Pensioner killing ‘sheer inhumanity’

Pacemaker Belfast . Picture of Eddie Girvan, the 70 year old man found dead in his Station Road home in Greenisland.
Pacemaker Belfast . Picture of Eddie Girvan, the 70 year old man found dead in his Station Road home in Greenisland.

A senior judge described the “gruesome” killing of a pensioner in his Co Antrim home last year as “sheer inhumanity”.

Belfast Crown Court heard the “virtually naked’’ Eddie Girvan was stabbed in the chest and then cried out “murder, murder”before Margaret Henderson-McCarroll stuffed his mouth with kitchen roll, gagged him and bound his hands and feet to a chair.

PACEMAMER BELFAST. 
Maggie Henderson, 29.

PACEMAMER BELFAST. Maggie Henderson, 29.

However, a defence QC for Margaret Henderson-McCarroll disputed the prosecution assertion, stating that instead of shouting out ‘’murder, murder” the 67-year-old was in fact shouting out her name “Margaret, Margaret”.

Henderson, 31, formerly of a hostel in Verner Street, Belfast, pleaded guilty last month to his manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

The mother-of-two admitted unlawfully killing the 67-year-old in his Station Road home in Greenisland while high on a cocktail of heroin and crystal meth drugs

She further admitted eight other charges arising out of the killing including theft, attempted theft, aggravated vehicle taking causing damage, dangerous driving, driving when unfit through drink or drugs, driving without insurance, failing to stop and failing to report an accident.

Prosecution counsel Charles McCreanor QC told Mr Justice Treacy that Mr Girvan and Henderson-McCarroll had been known to each other for some years.

“She would come and stay with the deceased at his home and he would pay her for sexual relations,’’ said the prosecution counsel.

He told the court that the killing of Mr Girvan was only discovered by police who were carrying out a separate investigation into a hit and run incident involving his Hyundai car near at Customs House Square in Belfast city centre.

When police officers first went to his home on January 18, 2016, they got no response.

Mr Justice Treacy was told that in a separate incident, Henderson McCarroll was arrested on foot of an unrelated bench warrant and while in police custody she was found to have in her possession a Sat Nav device, a gents Zodiac watch, a pair of binoculars, a torch, a chain and two sets of car keys to Mr Girvan’s Hyundai and Saab cars.

The court heard that Henderson-McCarroll told police she found the possessions and was trying sell them to buy drugs. In fact, said Mr McCreanor, the defendant had sold the chain for £60.

After examining the Sat Nav device, police discovered it showed up Mr Girvan’s home address at Station Road in Greenisland.

Police went to Mr Girvan’s home again to force entry as they had “concerns for his safety”, but eventually gained access “and inside found Mr Girvan”.

Said the prosecution counsel: “He was virtually naked, bound and gagged, seated in a room on the ground floor.’’

The court heard Mr Girvan’s hands were bound with three of his own neck ties, his feet were bound with two of his ties, his trousers and underpants were round his ankles and he was wearing a dressing gown which was lying open.

A post mortem examination revealed that Mr Girvan had been stabbed in the upper part of his chest with a 10 centimetre incision which punctured his right lung, leading to internal bleeding.

The pathologist also discovered that his mouth had been “stuffed full of kitchen roll’’ resulting in asphyxiation, with his tongue pushed to the back of his mouth which prevented him from calling out.

The court was told that in the pathologist’s view, either the stabbing or the asphyxiation could have killed him.

The post mortem also noted a knife injury to the palm of one of his hands which the pathologist said could have a “defensive injury’’

There was also a 3.5 cm knife wound to the right side of his naval but it caused no internal injuries, and there were bruises and abrasions to his face, body and neck.

During police interview, Henderson-McCarroll said she’d stabbed him with a cake knife during an argument after he came at her with “a wee stick sword.”

The prosecution said she told police she had “freaked out” because he “wouldn’t stop squealing” and was shouting: “Murder, murder.”

She told police she’d taken heroin “to calm her down” and drove his car to Belfast where she had an accident at Customs House Square.

Henderson-McCarroll said that she wanted more drugs, and was going to go back to Mr Girvan after “letting him calm down”.

Mr McCreanor said Henderson-McCarroll told police she hadn’t meant to kill Mr Girvan, and that he would not have died had she not been “high on heroin and crystal meth”.

But he said that an aggravating feature in the case was that the accused did not ring 999 and call for an ambulance to help Mr Girvan.

The court heard that the defendant has 100 convictions on her record, with a large number for violence against both males and females.

She is still abusing Subutex drugs in prison and has also been cited for behavioural problems while on remand in the women’s prison at Hydebank Wood in south Belfast.

Mr Justice Treacy remarked: “This is quite a gruesome case. The defendant has an insatiable and uncontrollable appetite for serious drugs.”

Despite medical and probation reports which did not find her posing a danger to the public, the judge said he “would not necessarily agree with the experts in the case’’ about the future risk she posed.

The High Court judge added that until she dealt with that addiction to opiate drugs, he believed she was likely to pose a danger to the public.

The judge described the killing as “sheer inhumanity in how this man was killed and we don’t know how long he survived for”.

Mr Justice Treacy added: “It is difficult to see how somebody like her, whose morality was completely overridden by her desire for hard drugs, could not be seen as a danger to the public.

“I’ve never come across a case where someone has been so overwhelmed by the consumption of drugs.”

Defence counsel John McCrudden QC said it was his understanding a police tape recorded the defendant describing Mr Girvan as shouting: “Margaret, Margaret”, not “Murder, murder” before he was gagged.

“He was calling out her name in a muffled voice and saying ‘Margaret, Margaret’.

Asked by the judge why this issue had only now been brought to the attention of both the court and prosecution, Mr McCrudden replied: “I am a human being. I forgot.”

The judge said issued around what Mr Girvan reportedly said needed to be clarified by the prosecution who would have to listen to the recording of the taped police interview.

The adjourned the case until Monday, June 29.