STANDING opposite the love of her life while they exchanged their vows, Mary Gough looked into her husband’s eyes – unaware he was secretly plotting her death.
Just six months later, twisted Colin Whelan had strangled the 27-year-old and thrown her down the stairs in a bid to make her death appear an accident, in hopes of cashing in on a £400,000 life insurance policy he had taken out.
The killer, then 29, rang the emergency services in floods of tears pretending to be bereft at his wife’s death on March 1, 2001, and even conned friends and family initially about his innocence.
It would take almost two years to bring him to justice after he fled Ireland using a passport in another man’s name.
Looking back, Mary’s devastated mother Marie said: “He must have never thought anything of Mary and our family. He must have never loved her whatsoever and he had no thought for anyone but himself.”
Initially, emergency service workers thought the sudden death was an accident, but it had to be reported to the Irish Garda (police) as a matter of protocol.
But a shocking pathologist report revealed that they were actually dealing with a murder. Mary had been strangled and a tiny ligature mark was present on her neck.
At first, it appeared there was little evidence that Colin was behind the killing as he was seen as a loving husband in a caring relationship and didn’t fit the profile of a murderer.
Mary’s best pal Sinead Howard Byrne said: “I never saw Colin as a violent man. I thought he was very nice to Mary. He was kind. He bought her presents all the time and he seemed to be the perfect husband.”
But Mary’s mum Marie thought her daughter seemed unhappy on her wedding day and even more miserable on her return from her honeymoon.
She said: “After Mary came back from honeymoon I noticed a change. Mary was quieter and she wasn’t dressed up as she used to and Colin didn’t seem the same.
“The week leading up to what happened to her, she’d ring me every evening. When I think about it now, I realize she must have been trying to tell me something but couldn’t say it.”
When the cops searched Whelan’s computers, they found all their histories were wiped.
Thankfully, Colin’s workplace had a backup of all the staffs’ computers and allowed Garda to find searches from the two months before his wedding. It was revealed he had been researching how to strangle or asphyxiate someone.
The Investigating Sargent Frank Gallagher said: “It was like looking at a bad horror movie.”
They also discovered he had been looking up American serial killer Henry Wallace, whose modus operandi was to strangle victims without leaving a mark.
Hidden online affair
Whelan’s search history also provided a motivation. He had been having an affair with a woman in Wales on an online chatroom, who he’d promised to move to be with.
On top of this, he had taken out a life insurance policy for both him and Mary for £400,000, which lasted 10 years and gave no money back if not claimed.
Cops determined it was clear he intended to cash in on it.
He was charged with the murder of his wife and released on bail, but just six months in he disappeared and attempted to make it look like he had killed himself.
It sparked a 14-month long manhunt worldwide before two tip-offs linked him to Karama Bar in Majorca.
He was bartending at the luxury venue when a pal from school spotted him while there on holiday. He reported Whelan, who was going by the name Martin Sweeny, to the cops.
The venue manager Des Mitchell said: “There’s a lot of people who come to Majorca running away from something. We never asked what they’re running away from.”
Forced ex to have DIY abortion
Mary’s mum Marie said: “When I heard that Colin disappeared I thought, justice will never be done.”
Thankfully for the family, Colin became the first person successfully extradited from Spain to Ireland.
Ahead of the trial, where he eventually pled guilty, it came to light that he had attempted to force a previous girlfriend to have a DIY abortion and when she refused he kicked her in the stomach triggering a miscarriage.
While he admitted his horrific crime and gave a statement apologizing, not a single member of Mary’s family believe he ever cared for her.
Marie said: “He didn’t feel sorry when he’d done what he’d done. And he wouldn’t have ever been sorry, only he was caught.
“That’s one thing he was sorry for. He was caught.”
Getting Away With Murder: The Killing of Mary Gough is on Channel 5 tonight at 10pm