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Murder trial hears background to death of Leap woman Valerie

March 19th, 2023 11:50 AM

By Southern Star Team

Murder trial hears background to death of Leap woman Valerie Image
Valerie French Kilroy, originally from Leap, died at her home in Co Mayo in June 2019.

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BY Alison O’Riordan 

A MAN was found naked in a field after he killed his West Cork-born wife at their rural Co Mayo home nearly four years ago, a jury has heard.

During the opening of the trial of James Kilroy at the Central Criminal Court this week, a prosecuting barrister said that a jury will have to assess if he was ‘simply guilty of murder’ as the State contends ,or if he was insane at the time of the killing or suffered from a mental disorder that diminished his responsibility. 

Barrister Anne-Marie Lawlor SC, for the DPP, said a mental disorder did not include intoxication and that was important in the case.

The jury heard that Cork woman Valerie French Kilroy’s body was found in a camper van on the grounds of her home, which was located in a remote rural area around 6km from Westport in Co Mayo. She had died from strangulation with a ligature, as well as blunt force trauma to the head, and a stab wound to the neck. 

Evidence will be given, said the lawyer, that Mr Kilroy was displaying ‘erratic behaviour’ and was found naked in a field. He was taken to Castlebar Hospital where he was assessed and later told gardaí that he had killed his wife and kids. The three young children were later found unharmed. 

Barrister Patrick Gageby SC is defending Mr Kilroy. 

Kilroy (49), with an address at Kilbree Lower, Westport, is charged with murdering mother-of-three Valerie (41) at their home on a date unknown between June 13th 2019 and June 14th 2019, both dates inclusive. He has pleaded not guilty, by reason of insanity.

Opening the prosecution’s case, Ms Lawlor said Mr Kilroy is charged with the offence of murder and the State says he is guilty of that offence. 

She said the killing was accepted by the accused. ‘What isn’t accepted is that he had a guilty mind or the intention to cause the death,’ she added.

There will be evidence, she said, concerning the psychiatric state of Mr Kilroy. A person is not guilty of the offence if they were suffering from a mental disorder, she said. 

The second issue that the jury will be asked to determine is whether the accused has a mental disorder and whether he knew the nature of what he was doing or knew it was wrong or was unable to stop himself.

Another legal provision that the jury will be hearing about in the course of the trial is the defence of diminished responsibility.

The court heard further evidence will come from a variety of experts as to what Mr Kilroy’s mental state was at the time and whether he has a mental disorder. 

Outlining the facts of the case, Ms Lawlor said Ms French Kilroy was a senior occupational therapist for Mayo Mental Health Services and had married the accused man in April 2008. They had been partners for the previous ten years and had three dearly loved young children, who were conceived through IVF, she said. The Kilroys lived in a bungalow in a remote rural location in Mayo, around 6km from Westport and 11km from Castlebar. She also indicated to the jury that this was where Ms French Kilroy had been killed. 

On the night of June 13th 2019, Valerie Kilroy had arrived home after spending an evening with a friend. Her body was found the following afternoon by gardaí, said the barrister.

Counsel said the evidence will be that gardaí were first notified of Mr Kilroy’s actions around 3am the next morning, when a woman contacted gardaí to say that a man had come to her door. She said the man told her that he had travelled the world a few times over. He was displaying erratic behaviour. 

The court heard that at around 9.40am the same morning another man, who was also living in the Westport area, contacted gardaí to say he saw a naked man in a field. 

The court will also hear evidence, the lawyer said, from a female garda who dealt with Mr Kilroy and said the accused was disoriented. Mr Kilroy was brought to Castlebar Hospital for assessment – the same hospital where his wife did some of her work. 

When Mr Kilroy was in the hospital he said he killed his wife and kids, which immediately prompted gardaí to see if this was true. When they arrived at the accused’s home at 2.55pm they ascertained that the children had not been the subject of any assault and were unharmed. 

The barrister further stated that gardaí found Ms French Kilroy dead in a camper van on the grounds. A post mortem confirmed she had died from ligature strangulation as well as blunt force trauma to the head and a stab wound to the neck. Ms Lawlor said Mr Kilroy was released from Castlebar Hospital after it had been determined that he did not meet the criteria to be held. He was later arrested and interviewed on four occasions. 

He indicated to gardaí much about his own life, his use of drugs and how on the evening he slit the throat of Valerie and the circumstances in which he said he did that, said Ms Lawlor. 

The trial continues this week and is expected to last until the end of the month.

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