When Men Turn Evil: Documentary exposing true tales behind Irish murders offers chilling facts
Fir, Marú & Grá, which began last night on TG4, is another of those “true crime” series that viewers seemingly can’t get enough of. This one explores, through dramatic reconstructions and expert talking-heads, what drove six men to kill their romantic partners (the title translates as Men, Killing and Love).
Tonight’s opener looked back on the case of Robert Corbet, who killed au pair Aoife Phelan in Co Laois in 2012. Here’s what we learned:
1.The show had lined up a heavy-hitting panel of experts to discuss the case: journalists Máire Treasa Ní Cheallaigh and Natasha Reid; barrister Aoife McNickle; Dr Yvonne Daly, senior lecturer in Criminal Law at DCU; Dr Sean MacDiarmada of Forensic Science Ireland; and former Garda superintendent Maitias O Cosghorda.
2. We heard that nine in every ten Irish women who are killed actually know their killer. There’s even a name for it: Intimate Partner Homicide. These crimes are usually preceded by abusive or controlling behaviour; the time just after a separation is also dangerous for women.
3. In late October 2012 Aoife didn’t turn up for work. They alerted her parents who alerted the Guards. A wide-scale missing-persons search was soon upgraded to a murder investigation – and the search for a body.
4. 13 days later her body was found on Corbet’s land in Capoley, near Portlaoise. He’d already been called, while on a trip to New York, and questioned but said he knew nothing about the disappearance. Now, Corbet was charged with murder.
5. 16 months later, at trial, he denied murder but admitted manslaughter, claiming he’d been “provoked” by Aoife, lost control and killed her. Perhaps surprisingly, provocation is a legitimate defence in court. Prosecutor Isobel Kennedy didn’t accept this, though, and set out to prove the crime was premeditated and Corbet was indulging in a “voyage of fiction”.
6. He had admitted having a brief relationship with Aoife, after meeting in a nightclub, but told Gardaí it was over. Corbet also said he’d last seen the girl two weeks before her disappearance.
7. However, some of her things were found in his jeep, including Aoife’s bag and phone. And phone records showed “heavy text traffic” up to her disappearance – including 260 messages in just one day, three days before she went missing. In one of those, Aoife had said she thought she might be pregnant.
8. It turned out that, on the 25th of October, Aoife told a friend she was meeting Corbet to “sort things out”. He was leaving for New York the next day, to meet an old girlfriend of five years – the “love of his life” – in the hopes of a reunion. He and Aoife fought and he beat her to death, in his jeep.
9. Chillingly, Corbet told Guards Aoife was “an obstacle” to his plans. He lied again when telling them he’d dumped the body in the River Barrow; she was actually buried in an oil barrel on his land. He’d later got unsuspecting friends to fill in the surrounding pit.
10 After four and a half hours’ deliberation, the jury found Corbet guilty of murder by a 10 to two majority decision. He was given the mandatory life sentence, and broke down crying in court.