Fiance killer jailed for eight years
WARNING: Disturbing content
A woman who stabbed her fiance to death in a "brutal and vicious attack" in their Sydney home has been sentenced to eight years jail with a non parole period of five years.
Cathrina "Tina" Cahill, 27, appeared on Wednesday in the New South Wales Supreme Court for sentencing after pleading guilty to the manslaughter of David Walsh, 29. Her plea was based on substantial impairment due to an abnormality of the mind.
"I am not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt the offender intended to kill Mr Walsh," Justice Johnson said.
"I accept the offence was committed in the heat of the moment."
Justice Johnson said Cahill was highly unlikely to reoffend and had "good prospects" of rehabilitation.
Cahill and Mr Walsh, both from Ireland, were living in the southwestern Sydney suburb of Padstow, on working holiday visas when she fatally stabbed him in the neck, during an alcohol-fuelled argument on February 18, 2017.
In handing down the sentence this morning, Justice Peter Johnson described the couple's relationship as violent "on both sides", "drunken and fractious" and said it was "an extraordinary development (that) David Walsh proposed (and) they became engaged to be married".
"Any plans of marriage were doomed to fail," he said.
The court heard Mr Walsh gave Cahill a Valentine's Day card three days before she killed him. It read: "I know I can be a c**t, to you I can be a good c**t. Sorry about all, love Davey."
The year before, his Valentine's card to Cahill read:
"Sorry for being a d**k for so long but if you give me a chance I'll make it up to you."
NIGHT OF THE FATAL ATTACK
The court heard that on the night of the fatal attack, Cahill and their two female housemates arrived home with Matthew Hyde, a man they had socialised with at a pub, and found Mr Walsh had broken in and was asleep on the couch.
Justice Johnson said Mr Walsh "opened his eyes" and repeatedly attacked Mr Hyde while demanding to know who he was.
"David Walsh hit him from behind … he yelled out, 'Who the f**k are you?' and hit him several times," Justice Johnson said during sentencing.
"David grabbed Mr Hyde by his hair and tried to smash … him into the floor."
Cahill was punched by Mr Walsh when trying to stop the attack, before she took out a "large, very sharp, bladed knife" from the cutlery drawer and stabbed him.
Justice Johnson said witnesses described Cahill as "fixated" as she "walked quickly towards Mr Walsh with the long-bladed knife".
"(She) stabbed him in the neck," he said. "The offender later said she took two or three steps and it all happened so fast.
"The offender did not say anything (and) she pulled the knife out straight away and dropped it on the floor.
"The immediate response by the offender was shock and regret."
According to court documents viewed by news.com.au, Mr Walsh started to "bleed profusely with blood coming out of (his) mouth". He accepted a tea towel one of the witnesses passed to him and yelled, "Call an ambulance, call an ambulance", a statement of agreed facts read. He then walked outside and collapsed.
The father of three girls and one son, who reside in his homeland, was pronounced dead at the scene after emergency services were called to the house on Watson Road.
Prosecutor Nanette Williams earlier told the court Mr Walsh's death was "brutal and violent".
"(He) had to die alone on a footpath in a foreign country," she told Justice Peter Johnson.
Moments after stabbing Mr Walsh, Cahill turned to one of the witnesses and said: "he's gone mental … I can't cope no more. I can't believe what I just done (sic)", court documents allege.
In a police interview just hours after Mr Walsh's death, Cahill told officers: "I stepped in to help and I stabbed him. I stabbed him," a statement of agreed facts read. The court heard the pair had a "two-way domestic violent relationship" that was dysfunctional with repeated episodes of violence and mutual Apprehended Violence Orders (AVO's). An AVO was in place to protect Mr Walsh from Cahill at the time of his death.
Mr Trevallion said there was no evidence his client had ever struck Mr Walsh without any provocation. Cahill's barrister submitted she had no intention to kill, the stabbing had involved a single jab and Mr Walsh was the one who initiated the violence.
Cahill's parents have flown in from Ireland to support her during the case. During sentencing, they sat in the second row from the front in the public gallery and listened intently. Her father, David Cahill, earlier appeared in the witness box and told the court his daughter never had any behavioural problems prior to the killing. Cahill openly wept in the dock as her father testified he wasn't aware she was in an abusive relationship with Mr Walsh at the time and that he would have taken her home to Ireland if he had known.
"To me, (she's) a brilliant person," he said when asked to describe her.
Mr Cahill told the court that the support "from people back home has been unbelievable". He said members of the family's community in Wexford had rallied together to pay for his daughter's court case.
Cahill told the judge she didn't leave Mr Walsh despite him being a "controlling and fairly unpleasant" man because she loved and adored him. The pair started dating after meeting at a Bondi Junction pub in late 2014 before the relationship turned violent the following year.
In September 2015, Cahill told police, after an AVO was issued against Mr Walsh to protect her, that she was not fearful of him.
"I was in fear of getting in more trouble from David if I told the truth," she said.
"He would call me a rat and a dog."
She had packed her bags many times to leave him, but Mr Walsh would tell her everything was going to be different.
"He would be making me dinner, buying me flowers, buying me a teddy bear but after two to three weeks it would go back to the way it was," she said.
Cahill last week told the court she often woke up naked despite having gone to bed wearing pyjamas, and that she once found a photo on her fiance's phone of herself asleep with semen on her face. She said she confronted Mr Walsh about it but that he just laughed and said that "if I didn't have sex with him, he was going to get it anyway".
