BREAKING – Stephen Cahoon convicted of murdering his pregnant ex-girlfriend
A 39-year-old Derry man has today been convicted of murdering his pregnant ex-girlfriend
Stephen Cahoon, 39, admitted killing Jean Quigley when she was 10 weeks pregnant with his son at her home in Cornshell Fields in Derry on July 26 2008, but denies murder.
Cahoon was arrested in Donegal shortly after the killing and opted to be tried at Dublin Central Criminal Court.
Mr Justice Barry White said he would have considered life even if the jury had returned a manslaughter verdict, having heard Cahoon has served time for beating up two other women.
The judge called him a danger to society in general and women in particular.
Cahoon was tried for the murder in 2009 but the jury failed to reach a verdict. The first trial made legal history, as Cahoon, who was arrested in Donegal, opted for trial in the Irish Republic.
He was the first person to face a southern jury for a non-terrorist related offence committed in Northern Ireland.
Under the Criminal Law (Jurisdiction) Act, 1976, suspects can be tried in the Republic for alleged offences committed in Britain or Northern Ireland.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland said the conviction demonstrates how the law can be used to bring to justice to perpetrators of serious crimes, no matter where.
“Stephen Cahoon is one such individual. He is a dangerous sexual predator with a history of violence against women. He deserves to stay behind bars for a very long time,” the PSNI said.
“But our thoughts today should be with Jean Quigley’s children and her family circle. We hope that, in time, today’s outcome will go some small way to bring comfort to them for the loss and pain which they have suffered.”
Quigley’s mother found her bruised and strangled body on her blood-stained bed after using her spare key to get into her daughter’s home. Ms Quigley’s otherwise empty house had been locked from the outside.
Paul Burns SC, defending, said that his client had been provoked, lost control and killed Ms Quigley during an argument after sex and therefore was guilty of manslaughter, not murder
Last Tuesday, Cahoon told the Court in Dublin that he strangled Quigley to death after she had told him the child she was carrying was not his and that she was going to have an abortion.
“That’s when I saw red and I grabbed her by the throat,” he said.
Mr Burns said his client could not explain the bruising all over the victim’s body because he lost control.
“Why else would Stephen Cahoon kill the woman he loved other than because he had lost control?” he asked.
He said Cahoon’s version of events was consistent with the evidence.
Patrick Marrinan SC, prosecuting, said that the accused had admitted that the victim’s bruises were not consistent with his story.
“Those defensive injuries to her forearm don’t fit with his story,” he said.
He pointed out that the defendant had arrived at his ex-girlfriend’s house unannounced at 2 am that morning.
He also pointed to damage done to Quigley’s internal front door, where an inside bolt had been broken from the outside.
“There’s a reasonable inference to be drawn that whoever kicked in the door either had a key to the (outer) front door or that it was inadvertently left open,” he said, adding that Cahoon had offered no explanation for this during his testimony.
“The only inference to be drawn is that the accused man pushed in the door,” he said, adding that Cahoon knew when Quigley’s children would be away and she would be alone.
He described Cahoon’s story of removing the front door key from a bunch of keys he found after the killing and using it to lock the house from the outside as ‘bizarre in the extreme’.
“He has no explanation for it,” he said. “It’s quite apparent he had his own key and this is a load of nonsense.”
He pointed out that Cahoon could not explain why Quigley’s blood was found on parcel tape at the scene.
He said his story of not calling an ambulance when he got home because he thought she might still be alive was ‘not credible’.
He also questioned why his t-shirt wasn’t covered in blood after administering CPR, as he said he did.
“I suggest his story doesn’t come close to measuring up,” he said.
“This is a case of murder and the suggestion that he temporarily lost control has been rebutted,” he concluded.
Cahoon admitted leaving the scene and using a false name to get a taxi.
He said he fled to Donegal, then Galway and back to Donegal where he was arrested by gardaí.
He said he was panicky, scared and suicidal at the time – taking pills and buying ties with which to hang himself.
Cahoon said he did not call an ambulance or the police because he hoped she was still alive.
He denied going to Ms Quigley’s house with the deliberate intent of killing her.