Sister of murdered mother calls for greater protection of domestic abuse victims

Peter Doyle

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Peter Doyle

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The grieving sister of a young mother who was savagely stabbed to death by her violent ex-partner has called for greater legal protection for women in abusive relationships.

Lisa Finnegan also urged other women in similar relationships to speak out and seek protection before it’s too late.

She was speaking outside court after Vesel Jahiri was sentenced to life imprisonment for killing her sister Anna Finnegan one month after the deceased had sought shelter at a women’s refuge.

Speaking to reporters on the steps of the Central Criminal Court, Dublin, today, Monday, May 8, Lisa Finnegan said: “Don’t be afraid. I know the fear Anna was in. She was petrified to come forward.

“But when she did, she was so relieved that she did.”

“It was tragic what happened,” she added. “And we’re hoping that some kind of law will be changed so that women are protected the second they decide to come forward and speak out against the violence that’s been rained down on them.

“We’re hoping somebody is listening to this and will make some move to make it safe for young women to come forward.”

Jahiri (35), of no fixed abode, had pleaded not guilty to murdering Anna Finnegan (25) at Allendale Glen, Clonsilla, Dublin 15, on September 21, 2012.

He has also pleaded not guilty to assaulting Anna’s brother Karl Finnegan, causing him harm, at the same place on the same date.

But last month a jury found Jahiri, who is originally from Kosovo, guilty on both counts.

During the trial, Jahiri assaulted prosecution lawyer Patrick Marrinan SC in front of the jury after dismissing his legal team and deciding to represent himself.

Today, three prison officers in full riot gear accompanied the hand-cuffed accused into court for his sentencing hearing.

Prior to Lisa Finnegan giving a victim impact statement, Jahiri asked to be removed from the court, telling the trial judge, Mr Justice Paul Coffey, that he “didn’t want to listen to him (Mr Marrinan). I will come back when he’s finished.”

After Jahiri left the dock, Lisa Finnegan took the stand.

The grieving woman told the court that her “mind has never recovered” after her sister, whom she described as an “angel” and “an amazing mother”, was “murdered in such a savage and terrifying manner” by “a monster.”

And she told how she and her family lived in “terror” as they waited on the killer – who had fled the country during a previous trial for the same charge – being apprehended and brought to justice.

She said: ”Anna told me the night before she was murdered some of the physical and mental torture which had been rained down on her poor little body and already exhausted mind.

“As Ann and I never got to finish our chat, I’m now left with despicable and torturous imaginings of what her short adult life had entailed. On that fatal night when my brother Karl was also attacked and assaulted by this monster I, moments after the attack, was told he would be down for myself and my children.”

“Instant terror entered our lives until he was eventually found,” she added. “Then pure terror again while he was on bail, and after he absconded I barely left my home or left my children’s side. Sleep was a thing of the past. I was a prisoner in my own home, always ready to defend myself or my family.

“I couldn’t see Anna’s babies for fear that we were being watched, which we knew he did on Anna so many times.

“Our lives have mostly been a living hell for the past four-and-a-half year.

“The only possible way we could ever begin to move on and try to be happy again is knowing we are safe for the longest possible time.

“We hope and pray the court will consider the fear we endured.

“The shocking and violent behaviour displayed to us all makes me sadly understand even more how scared she was of him.

“He took an angel that night. A wonderful, loving, kind, selfless soul. An amazing mother and best sister and friend.

“We will never get over the loss of Anna. I will never get over my sister’s life being taken so brutally but I will live my life as best I can in her memory and, please God, without fear.”

Anna Finnegan’s brother Karl Finnegan, who was stabbed moments before Jahiri fatally attacked his estranged partner, told the court that his sister was “his rock” and that “no words” could describe the “hole in my life now that she’s gone”.

Mr Finnegan added: “She was such a gentle soul, a doting and devoted mother,” adding that her children had been “robbed of their gentle and loving mammy”.