Cahill claimed Mr Walsh would show up at her work and make threatening gestures, which she demonstrated by tracing her finger across her throat. He would often grab and scratch her face and "constantly bite" her, Cahill said.
The court heard Mr Walsh once threw a glass bottle through a new TV, "would constantly break things in the house" and punch holes in the walls.
Cahill said that he repeatedly accused her of having affairs and that she couldn't even look in the rear vision mirror while driving in case a man was in the car behind them. If she looked in the direction of another man, he would tell her: "I hope you got a good look, slut", she said.
Cahill also told the court that on one occasion, Mr Walsh attacked a man at a hotel, because he spoke to her female friend.
"David came in and hit the guy so hard he landed on the floor," she said.
"He said 'he won't look at my missus again'."
Cahill painted a picture of a violent and controlling partner who she said blocked friends from her Facebook account, deleted messages and contacts from her phone and accused her of having an affair with her boss.
"There were 35 people that were blocked from my Facebook. Some of them were friends of his that I had never met," she said.
The couple left Ireland in 2013 to live in Australia. Prior to his death, Mr Walsh worked in construction and Cahill was employed with a traffic management company.
The pair had been engaged for just seven weeks prior to the incident after Mr Walsh proposed on New Year's Eve 2016. Cahill said she wished she had a "time machine" to go back and change what happened.
"There is not a day that goes by when I don't think about David's family," she said when asked how she felt about having killed her fiance.
"I loved him so much.
"He told me no matter what I did I would never get away from him and if I ever got with anybody else he would make my life hell."
According to the agreed statement of facts, the couple went out drinking with others before they got into an argument and Mr Walsh went home, on February 17 last year.
Cahill, two female friends and Matthew Hyde - a man they had socialised with at one of the pubs - later turned up at the Padstow address where Mr Walsh appeared to be asleep on a couch.
Soon after, Mr Walsh woke up and attacked Mr Hyde, for being an unknown man in his house. According to a statement of agreed facts, Mr Walsh repeatedly punched Mr Hyde, bit him on the face, then grabbed him by the hair and tried to smash his face into the floor.
Cahill screamed: "Stop it Davey, get off, get off … he's with Grace."
She tried to get a grip of her fiance's arms when he swung his arm back and she fell to the ground, according to the statement of facts.
She moved towards him and punched him in the face with a closed fist, before Mr Walsh pushed her again and tried to punch her in the face.
Eventually, "the offender opened and closed the cutlery drawer quickly taking out a large, very sharp, bladed knife".
One witness heard Mr Walsh repeatedly say "put it back" but Cahill replied: "No, he needs to be taught a lesson. It's not fair. Look at poor Matthew."
Cahill was due to face an eight-week murder trial in the NSW Supreme Court until the charge was downgraded from murder and she pleaded guilty to manslaughter. The maximum penalty for the offence is 25 years jail.
Cahill admitted unlawfully killing Mr Walsh - who was also from County Wexford in southeastern Ireland - between February 17 and 18 in 2017.
The Crown accepted the plea to the less serious offence on the basis that Cahill was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder at the time.
Her barrister, James Trevallion, said the substantial abnormality of mind was caused by Mr Walsh's conduct towards his client, submitting that the judge needed to be aware of the "extent of the provocation and controlling behaviour by the deceased" in the days and weeks leading up to his death.
"How degrading and psychologically damaging and violent that behaviour was," Mr Trevallion said.
Justice Johnson noted that the couple's relationship was "violent" and "degrading" and that Mr Walsh often abused Cahill.
"Then they decided to get married not long before this event … with the psychological consequences these things had on her," Justice Johnson said.
The court also heard Cahill had stabbed Mr Walsh in the back of the head 18 months before knifing him again in the fatal attack.
One of the couple's former housemates, UK citizen Isobel Jennings, testified that the couple was arguing on October 3, 2015 when she saw Cahill appear at the top of the stairs with her hand behind her back. Ms Jennings said Mr Walsh was "sitting on a sofa with his head in his hands" when Cahill suddenly stabbed him in the head three or four times.
"I just thought she was hitting him but after a few seconds, I realised she had a knife," Ms Jennings said.
Ms Jennings denied that she was lying, when she recalled Cahill saying: "I just wanted to kill him. I just wanted to kill him." Cahill offered a different version of events and argued that Mr Walsh had a knife in his hand and blocked her exit when she tried to leave their bedroom. She said she went to grab the knife but in doing so cut her own hand and then the back of his head.
Ms Williams suggested she was lying because she knew Ms Jennings' evidence was "damning" about her intentionally going downstairs to get the knife and stab Mr Walsh.
"That isn't true," Cahill replied.
Cahill was convicted in April 2016 of reckless wounding for injuring Mr Walsh by throwing a large candle stick at him in November the previous year. She was subsequently placed on a two-year-bond, at Waverley Local Court.
Irish newspapers have previously reported Mr Walsh had fled the country after being charged with assaulting his former partner, three Irish police officers and a man whose ear was partially bitten off. During her testimony, Cahill told the court he used to laugh about the offences and bragged about being on an Irish television crime show.
He was one of seven children, who were living in Ireland along with their parents, at the time of his death.
The court on Thursday heard victim impact statements written by four of Mr Walsh's brothers which were read out on their behalf.
According to Mr Walsh's brother Jonathan, their father was devastated when he learned he had lost a son, and said: "I don't want him up there on his own son. I am going to be with him soon." He died 10 months later "from a broken heart", according to another one of Mr Walsh's brothers, Patrick. The court heard their mother had never been the same since Mr Walsh died.