By Paul Higgins
A woman who tried to mask the smell of her boyfriend’s decomposing corpse was scented candles was given a two year sentence today (tues).
Jailing 54-year-old Angela Irwin for a year and ordering her to spend a spend a further year under supervised licence, Antrim Crown Court Judge Melody McReynolds said it was a “very tragic case.”
The judge read out what she described as a “very poignant” victim impact statement from the mother of Robin McMaster where she outlined how she had been phoning every day since November 12 and was told that her son had a sore back.
Judge McReynolds revealed how his mum felt like her son had been “left like a piece of rotting meat” to decompose and was now “serving a life sentence of a broken mother.”
At an earlier hearing Irwin, whose address is given as c/o Holywell Hospital, entered guilty pleas to preventing the lawful burial of a corpse on a date between 13-22 November last year and to fraud by false representation in that she ordered prescription medication from a GP “on the pretence that the medication was for the treatment of another.”
Although jailed for a year today (tues), the court heard Irwin has already spent 11 months on remand waiting for the case to be dealt with.
Prosecuting counsel Michael Chambers told the court how the badly decomposed body of Mr McMaster was in the bedroom of the flat he shared with Irwin at Devenagh Court in Ballymena.
His brother had come round to look for him and having stormed past Irwin, discovered him in the bedroom.
Irwin was originally arrested on suspicion of murder but an autopsy determined the cause of death was likely to have been an overdose of prescription medication.
Mr Chambers said various family members had called between November 13 and 22 when Irwin had told them Mr McMaster “was unwell and shouldn’t be disturbed.”
The fraud arose when, on November 21, Irwin contacted the dead man’s GP to get a prescription for sleeping tablets and antihistamines.
When interviewed Irwin eventually admitted that her partner had been dead for “a significant period of time.”
The family had been caused distress because they had been calling to the house and were told he was unwell when he was actually deceased, said Mr Chambers.
Defence counsel Stephen Law told the court that Irwin “wished to unreservedly apologise and offer her sympathy to the family members and accepted their grief had been compounded by her actions.”
He said when she is released Irwin will be alone as she has no family, her children don’t speak and because of media coverage of the case, she cannot go back to the Ballymena area.
Sentencing Irwin, Judge McReynolds said evidence showed Mr McMaster could have been dead for two to three weeks because of the level of decomposition.
She told Irwin a condition of her licence in that she is must co-operate with the probation and mental health services and was warned if she did not, her licence would be revoked.