Earlier, Detective Garda Bernard Connaughton agreed with prosecution counsel Patrick Marrinan that Anna Finnegan was forced to flee to a women’s refuge due to the level of physical and emotional abuse she was being subjected to by the accused.

Det Gda Connaughton also agreed with counsel that social workers had placed Anna “at the highest level in relation to her safety”.

Describing the events immediately prior to the fatal stabbing, Mr Marrinan said Jahiri had kicked in the door at the house where Anna Finnegan had been living with her brother.

He added: “The accused moved quickly from the front door. He had a knife in his hands and he stabbed Carl Finnegan. At that stage, Carl Finnegan felt weak and Anna Finnegan ran from the kitchen.”

“Anna Finnegan,” he added “ran to the neighbours for help but collapsed on the pavement and it was apparent she had suffered a deep stab wound that led to her death”.

Mr Marrinan added that Anna Finnegan later pointed at the accused as she lay dying in the James Connolly Memorial Hospital, Dublin, and said: “He did it.”

Sentencing Jahiri to life, Mr Justice Coffey also jailed him for four years for assaulting Karl Finnegan.


EVIDENCE HEARD IN TRIAL

During the eight week trial Janice O'Neill, a friend of Anna Finnegan's, was called by the prosecution to give evidence. The witness told the court that Anna called to her house after midday on September 21 with her two children. She said that Anna made a phone call to Mr Jahiri at 6pm and put her phone on loudspeaker so Ms O'Neill could hear the conversation. Ms O'Neill said she heard Mr Jahiri threaten Anna on the phone call, just hours before she died, saying:“I know where you fucking are, I’ll come and kill yous [Sic].”

The older brother of the deceased, Karl Finnegan, gave evidence that Mr Jahiri had been his sister’s partner for ten years. He said they had been together since she was 16 years old and they had two children. Mr Finngean said his sister’s relationship with Mr Jahiri ended at the end of August, 2012 with Anna moving to Bray Women’s Refuge. He said a social worker had put a safety plan in place and he was staying in Anna’s house temporarily for that reason.

Mr Finnegan said he got to his sister's house at Allendale Glen around 7.30pm on September 21 and Anna then arrived home with her children. The witness testified that he and his sister were sitting at the kitchen table when they heard a “loud bang” as the front door of the house was being forced in. He looked up and saw Vesel coming down the hall with a knife. Anna screamed and stood up from the table.

Mr Finnegan said he picked up a chair to “keep a bit of distance” between him and Vesel but the chair was then “gone” and he did not know how that happened. Karl Finnegan said he then blacked out and awoke with stab wounds. He said his head was bleeding but he did not realise at the time that blood was coming from his chest. He said Vesel and Anna were no longer in the kitchen. He went outside and saw Anna standing in the driveway of the house next door and Vesel was a few feet in front of her. He said Anna passed out and fell to the ground when they were in front of her house. Vesel then came around the corner in his car, put Anna into the back and drove off.

The court heard Mr Finnegan received two stab wounds, one to his chest and the other to the right side of his head. 

Ms Joan Broe testified that she was walking her dog in the Allendale Glen estate at 8.30pm on September 21 when she heard Anna Finnegan screaming: “Help us, somebody help us.” The witness said she then saw Anna Finnegan, Vesel Jahiri and Karl Finnegan in the driveway of the house next door. She said Ms Finnegan was screaming into Mr Jahiri’s face saying: “Leave him alone.” She said she saw Mr Jahiri chase his former partner, bring her to the ground and punch her to her right hand side.

Ms Caroline Croly, a next-door neighbour of the deceased, said Anna Finnegan knocked at her front door on the evening of September 21. Ms Croly said Anna looked very frightened and was shaking saying: “Call the police, call the police.” The witness said she then saw a figure of a man coming into her garden. Ms Croly said she got a fright and closed the door.

Mr Valdas Marma, a neighbour of the deceased, said in his evidence that he saw a dark-haired woman holding her hands tightly around her body before she collapsed in the driveway.

