Stephen Cahoon, has been found guilty of murdering pregnant mother-of-four, Jean Teresa Quigley, for the second time after three trials over a period of six years.
The trial, which has made legal history, saw Cahoon (43), charged under the Criminal Law Jurisdiction Act of 1976 and having opted for trial in the Republic, he became the first person to be tried for a murder which had been committed in Northern Ireland.
Even though it has rarely been the law for almost 30 years, up until now cases under the act have been tried before the three-judge, non-jury Special Criminal Court. Cahoon, with a last address at Harvey Street in the city, admitted strangling his ex-girlfriend who was 10-weeks pregnant with his child at the time, but had denied it was murder. The jury heard that Ms Quigley’s naked and bruised body was discovered at her home by her mother, Ms Emma McBride, in Londonderry’s Cornshell Fields area on July 26, 2008.
On Thursday, December 3, a Central Criminal Court jury found Cahoon guilty by unanimous verdict of murdering Ms Quigley having deliberated for three hours 43 minutes. The defendant, who gave direct evidence at the trial, had told the jury that he “handcuffed” Ms Quigley’s hand to her bed and “taped” her other hand to the other side of the headboard before having sex.
Afterwards Cahoon said he saw “red” when Ms Quigley told him the baby was not his and so he “grabbed and pushed” her and put his “hand on her throat”.
Prosecution counsel, Mr. Patrick Marrinan S.C., said Cahoon had made a “conscious decision to leave a woman who was unwell and needed assistance and lock her in the house.”
He said: “There was no loss of self-control that was temporary and overwhelming to give rise to a defence of provocation.”
Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy, thanked the jury for their service stating they struck her “as a very engaged and conscientious jury.”
This was Cahoon’s third trial for murdering his pregnant ex-girlfriend and he has served close to 10 years in prison.
In his first Central Criminal Court trial a hung jury failed to reach a verdict. Then on April 30, 2012, a jury unanimously found him guilty of murder at the Central Criminal Court and he was immediately sentenced to life imprisonment by Mr Justice Barry White. However in March of this year, the Court of Appeal quashed his conviction due to an error in the judge’s instructions to the jury, ordering a retrial and remanded Cahoon in custody. An unemployed labourer, originally from Magherafelt, Cahoon successfully appealed his conviction on the basis that the trial judge had misdirected the jury while explaining the defence of provocation.