A Coleraine man hanged himself last January after stabbing and beating his partner for three hours in what coroner John Lecky yesterday described as “most horrifying account” he had ever heard.
The inquest into the suicide of William Martin Hasson (41) heard that he attacked Ruth McGrath with two knives — slicing her liver and bowel — as their terrified seven-year-old daughter listened in the next room.
The clerk of Coleraine Coroner’s Court broke down in tears after delivering the harrowing depositions related to the case.
Mother-of-three Ms McGrath said she only escaped with her life because she pretended to be dead.
She told the court that her 10-year relationship with the deceased, who had broken her nose previously, had “deteriorated” and that he was only living in their home at Glenwood Avenue in the town for the sake of their daughter Kyla.
She described him as “possessive” and “depressive” and that she believed he had been abusive to other partners in the past but that she “defended herself”. Ms McGrath said she had gone to bed in the early hours of January 10 in 2009 as kitchen fitter Hasson drank cider and smoked cannabis. She woke to the bedroom door being opened and the light coming on.
Then came a horrifying three-hour ordeal in which she was stabbed with a kitchen knife and a decorative blade, punched, kicked, had a pillow placed over her face and had her head slammed off furniture.
In between it all, Hasson stopped to smoke cigarettes and went to talk to his daughter in the next room.
He also texted her friend, blaming her for the attack, and went through Ms McGrath’s text messages as she slipped in and out of consciousness and pleaded “let me die with dignity”.
She added: “He told me that none of us was getting out of the bedroom alive he told me he had been planning it. He said he wasn’t doing time for me.”
During one pause in the attack when Hasson lay on the bed and comforted her, Ms McGrath asked: “How can you say you love me when you are trying to take me away from Kyla?”
She described how, towards the end of the attack, she was bringing up blood and saw Hasson standing over her with a rope around his neck.
“He was going to kill me, then himself. I thought the only way I was going to survive was to pretend I was dying or dead. I could see him standing over me, I was afraid to move.
“When I opened my eyes, I saw Willie hanging.”
Ms McGrath said she then took a barricade off the door and went to sit on the sofa and rang police.
The brave mum was in the Causeway Hospital for four weeks before being transferred to the Mater in Belfast. Her bowel and liver were pierced and her gall bladder was removed.
Police witnesses described arriving at the house at 4.40am to find Ms McGrath wrapped in a stained duvet and Hasson hanging from a hatch in the bedroom, above a bed splattered with blood.
John Lecky told the court: “In all my time as coroner, this is the most horrifying account I have ever heard. It’s what you expect from a video nasty — this is real life.”
He praised the emergency services for their dealings with the case and said it “must be one of the worst incidences of domestic violence in Northern Ireland”.
He ruled that Hasson, described as “mildly intoxicated”, had died by his own act while the balance of his mind was disturbed.
He said that Hasson — who police say was not known to them on any domestic violence matters — had intended to kill his partner and then himself.
Mr Lecky also passed his best wishes on to Kyla and her mother for their continuing recovery, adding: “I can’t help but think that if (Ms McGrath) had not found her way downstairs, she may not be here today.”
‘I never thought he’d go this far; he was a coward’
Ruth McGrath, who played dead to escape her violent partner, has told how she is trying to rebuild her life.
She described William Martin Hasson as “a coward” but maintains that despite her injuries and trauma her life must go on.
She said she never thought the man she met at a Christmas party a decade ago would ever go so far as to try to kill her.
Ruth, who also has sons aged 21 and 23, said both her and her daughter have received extensive counselling following their ordeal.
“I did not know at the time but she heard everything, she was aware and he went in to her to tell her to lie there and be quiet,” she said.
“She misses him, she loves him, he was her daddy, it is very confusing for her. She goes through different stages.
“I wonder how the wee girl gets on with it, she is a normal eight-year-old girl.
“She sees his family and it is up to her. After what happened, I want her to have as normal a life as possible.”
Addressing women — or men — who may find themselves in a similar situation, she said: “I kept him in the house because it was Christmas, I was being nice. My attitude now would be — get him out.
“He had planned it, it was pre-meditated, it wasn’t spontaneous. I never thought he would go this far. He was a coward, that’s why he attacked me in the bed, I wasn’t scared of him. He didn’t attack me for years but he was violent with other women. He was only there for my child.
“There were a few occasions when I thought he was going to finish me off, he said “I’m not going to jail for you”.
She added: “I’ve as full a life as I can have and I will lead my life the way I want to. I have internal problems but I won’t let them stop me.
“I hope to get back to work, and be a good mum to my children.”
Aaron McGrath (21) who was living in the house at the time of the attack and was woken at a friend’s house by police responding to his mother’s distress call, said that seeing what Hasson had done to his mother was “pure hell” but added: “We just want to get back to normal.”