A HUSBAND DISPLAYED the “ultimate in toxic masculinity” by stabbing his wife to death in an effort to control the end of their marriage, a prosecution barrister has told a murder trial jury.
Renato Gehlen “lost control” of his wife Anne Colomines and his marriage and could not handle it, so he stabbed her through the heart, Shane Costelloe SC said today.
The accused’s actions that night, counsel said, were “the last roll of the dice” and amounted to “the ultimate in toxic masculinity by trying to regain what he saw as controlling the situation and him putting the final full stop at the end of their marriage, not her”.
Costelloe gave his closing speech today in the Central Criminal Court trial of Gehlen (39), a Brazilian national who has pleaded not guilty to murdering his wife Colomines (37), a French national who worked for Paypal, at their home in Dorset Square, Gardiner Street upper, Dublin 1 on 25 October 2017.
The trial has heard that Gehlen, who denies murdering Colomines, told gardaí that he and his wife had a fight about “another man”. He said Colomines had a knife and he didn’t know if she was going to do something to him or herself. The accused said he tried to grab the knife and as they struggled, he heard Colomines say, “ah!” and he lost his balance and fell to the ground beside the bed.
She fell also, he said, and then used the knife to stab herself in the abdomen. The accused said Colomines’ eyes were wide open and she locked her jaw as she stabbed herself in the middle of the chest.
Gehlen told gardaí it was “50/50 blame on both sides” and that he “tried to make her stop”. He told gardaí that he then tried to kill himself because Colomines was his family.
Chief State Pathologist Dr Linda Mulligan has given evidence that she found four stab wounds to Colomines’ body, a 22 centimetre incised wound to her throat and six incisions on her hands that she said were consistent with defensive injuries. Taking all the injuries together, Dr Mulligan said, it was “highly unlikely” the deceased stabbed herself to death.
‘Catalogue of wounds’
Addressing the jury today, Costelloe said there was a “catalogue of wounds” to Colomines and if they decided that Gehlen had perpetrated those wounds, they could be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that he had intended to kill her or cause her serious injury.
“You do not plunge a knife through the heart of someone penetrating the sac so it comes out the other side unless you intend to kill or cause serious injury,” he added.
Costelloe submitted that the couple’s marriage was ending “if not ended”.
We live in the 21st century, the barrister said, and even if one’s wife is having an affair and is unfaithful that does not give one the right “to plunge a knife through her chest and kill her”.
“You cannot decide to kill her because you are annoyed, embarrassed or humiliated that she is now seeing someone else. We do not accept that is good enough to the defence of a charge of murder,” he continued.
He drew the jury’s attention to Gehlen using his laptop eight to nine days before his wife had died to look up the Facebook profile of Colomines’s new boyfriend and see if the deceased was on Tinder. Costelloe pointed out that these actions demonstrated the accused’s state of mind before he killed his wife.
When Gehlen was released from hospital gardaí arrested him and he told them that Colomines had stabbed herself and that was how she died. Costelloe called this proposition “ridiculous” and said it was “insulting” that the jury be asked to “swallow this”.
He continued: “A woman who is happily sitting in her bedroom communicating on Facebook with her new boyfriend in what she sees as her future with him – whilst her husband seethes downstairs – that she decides to kill herself. It is patently nonsense”.
The trial had heard that on the night Colomines died, she exchanged 296 messages with her new French boyfriend whom she had met a few months earlier in France. The exchange ended at 23:06 and emergency responders arrived to find Colomines’ lifeless body in her bedroom less than 30 minutes later.
Furthermore, Costelloe reminded the jury that Gehlen had messaged his friend on Facebook just two hours before he committed the crime and said “I really want to stab”. There can be no reasonable doubt of what was going through his mind, Costelloe submitted, when the accused stabbed his wife numerous times.
Going through the evidence in the trial, Costelloe said what happened that night was a man who had lost control of his wife and could not handle it. Counsel said the accused had also lost control of his marriage and could not handle the fact it was over.
“He is not getting it [the marriage] back and she made it clear that she is not coming back. He is humiliated and cannot handle that his marriage has ended and what it means for him, his status here and his own view of himself. He is embarrassed, upset and distraught,” he continued.
Costelloe argued that the evidence suggested beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused had stabbed his wife. He said that Colomines was stabbed with such force that the knife went through her heart and such was his intent to kill that he should be found guilty of murder.
Giving his closing statement today defence counsel Seamus Clarke SC, for Gehlen, called this “a tragic case from beginning to end”, no matter what version of events the jury accepted. He acknowledged that the couple were “madly in love with each other” and had got married in 2012.
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Clarke noted that when Colomines told his client that the marriage was over and she wanted a divorce, Gehlen did not know another person was in the relationship and that the accused “harboured the hope” that their marriage could be saved.
“It was unknown to him that she had a new boyfriend,” he added.
Unfortunately people who have future plans can end their own lives, Clarke said, and submitted that the prosecution had not excluded the possibility that the deceased’s injuries were self-inflicted.
It was entirely possible that the “struggle over the knife”, where the accused said Colomines plunged the knife into the middle of her chest, could have happened and if this “set of actions” was reasonably possible then the jury had a duty to acquit his client, he submitted.
In cross-examination during the trial pathologist Dr Mulligan had agreed with Clarke that she could not rule out entirely that the wounds to Colomines were self-inflicted. She said that given the different injuries, it was “highly unlikely”, but, she added: “It can’t be 100% ruled out.”
Whilst Clarke acknowledged that it was not acceptable to spy on another person on their computer, it did not make his client guilty of anything beyond installing the software on a laptop.
He noted that Colomines suffered from depression and argued that one has no way of knowing how one would react in the given circumstances.
Clarke concluded by saying that if the jury had a doubt then they must acquit Gehlen and he asked them to return a verdict of not guilty of murder.
Mr Justice Michael MacGrath will complete his charge to the jury of seven men and five women tomorrow before they commence their deliberations.
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