Charges withdrawn against man accused of partner’s murder

Gary O'Dowd
Gary O'Dowd

A man accused of killing his partner walked free from court on Friday after the prosecution withdrew all charges against him.

Gary O’Dowd (38), from Brookfield Avenue in Banbridge, had been accused of the murder of his dental nurse girlfriend Laura Marshall on a date unknown between March 31 and April 3, 2016.

He had also faced an accusation of threatening to kill Miss Marshall “intending that Laura Marshall would fear it would be carried out” and with assaulting her on March 23.

In a statement on Friday afternoon, the PPS said: “I can confirm the PPS has decided to withdraw all charges against Gary O’Dowd without prejudice.

“This decision was taken for a number of reasons, including witness availability in the coming months.

“The Test for Prosecution on these charges remains met and the course of action taken today provides the PPS with the option to reinstate charges at a future point.

“The PPS has met with the family of the victim to explain the reasons behind this development and will continue to keep in close contact with them.”

Previous courts have heard how the body of the popular dental nurse, described as “bubbly, fun loving and full of life” by her friends, was found by a maintenance man in a block of flats on Victoria Street in Lurgan on Sunday, April 3.

Police launched a murder investigation following a post mortem examination and O’Dowd was arrested that evening, denying involvement in his partner’s death throughout a week of police questioning.

Giving evidence to the court when O’Dowd first appeared accused of the murder, a detective sergeant outlined how Miss Marshall was found in the bath with a deep cut to her wrist.

The wash hand basin had been wrenched from the wall and it was the subsequent leak which alerted the workman who made the macabre discovery said the detective, describing how the bathroom was a “violent scene” with a “significant amount of blood pool near the sink and some in the bath.”

He also told the court that there was bruising all over her body and that the pathologist Professor Crane said there “may be indication of forced sex”.

The detective added that a police doctor took a penile swab from O’Dowd and “bruising was noted that he could not account for.”

Revealing how there had been repeated allegations of domestic abuse made against O’Dowd but that each time his girlfriend retracted her statement, the detective told the previous court the last incident occurred on March 23 when Ms Marshall had phoned 999 claiming she had been head-butted by O’Dowd and choked by him until she almost passed out.

He allegedly told her: “I will kill you. I will ruin you. I will stab you in the temple.”

Within days, Ms Marshall was dead.

The detective said that on the day of her death, Laura had exchanged more than 40 texts with Gary O’Dowd.

One she sent him said: “I miss you. I keep falling out of your side of the bed. I’ll love you forever,” the court heard leading the officer to comment that “she clearly wanted him back”.

“This was a typical, sad, depressing domestic violence cycle,” he added.

During a bail application at the High Court, the prosecution claimed Miss Marshall’s death had been caused by drowning but defence counsel Gavyn Cairns told the court another retired pathologist has concluded that Miss Marshall did not drown.

“We say the deceased was found in a bath with the hot tap running,” he submitted.

“She has a very serious, 9cm wound to her forearm. Looking at that there’s every prospect that there was no crime here at all.

“This is a classic (case) in a hot bath, with a very pronounced wound to the wrist, that there’s a very strong prospect of exsanguination (bleeding to death).”

In court a prosecution lawyer said he was applying for all charges to be withdrawn, effectively ending the case.