Lisa Finnegan, the deceased's sister, told the trial that she was driving to James Connolly Memorial Hospital on September 21 when Vesel rang her phone."He told me he was coming down for me and my children next," she said.

The jury viewed CCTV footage of Mr Jahiri driving his car at speed up to the doors of the Accident and Emergency Department at James Connolly Memorial Hospital at 8.50pm on September 21. Mr Jahiri lifted Anna Finnegan out of the back seat of the car and left her on the ground before security personnel arrive and lifted her onto a trolley.

Mr Korill Allen, a security officer attached to James Connolly Memorial Hospital, said he heard a car arrive at the entrance of the Emergency Department at 8.50pm. He said as he was in the process of lifting Anna Finnegan onto a trolley, she pointed at Mr Jahiri and said: “He did it.” After moving Anna into the resuscitation area of the hospital, he went outside and both Mr Jahiri and his car were gone.

Dr Joseph McKeever, a trauma surgeon at the hospital gave evidence that Anna Finnegan had a wound on the left hand side of her chest. He said he attempted to resuscitate Ms Finnegan but she was unresponsive and died from blood loss. He declared her dead at 22.31 on September 21.

Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis told the jury that Anna Finnegan died from a single stab wound to the chest. The stab wound had entered the left chest cavity in the space between the seventh and eight rib and caused a “massive haemorrhage”.

Ms Helga Duffy testified that Mr Jahiri came to her house in Dundalk on September 21 and told her “something bad had happened” when he went to see his children at Anna’s house that evening. Ms Duffy said Mr Jahiri told her that Anna’s brother came at him with a knife and that Anna had got involved but got hurt in her side.

Detective Inspector Ciaran McAnaney told the trial that Mr Jahiri presented himself voluntarily at Cabra Garda Station at 5.40pm on September 22. The trial heard that Mr Jahiri removed a black-handled kitchen knife from the pocket of his jacket and placed it on a table.

Sergeant Patrick Traynor told the trial that Mr Jahiri said in his first garda interview that he did not stab his former partner and had no weapon on him when he forced his way into her house. He said he was angry as he was told by social services that he would never see his children again.

Dr Hilary Clarke from Forensic Science Ireland gave evidence that DNA matching that of Anna Finnegan was found on the black-handled kitchen knife. She said that two DNA profile's obtained from blood-staining on the tip of the blade and the edge of the knife matched the deceased's profile.

Detective Garda James Cunningham, attached to the Fingerprint Section of the Garda Technical Bureau, said Mr Jahiri's fingermark was found on the blade of the same bloodstained knife that had yielded the deceased's DNA.

The trial also heard that Anna Finnegan wrote a letter to her former partner where she stated that he had beaten her, made her life "hell" and had almost killed her a few times. The three-paged letter, which was never sent to Mr Jahiri, was found in a handbag which was located in the kitchen of Allendale Glen on September 23. The court heard that there was no date on the letter but it was written two or three weeks previously, before Anna moved to Bray Women’s Refuge with her two children.

Anna Finnegan also sent text messages to Mr Jahiri saying she did not want to see him again and wanted to feel “safe without some animal beating and bullying” her. The mother-of-two called him “a control freak”.

Just two weeks into the trial Jahiri, a mechanic by trade, dismissed his legal team. During the trial Jahiri alleged that gardai were engaged in “collusion” with witnesses and evidence had been tampered with. Last month, the judge told Jahiri that he was “throwing out allegations” at witnesses “like confetti” and proceeded to exclude Jahiri from court because he was not abiding by correct procedure.

This was Jahiri's second trial for murdering Anna Finnegan after a jury failed to reach a verdict in his first trial in 2014. They had deliberated for more then 10 hours over three days. At the time, the foreman of the jury told Mr Justice Paul McDermott that they had disagreed on both counts and he did not believe that further time would allow them to reach an agreement. Jahiri failed to turn up for the final days of his first trial and a bench warrant was issued for his arrest.