A former couple were sentenced to a combined 30 years in prison for the 2019 murder of Pat Ward in Clogher, County Tyrone. Niall Cox, 28, received a life sentence with a minimum term of 20 years after pleading guilty to murder. Karen McDonald, 37, was sentenced to 10 years for manslaughter, with half to be served in prison and half on license.
Ward, 30, originally from Sligo, Republic of Ireland, was found dead in an alleyway, having been beaten, kicked, and stabbed after spending the night drinking at the couple’s home. During McDonald’s trial, CCTV footage showed Ward being dragged from the house by Cox, with McDonald assisting for a few seconds. The prosecution argued that this indicated her complicity in the crime. McDonald claimed she was in an abusive relationship with Cox and acted under duress, but the jury rejected this defense.
Mr. Justice Stephen Fowler, presiding over the case at Dungannon Crown Court, said Cox executed a “brutal and savage attack” using multiple weapons. The judge noted the couple’s “supreme indifference” to Ward’s fate, describing McDonald’s account as a “pathetic lie which the jury rightly rejected.” Fowler commended Ward’s wife Ellen for her courage during the trial, stating, “What you have had to cope with would break many people.”
Ellen Ward described her late husband as her “entire world,” saying, “When Pat was murdered, my life was shattered. I can’t begin to understand how anyone could inflict such brutality.” The couple’s children will grow up without their father, and the sentencing will not alleviate that loss, she added.
Detective Inspector Claire McGarvey, speaking outside the court, acknowledged that the defendants had been held accountable for the “horrific” attack on Ward. “While I hope today’s outcome offers some degree of closure to Pat’s family, I’m mindful that it will not take away their heartache or their sadness,” she said.