fell for each other in Australia, he somehow thought he had the right to control her life and say who she was to go out with."
The Court heard that just under two weeks before Nadine's death she told him in text messages not to "threaten" her and that "nothing is ever going to happen between us again, I want to make that clear".
The Court heard the testimony of Amela who described the state that Daniel was in when she saw him assaulting Nadine. She told the Jury that he had his hands around Nadine's neck and shoulder. The Court also heard from Claire, Nadine's mother. She described how she didn't even recognize her own daughter when she saw her. Nadine was unconscious when she got there but was gurgling and gasping for air. Claire sat on the floor beside her and told her it would be alright and they could get through it. She administered CPR but Nadine's injuries were so severe that it felt like nothing was helping.
The Court heard that the police officer drove the ambulance to the hospital so that the three paramedics could work on Nadine on the way. One of the paramedics, Ian Clarke, told the Court that the call will “haunt” him for the rest of his career. Ian testified that when he walked into Nadine's apartment, it looked like a bulldozer had gone through it and there was broken furniture everywhere. He said that it was one of the most “horrendous scenes” he had ever walked into and his uniform was covered in blood when he left.
Nadine was taken to the emergency department at the hospital and the Court heard the testimony of one of the nurses from the emergency department. Nurse Pamela O’Brien confirmed that Nadine was unconscious when she arrived and she told the Court that Nadine's head was huge in comparison to her little body and that she presumed it was because of all the swelling around her face.
Nadine was transfered to the Intensive Care Unit and Nurse Leah Grant, who works in the Intensive Care Unit, testified and told the Court that Nadine was “completely unrecognizable”. Leah had never seen anybody so badly injured. She told the Jury that Nadine's mother brought in a photograph of Nadine and all of Leah's colleagues asked who it was in the photograph and she had to point to Nadine and say "That's her". There was no way of knowing the woman in the hospital bed was Nadine due to the severity of her injuries.
Leah testified that she could not check Nadine’s pupils as her right eye was so physically swollen that they could not open it and that in her first 24 hours in hospital, she received 42 units of blood. Leah told the Jury that there were a lot of shards of reflective glass in Nadine's hair and her nose was continuously bleeding.
The Prosecution told the Court that there were 64 individual injuries found on Nadine's body which could not be accounted for through medical intervention.
Chief State Pathologist Dr Linda Mulligan testified in relation to Nadine's injuries. Dr Mulligan told the Court that Nadine's cause of death was due to hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy as a result of cardiac arrests, suffering from severe traumatic head and neck injuries including a stab wound to the right side of the neck, an incised wound to the left side of the neck and severe blunt force trauma to the head.
She said that the blunt force injuries were caused by hands, fists or feet and the use of a blunt weapon could not be ruled out.
Dr Mulligan testified that there was swelling to Nadine's face and to both of her eyes. Dr Mulligan identified petechiae (small spots of bleeding) in the whites of her eyes and in the membranes under her eyelids.There was bruising to the inside of Nadine's upper lip and in front of the gum. The bruising continued all the way into the gum line and there was extensive bruising to Nadine's tongue. Dr Mulligan testified that there was a fracture of the hyoid bone and bruising around the neck area. This indicated that force was applied to Nadine's neck. In response to a question put to her by Daniel's Defense team, she agreed that the hyoid bone is fragile and can be broken easily and that this case was not a strangulation case. She was not suggesting that strangulation was the cause of death.
There was an incised wound on the left side of Nadine's neck. The wound extended from the left earlobe to the left side of the neck. There was a stab wound to the right of Nadine's neck that had traveled behind the jawbone and into the mouth. The stab wound was 5cm deep and that indicated it was caused by a knife or a knife shaped object.
The Court heard that there were nasal bone fractures as well as fractures to the lower jaw and blood was oozing from each nostril. The blunt force trauma had caused bruising over the right eye and side of the head, severe swelling with lacerations over the left eye and pulverisation of the left-sided facial muscles.
Nadine's brain was diffusely swollen as it had limited capacity to expand. There was damage to the nerve cells in the brain and discoloration in the brain stem.
In summary, Dr Mulligan believed the injuries were the result of a sustained assault involving both blunt and sharp force trauma.
Forensic scientist Dr Stephen Clifford testified and told the Court that the amount of blood splatter found in the kitchen suggested there had been a “sustained assault” on Nadine when she was lying on the floor there. It was the Prosecution's case that Nadine was attacked in the kitchen as well as in the living room.
It was the Defense's case that the bloodbath would never have happened had it not been for the drink and drugs Daniel consumed. The Court heard that Daniel claimed he and Nadine had gotten back together a number of times since they returned from Australia and were back together at the time of her death. They had been in a relationship for a number of weeks according to Daniel and were due to tell their families at Christmas.
Daniel said that in the hours before the killing, he had smoked a joint, taken two pills and drank a 350 ml bottle of Captain Morgan rum and that was what had caused him to beat Nadine in such a vicious and violent manner.
In closing arguments, the Prosecutor urged the Jury to find Daniel guilty of murder:
"There is the clearest intent, just look at what the accused didn't do and what he never tried to do, he never raised a hand to get Nadine any kind of help."
He told the Jury that this was a case of murder and nothing short of murder.
The Defense asked the Jury to focus on the intent aspect and that Daniel's intent was the main battleground in the case. The Defense asked the Jury to consider the level of intoxication that night.
The Jury found Daniel guilty of murder. He has yet to be formally sentenced but a guilty murder conviction carries a mandatory life sentence in Ireland.
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