Pensioner’s killer was in ‘heroin hell’ after baby daughter’s death

Eddie Girvan was killed by Margaret Henderson-McCarroll in January last year
Eddie Girvan was killed by Margaret Henderson-McCarroll in January last year

A court has heard that the life of a woman who killed a pensioner in his Co Antrim home had descended into a “heroin hell” following the cot death of her infant daughter.

The remarks were made by defence QC John McCrudden during a sentencing hearing at Belfast Crown Court in the case of Margaret Henderson-McCarroll.

The 31-year-old, formerly of a hostel in Verner Street, Belfast, had pleaded guilty last month to Eddie Girvan’s manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

The mother-of-three admitted unlawfully killing the 67-year-old in his Station Road home in Greenisland in January 2016 by stabbing him in the chest with a cake knife while high on a cocktail of heroin and crystal meth drugs.

She further admitted eight other charges arising out of the killing including theft, attempted theft, aggravated vehicle taking causing damage, dangerous driving, driving when unfit through drink or drugs, driving without insurance, failing to stop and failing to report an accident.

At a hearing 10 days ago, prosecution counsel Charles McCreanor QC told Mr Justice Treacy that Mr Girvan and Henderson-McCarroll had been known to each other for some years.

“She would come and stay with the deceased at his home and he would pay her for sexual relations,” said the prosecution counsel.

Defence solicitor John McCrudden QC told the judge on Monday that at the time of the killing, the defendant had an addiction to opiates.

He said that in 2012, Henderson-McCarroll had been clean of drugs while pregnant and remained clean from drugs following the birth of her daughter Lily Rose.

However, Mr McCrudden said that six weeks after her birth, Lily Rose had died as a result of a cot death which he said had a “catastrophic” effect on the life of Henderson-McCarroll.

“She thought that the birth of her daughter would be a fresh start for her but her life fell apart following the death of Lily Rose and she started to inject herion.

“Her life descended into a heroin hell.”

The defence QC added that Henderson-McCarroll “defended herself’’ when Mr Girvan came at her with a stick sword during a row, saying the killing was not “pre-planned or premeditated”.

Mr Justice Treacy remarked: “I have never seen a case like this where an individual person who has been gagged, where three ties were used to bind his hands and at least one tie used to tie his feet.

“He has been bound and gagged in three different areas. There must have been a fair degree of preparation on her part.’’

At this point, the defendant shouted out from the dock: “The place was a mess. There was stuff lying everywhere.

“You have already made your mind up about me fella. If you let me in the witness box I will tell you all what happened.’’

The judge told her defence QC: “This is a difficult and complex case and she should rest assured that this court has not made up its mind up despite what she says. Nothing could be further from the truth.’’

Mr Justice Treacy said that what he did not understand was “why did she not ring the police or ring the hospital? How do you explain that?’’

Mr McCrudden said she “didn’t really know how badly injured he was as there was not a lot of blood” and added that she then “left the house in a blind panic”.

Mr Justice Treacy said he agreed with the prosecution application to receive a supplementary report from a doctor to allow him to be “fully aware of her substantial background and that she has offences of serious violence that were associated with these street robberies”.

The doctor had compiled a report for the hearing saying he did not believe she posed a danger to the public on her release.

The court previously heard that Henderson-McCarroll had a record of 100 criminal convictions, including offences for assault during street robberies. In one attack, a man suffered a fracture to his leg.

The judge said he was adjourning the case until Friday to allow the doctor to review her criminal record and state whether or not this would change his view on the danger she posed to the public in the future.