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Homepage / Outside MAN / 'What happened is our worst nightmare, we miss her every minute' - mother of Joanne Ball tells inquest
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Outside MAN

‘What happened is our worst nightmare, we miss her every minute’ – mother of Joanne Ball tells inquest

Joanne’s body was found in a wardrobe in her estranged husband’s apartment at 92 Ranelagh Road on February 15 2018. She had been strangled six days earlier and her body was wrapped in a plastic bin bag and a sleeping bag and stored in a wardrobe.

“What has happened to Joanne is our worst nightmare, it changed our lives forever, we miss her and think of her every minute of every day,” Catherine Ball said.

At an inquest into her daughter’s death, Mrs Wall said she last saw her daughter alive on her birthday, February 2 and Joanne surprised her with a cake.

Joanne Lee, whose body was found in a wardrobe, with former partner Keith Lee

She described her daughter as bubbly and beautiful. She said Joanne loved hill-walking and animals and her four dogs and two cats were like her children. Joanne and Keith Lee had been together for 20 years and married for 13.

“She was addicted to Keith,” Mrs Ball said.

Joanne had come home to live with her mother at the end of 2017 after Lee had been arrested in relation to drugs. Their marriage broke up after Lee’s arrest when Joanne found he was cheating. Early in 2018, Joanne’s family were aware she had begun meeting him again to try and reconcile the marriage.

Joanne’s sister Jennifer Ball said the family always knew Lee was involved in drugs but thought it was minor.

“The family got on well with Keith, there were never any problems,” Jennifer Ball said.

On February 5 Joanne left home and went to meet Lee. They spent the next night, February 6 together at the Travelodge in Rathmines. That night, there was phone contact between Lee and another woman, Gemma Hanney.

Joanne Ball

While Joanne was in the Travelodge, Lee met Ms Hanney in a bar. He arranged to meet her at his flat, 92 Ranelagh Road the following day. He returned to the hotel and went to a nearby bar with Joanne that night.

Gemma Hanney said she met Keith Lee in September 2017 and they ‘just clicked.’

“I knew he was married but they’d split up because he was caught with drugs,” she said in a deposition read out at Dublin Coroner’s Court.

On February 7, Ms Hanney said she rang Lee’s phone and Joanne answered.

“She answered and said ‘hi, who’s this?’ It was Joanne,” Ms Hanney said in her statement.

The inquest heard Ms Hanney had been staying in the flat in Ranelagh with Lee but left the previous week.

On February 9, a witness saw Lee and Joanne get out of her car at 92 Ranelagh Road.

Gardai believe Joanne was killed that day.

Ms Hanney said she met Lee later the same day.

“I bumped into Keith outside his flat. He had a plaster on his ear and said she’d stabbed him with a scissors. He said he had locked her into the flat because she was going nuts,” Ms Hanney said.

There were several texts sent to and from Joanne’s phone after her death, the inquest heard.

“There was a large amount of activity relating to the sale and supply of drugs,” Det Garda Shane Griffin said.

He believed Mr Lee began texting Joanne’s phone in a bid to ‘dupe Gardai.’

“On February 10, he text Joanne and said ‘love you baby, haven’t been this happy since our world fell apart.’”

Lee used Joanne’s phone to text a reply to his phone.

‘Love you baby. I feel the same way. See you in a while x.’

Joanne’s sister Jennifer Ball was in touch by phone with Lee. She said the family were reporting her missing and urged him to do the same.  “I thought they might have run away together but I never thought she could be dead,” she said.

On February 15, Gardai called to the house in Ranelagh and broke down the door of a second floor apartment. Inside they found Marley, Joanne’s Rottweiler and an open window. They found Lee 30ft below in the back garden. His legs were entangled in a wooden chair. He told Gardai his legs were broken. He had a knife and began to self-harm.

“He said he killed her and she was in the wardrobe. He said he didn’t want to live and to let him die. He said she had stabbed him in the ear and he had killed her,” Det Gda Ronan Hobbs said.

An autopsy conducted by Professor Marie Cassidy gave the cause of death as asphyxia due to strangulation. A toxicology report found evidence of a small amount of cocaine, ketamine and codeine in her system but these played no role in her death.

The jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing. Keith Lee was found dead in his prison cell on April 12 2018.

Timeline:

Tuesday February 6 2018: Joanne Ball and Keith Lee spend the night in Travelodge hotel in Rathmines.

There was phone contact between Keith Lee and Gemma Hanney. While Joanne was in the Travelodge, Lee met Ms Hanney in a bar and arranged to meet her at 92 Ranelagh Road the following day. He returned to the hotel and went to a nearby bar with Joanne that night.

Wednesday February 7 2018: Keith Lee and Joanne check out of the hotel and returned to 92 Ranelagh Road at 1.30pm.

A row between Joanne and Keith occurred at that time. The following two days were described as ‘particularly chaotic.’ They left the flat in Joanne’s car and drove to Wicklow.

CCTV footage showed her car passing Glendalough Hotel in Co Wicklow.

Thursday February 8 2018: Keith Lee and Joanne Ball return to the flat and stop at a local garage. There is no further evidence of any movements that day,

Friday February 9 2018: The couple is seen at 7.30am that morning. They buy cat food at a Centra shop on Charlemont St. This the last time Joanne is seen alive.

The same day, Keith Lee interacts with Gemma Hanney, discussing the row with Joanne Ball. He tells her he locked Joanne in the apartment. She could see a cut to his ear. He goes into town, and engages in drug related activities with several people. He continues to the Hop House bar before coming home.

Saturday February 10 2018: Keith Lee meets with Gemma Hanney outside McDonalds on Grafton Street and returns property to her. He meets another friend and they go into the Hop House bar.

Sunday February 11 2018: Keith Lee is seen drinking at the Hop House.

Monday February 12 2018: Keith Lee is seen sitting in Joanne Ball’s car, parked at 92 Ranelagh Road. He later attends a party with friends from Hop house.

Tuesday February 13 2018: Keith Lee reports Joanne Ball missing at Store Street Garda Station at 11.30pm. He socialises afterwards with a friend in two different pubs.

Wednesday February 14 2018: Keith Lee makes a booking for two at a hotel for Valentine’s night. The booking is not followed up.

Thursday February 15 2018: Joanne Ball’s body is discovered at 92 Ranelagh Road.

Thursday April 12 2018 2018: Keith Lee dies in his cell at Mountjoy Prison.

Online Editors

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