A 35-year-old man has admitted that his actions caused the death of his partner who died after she was violently attacked in Co Clare last year, and that her killing was unlawful.

Patrick Ballard, with an address at the Ashfield Hotel in Ennis, has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Sharon Bennett, a 29-year-old mother-of-two, in the Market area of the town in February of last year.

The court was told that Mr Ballard kicked and stamped on Ms Bennett when he attacked her in a public toilet. She died in hospital two weeks later.

The Central Criminal Court heard details today of the circumstances that led to Ms Bennett's death.

Prosecuting counsel Dominic McGinn told the jury that Ms Bennett had been in a relationship with Mr Ballard for a few months, that they were habitual drinkers and that on 28 January 2021 they had been drinking with about four or five other people in a covered area in the car park.

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An argument broke out between them, he said, and Ms Bennett "lashed out" at Patrick Ballard and kicked him in the face while he was sitting on the ground. The attack was witnessed by the other drinkers and by skateboarders who also used the car park. It was also captured on CCTV.

Mr McGinn said that things settled down and the couple, along with another man Hussein Abdullah, who was known as Jamsie, moved to the nearby public toilet, a single cubicle unit, to stay out of the rain and drink together.

The prosecution counsel said, however, that once they were in the toilet, Mr Ballard violently attacked Ms Bennett and although Jamsie tried to intervene, Mr Ballard pushed him away and out of the toilet, turned and continued the attack.

He also said that members of the public and motorists saw a man in the doorway repeatedly kicking and stamping on something but did not realise it was Ms Bennett's head.

An off-duty garda who was passing was first on the scene and the emergency services were called. Sharon Bennett had sustained severe head and face injuries and died in hospital on 10 February 2021.

Patrick Ballard left the scene before the emergency services arrived and while the incident was not captured on CCTV, footage shows him walking away. He went to a takeaway where he demanded free food, crossed the road and "lashed out" at a car before returning to the hotel where he was staying.

Mr McGinn said the manager saw blood and as a result of what Mr Ballard had said to him, called the gardaí and the 35-year-old was arrested. He was initially charged with assault but subsequently charged in March of last year with the murder of Sharon Bennett, after she had died.

The prosecution told the jury that while all parties to the incident were intoxicated, drunken intent is still intent and intoxication is no defence to a charge of murder.

Defence Counsel Mark Nicholas said that "following on these terrible tragic events" Mr Ballard agrees to certain things including that his arrest, detention, processing and questioning by gardaí were lawful and carried out appropriately.

He also told the jury that this was "a tragic situation" where the "unfortunate Sharon Bennett died".

Patrick Ballard, he said, accepts that his actions caused her death. He accepts the killing was unlawful. He denies it was murder but admits his actions "unfortunately caused the death of Sharon Bennett" and that it was an unlawful killing but not murder.

The trial continues.