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Wooburn murder trial - judge begins summing up evidence
A JUDGE has this morning begun summing up the evidence in the murder trial of John McGrory – telling jurors not to let ‘sympathy’ distract them from the evidence.
The Wooburn Green lorry driver has admitted strangling his wife with a dog lead at their Holtspur Avenue home on January 3 this year - the morning after she returned from seeing another man in Scotland.
McGrory denies murder, saying he cannot remember the killing.
Though the prosecutor said it was a “clear cut case of murder on the face of it”, jurors have been asked to consider whether the offence was reduced by either ‘diminished responsibility’ or ‘loss of control’.
If the jury accepts either one of these defences, McGrory will be guilty of manslaughter, but not murder, Reading Crown Court heard.
Addressing the ‘loss of control’ argument yesterday, prosecutor Charles Ward-Jackson pointed out McGrory had already been through a similar experience in 2003, when wife Marie had an affair with a different man.
“Dark threats” were also made by the ex-army serviceman before the killing, and though not taken seriously, they suggest McGrory was “turning over in his mind the possibility of revenge”, Mr Ward-Jackson added.
He said there was “no justifiable trigger” for the attack, as McGrory had known about the new affair since October last year, and jurors were asked: “Would a man of his age with a normal degree of tolerance and restraint have reacted in the same way?”
On ‘diminished responsibility’, Mr Ward-Jackson said this defence relies on McGrory suffering from a recognised mental illness which caused an “abnormality of mind” that substantially impaired his ability to exercise self-control. The expert psychiatric evidence on these points was inconclusive, he said.
He also referred to allegations made by Marie in 2005 about McGrory grabbing her throat on three separate occasions, suggesting this was linked to previous infidelity by Marie.
He added: “At moments of marital crisis Mr McGrory’s stock response is to assault his wife by strangling her.”
However, defence barrister Timothy Raggatt QC said this was one example of “a catalogue of inaccuracy” presented by the prosecution. He said the previous accusations of ‘strangling’ were not linked to any affair, as Marie had told police they followed arguments about other things.
He also argued the police statement made by Marie in 2005 was untested and ‘wholly worthless’ for the jury, pointing out police had not brought charges or taken any action over the allegations.
The situation in the household was “fraught” in the weeks leading up to the incident, said Mr Raggatt, pointing to evidence that McGrory had been acting strangely.
The former Scots Guardsman was not used to talking about his emotions and was a man “struggling to understand his feelings”, said Mr Raggatt.
He added: “Something was going on in John McGrory’s head, this wasn’t normal....He was contemplating seeking psychiatric help. This man was looking for help for the first time in his life.
“He’s not a subtle man, he’s not a sophisticated man. He’s a relatively blunt man you may think....He’s of average intelligence; he’s almost Joe Public in a way.”
He said the killing has “all the hallmarks of a frenzy”, which amounts to a loss of control, adding McGrory would have been in shock after the incident with “all sorts of competing things going on”.
The loss of control defence is for the prosecution to disprove beyond reasonable doubt, while the ‘burden of proof’ for diminished responsibility falls on the defence, jurors were told.
The trial continues.