One of Ireland’s most ruthless hit men was released from prison before Christmas.
iller Paul Hopkins was hired by Jacqui Noble to kill her abusive partner Derek Benson in Dublin in May 2000 after years of suffering violent domestic violence.
But the hired killer, using a samurai sword, left such a mess that he attempted to set the crime scene on fire, and gardaí were quickly alerted to the body in the Ballymun apartment.
Hopkins was serving his life sentence at Loughan House open prison in Co Cavan, while Ms Noble has been free since 2018 after being released from the Dochas center where she spent 14 years.
Both are now license free, meaning their penalties can be reinstated if they commit other offences.
Speaking to the media after her release, Noble said at the time: “What’s done is done, you know. I’m glad I’m out. I just want to keep going.”
The 2004 trial heard disturbing evidence of Benson regularly beating and raping Noble in front of her daughter, but a defense of provocation was not allowed to be used.
There was evidence of how Noble had been hospitalized for injuries Benson inflicted on her, including broken ribs and extensive bruising.
During the 30-day trial, Noble recounted how Benson punched, kicked and punched her with objects.
She described the abuse in graphic detail, along with the depravities committed by Benson after he tied her to a chair or bed. She said he would threaten her with a knife while she was wearing a balaclava.
A garda also gave testimony of how Benson tried to push her down the stairs after she arrested him for violating a house ban.
Noble had paid Hopkins IR£200 to carry out the murder at a Ballymun flat with a promise of more money if successful, the court heard.
At the time of the murder, Noble had left the apartment and moved to her childhood home in nearby Knowth Court.
Both of her parents had died and she was to inherit a sum of money and the house from her father, but Benson demanded part of the money.
She and Hopkins hatched a plan to kill Benson, and it was agreed that if he passed out, they would go to the apartment and drug Benson and call the killer.
Noble fed the pills to Benson as he lay in bed recovering from dentist work before leaving and alerting Hopkins using a phone he had given her.
Neighbors heard screams around 3am and saw smoke and fire coming from the apartment.
The murder weapon, a samurai sword that Hopkins bought for IR£50, was later found in a wardrobe at a friend of Hopkins’ house.
Evidence was presented of Benson being hacked to death and the sword passing through his body from front to back.
The then deputy state pathologist Dr. Marie Cassidy said the 33-year-old suffered 17 wounds to his head and neck.
One was a “gash” that cut through the cervical spine and was a “cut or hack” as if an attempt had been made to chop off his head.
She said Benson suffered wounds to his arms and hands that severed multiple muscle tendons and said a number of those cuts to his forearms and palms were consistent with defensive injuries.
dr Cassidy said Mr Benson’s multiple injuries were consistent with a “prolonged and vicious assault”.
The direction of the injuries showed the dead man “at some point” “lay on the ground during the attack”.
In his evidence, Hopkins told the court that he was repeatedly bullied, threatened and assaulted by Mr Benson over a four-year period.
When Benson threatened his girlfriend and their young daughter that he would burn them after he “was done with them,” Hopkins took it as a threat that Benson intended to rape her.
In the courtroom, as the guilty verdict was read, two female jurors broke down in tears and two male jurors were visibly upset.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/crime/contract-killer-paul-hopkins-walks-free-from-prison-42237704.html Assassin Paul Hopkins is released from prison