Man pleads not guilty to murder as court hears he ‘repeatedly’ kicked and kicked his partner in the head in Ennis public toilet

A 35-YEAR-OLD man committed a “violent assault” on his partner, mother-of-two Sharon Bennett, by “repeatedly” kicking and kicking her in the head in a public toilet in Ennis last year, like a prosecution attorney reported a murder trial.

Defense Attorney Mark Nicholas SC for Patrick Ballard told 12 jurors his client admitted his actions caused the death of his partner, Ms. Bennett, and accepted that her killing was unlawful.

However, Mr Ballard (35), formerly of the Ashford Court Hotel, Ennis, Co Clare, has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Ms Bennett (29) on February 10, 2021 in the Ennis market area.

Mr Ballard and Ms Bennett were in a relationship at the time of the alleged murder. Ms Bennett was a mother to two girls, aged nine and six, from a previous relationship.

In his opening remarks today, Attorney Dominic McGinn SC said Ms Bennett died on February 10, 2021 as a result of a violent assault on her by Mr Bennett which took place two weeks earlier on January 28, 2021 in Ennis town centre.

Outlining the facts of the case, Mr McGinn said Ms Bennett and Mr Ballard had been in a relationship for a few months at the time. The couple were in temporary accommodation in Ennis and were habitual drinkers.

On January 28, the attorney said Ms. Bennett and Mr. Ballard were drinking together in a covered parking lot used as a market in central Ennis.

Explaining the evidence being heard, Mr McGinn said four or five people, including the accused and the deceased, were drinking in the car park but at one point there was a disagreement or argument between Mr Ballard and Ms Bennett.

The prosecution’s attorney went on to tell the court that Ms Bennett “slapped” Mr Ballard during the argument by kicking him in the face as he sat on the ground in the parking lot. This was seen by some young men skateboarding in the parking lot at the time, and those drinking with the couple saw it too, he added.

CCTV footage, the court said, will show the incident in which Ms Bennett “whipped” the accused.

Mr McGinn said evidence will be that things “calmed down” between the couple before they moved to a small public toilet outside the car park with another man. “They used to go there to protect themselves from the rain and to drink there. It was a single stall with a toilet in it and a sliding door, and you had to put some money in it,” he said.

Referring to the evidence against the accused, Mr McGinn said that Mr Ballard violently assaulted Ms Bennett while they were in the toilet. The other man tried to intervene but Mr. Ballard pushed him out of the toilet and he [the other man] fell.

There will be evidence, Mr McGinn said, that Mr Ballard returned to the toilet and continued his assault on Ms Bennett.

He also advised the jury that various members of the public had seen some of what happened. “They saw a man in the door of a toilet repeatedly kicking or stomping on something. At the time, it was not clear to members of the public that what he kicked and stepped on Ms. Bennett’s head,” he outlined.

The court will also hear evidence, the attorney said, that an off-duty security guard walked by at the time and was first at the scene. By the time the guard arrived, however, Mr. Ballard had left the crime scene. The guard found Ms Bennett alive but in critical condition with serious injuries to her head and face.

Ms Bennett was taken to hospital where her condition stabilized but she eventually died on February 10, 2021.

The lawyer said the CCTV footage did not show exactly what happened in the toilet, but did show Mr Ballard walking away from the scene. “It appears he went to a nearby diner where he demanded some free food and hit a car as he was crossing the street,” he said.

The lawyer further stated that the defendant returned to his place of residence at the Ashford Court Hotel and spoke to the manager, who called the Gardaí when he saw blood on Mr Ballard. The defendant was then arrested and taken to Shannon Garda Station, where he said “certain things” which the attorney said will be part of the case for the jury to consider.

The attorney said the court will hear that Mr Ballard was originally charged with assaulting Ms Bennett. However, the defendant was arrested again on March 24, 2021 after the mother of two died on February 10 and charged with murder.

The attorney said the jury needed to focus on what Mr Ballard had in mind that day and what his intention was in inflicting “unlawful violence” on Ms Bennett.

Mr McGinn said prosecutors needed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that either Mr Ballard intended to kill Ms Bennett or at least cause her serious harm.

He explained that the state’s case is that the natural consequence of kicking and repeatedly trampling on someone in the head would cause serious harm.

The court will also hear that all parties were intoxicated when this happened, but the lawyer pointed out that intoxication is not a legal defense. “A drunken intent is still a premeditated act,” he added.

The defendant’s attorney, Mark Nicholas SC, then made a number of confessions on behalf of his client. Mr Nicholas said Ms Bennett’s death was unlawful murder but his client denied it was murder. “He admits his actions caused the death of Sharon Bennett,” he concluded.

The trial will continue this afternoon before Judge Paul Burns and a jury of seven men and five women. It is expected to last two weeks. Man pleads not guilty to murder as court hears he ‘repeatedly’ kicked and kicked his partner in the head in Ennis public toilet

Fry Electronics Team

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