Man denies murdering mother of his unborn child

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A 39-year-old Derry man has admitted killing the mother of his unborn child but has pleaded not guilty to murdering her in the city almost four years ago.

Stephen Cahoon of Harvey Street, Derry went on trial at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin yesterday (Monday) charged with murdering 30-year-old Jean Teresa Quigley on July 26 2008.

The mother-of-four was found dead in her home in Cornshell Fields the following day. She had been strangled.

Stephen Cahoon’s barrister, Paul Burns SC, addressed the jury on the opening day of the trial yesterday.

“Stephen Cahoon admits he killed Jean Quigley,” he said.

Patrick Marrinan SC, prosecuting, had just opened the trial to the seven women and five men, telling them that motive or the lack thereof was not important.

Mr Marrinan explained that Ms Quigley had four children and had separated from her partner by the time she met the accused around St Patrick’s Day 2008.

They quickly formed what their friends described as an extremely loving and tactile relationship, he said.

“There were expressions of interest in having children and Jean Quigley was pregnant when she was killed, carrying the accused man’s child,” he explained.

However, he said the relationship deteriorated in early July of that year and they split up around the 12th.

“Evidence suggests that Stephen Cahoon seems to have found this difficult to take and tried to get back with Jean Quigley, without any great success,” said Mr Marrinan.

He said it was the prosecution case that Ms Quigley met the defendant in a pub three nights before she died in an effort to remain friends.

However, there was an argument and he arrived to her house shortly after she got home that night. He refused to leave on a number of occasions and she asked her babysitter to stay until he finally left.

“It appears that Jean Quigley was anxious that the accused would stay away from her,” said Mr Marrinan, referring to text messages between them over the following two days.

The jury heard that on Friday night July 25th, Ms Quigley’s four children were staying with her former partner. A taxi driver, who brought her home around 10pm, was the last person to see her alive other than her killer.

Mr Marrinan said that she was in contact with her sister by text message shortly after 11pm and this was the last contact anybody else had with her before she was killed.

Shortly before 2am, Stephen Cahoon ordered a taxi from his flat to Cornshell Fields and was dropped off 100 yards from Ms Quigley’s house, said the barrister.

A neighbour heard the sound of a woman wailing and a man’s voice in the background around 1am or 3am, he continued.

At 6.30am, the defendant ordered a taxi from a nearby road under a fake name and got out of the cab 50 yards from his own home, said Mr Marrinan.

Apart from a neighbour seeing him that afternoon, he then ‘vanished off the face of the earth’.

Ms Quigley’s family members became concerned when they couldn’t contact her, and her mother used spare keys to get into her home, continued the barrister.

She found her daughter, ‘naked and partially covered in a duvet, lying on her bed, bruised and with blood coming from her mouth’.

The young mother was pronounced dead at the scene and her cause of death was later given as manual strangulation.

Police found bloodstained parcel tape at the scene and it appeared she’d been tied up. DNA was extracted from sperm found on her and from urine in the toilet.

“Very quickly Stephen Cahoon became a suspect and police searched his home,” said Mr Marrinan.

There they found a t-shirt stained with Ms Quigley’s blood.

Two sergeants approached a man in Donegal town on August 5th that year. He first denied his identity, but later said: “I’m Stephen Cahoon, the man you’re looking for.”

His DNA was taken and it matched the urine from the victim’s toilet and the sperm on her body.

“He admits he killed Jean Quigley so this case now isn’t a ‘Who done it?’

case but a ‘What happened?’ case,” explained Mr Marrinan.

“What he denies is that he murdererd her,” he continued. “Therefore the events and circumstances leading up to her killing are matters you have to put nder the microscope.”

The trial before Mr Justice Barry White is expected to last three weeks.