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All evidence points in direction of accused in cold case murder trial, prosecution tells jury – The Irish Times

The evidence in a cold case murder trial all points to the “inescapable conclusion” that Cork woman Nora Sheehan met her death 42 years ago at the hands of murder accused Noel Long, a prosecution barrister has told the jury.

Noel Long (74) with an address at Maulbawn, Passage West, Co Cork, has pleaded not guilty to murdering 54-year-old Nora Sheehan between June 6th and June 12th, 1981, at an unknown place within the State. Her body was found by forestry workers at The Viewing Point, Shippool Woods in Cork six days after she went missing.

Closing the prosecution case, Brendan Grehan SC said the prosecution’s case was built on two main planks; the forensic evidence obtained by scientists and DNA profiling.

Counsel noted that the victim’s body had been left bereft of any dignity and was being reclaimed by nature when it was discovered. He said the pathologist’s report had described extensive bruising to her face, nose, mouth, head and elsewhere on her body.

“She had received a beating, there is no other logical inference. Apart from being found with her private parts exposed, she had bruising inside her vagina and a swab revealed the presence of sperm there,” he said.

Mr Grehan told the jurors they were being asked to infer that after Mrs Sheehan was last seen alive she came to be in a car, was badly assaulted including sexually assaulted, and was ultimately killed in the course of a vicious assault or to cover up her murderer’s misdeeds.

The lawyer acknowledged it was not possible to say what precisely caused the victim’s death and all that could be said is that she died in a group of circumstances as described by pathologist Dr Robert Dermot Coakley in his report.

He said it was the State’s case that the assailant responsible for these injuries were also responsible for causing her death and that the intent was there to cause serious injury in the circumstances of how she had met her death.

Mr Grehan reminded the jury that a partial DNA profile generated from the semen preserved 42 years ago had matched that found on a beanie hat taken from Mr Long.  He called this a matter of very great significance in the case, especially when this was put with Mr Long being in the area that night and the comparison between the victim’s clothing and the accused’s car.

Mr Grehan said that all the evidence points in one direction and the inescapable conclusion is that she was murdered and that her murderer was Mr Long.

In his closing speech, defence counsel Michael Delaney SC said there is an assumption that what they are dealing with in this case is a murder.

However, Mr Delaney told the jury that one of the most significant issues they will have to decide is whether “what happened here was a murder at all”.

Counsel said that many witnesses had no real recollection of events at the trial without resorting to their statements.

Mr Delaney said that delay was one thing but the failure to preserve exhibits in the case was “truly shocking”. “With the exception of the slide archive, everything else was lost,” he said.

He said the loss of the remainder of the vaginal swab recovered from the body of Mrs Sheehan stopped the defence from independently verifying the result of the DNA and that there was nothing left over for the defence to examine.

He said the case was wholly dependent on forensic science and there was nothing else to connect Mr Long to the deceased.

The trial continues tomorrow before Mr Justice Paul McDermott and the jury of seven men and four women, when the judge will begin his charge.

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