News Courts

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Aoife Phelan was not pregnant at time of death and never was, says pathologist

Natasha Reid

Published 20/05/2014 | 02:30

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Robert Corbet  being led into court, inset left, Mr Corbet, inset right Aoife Phelan
Robert Corbet being led into court, inset left, Mr Corbet, inset right Aoife Phelan
Aoife's parents Michael, in red, and Betty, in pink, arrive at the court with family and friends
Aoife's parents Michael, in red, and Betty, in pink, arrive at the court with family and friends
Aoife Phelan was found dead in 2012
Aoife Phelan was found dead in 2012

A murder trial has heard that nanny Aoife Phelan was not pregnant when she died from asphyxia due to strangulation.

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The trial was hearing from State Pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy, who carried out the autopsy on the 30-year-old’s body after it was discovered buried on the accused man’s property.

Robert Corbet (25) Capoley, Sheffield Cross, Laois has pleaded not  guilty to murdering Ms Phelan at Capoley. However he has admitted her manslaughter between October 25th and November 7th, when gardai found her body doubled over in a barrel.

Professor Cassidy testified this morning that she visited the scene behind Mr Corbet’s home on the afternoon of the discovery. She told the Central Criminal Court that a metal barrel had been unearthed several feet below ground.

She Ms Phelan’s head and shoulders were covered by a plastic bag, which was secured around her neck by a sturdy cable tie. She said another cable was secured tightly directly around her neck.

The pathologist found prominent signs of asphyxia, including blood in her nose and ears and pinpoint haemorrhages in her eyes and mouth. Her hyoid bone and thyroid cartilage were fractured.

Apart from the asphyxia, she said there was also evidence of a minor assault, with punches or slaps to her head.

She gave her cause of death as asphyxia due to strangulation, with blunt force trauma a contributory fact.

Professor Cassidy also said Ms Phelan was not pregnant at the time of her death. She agreed with Conor Devally SC, defending, that she had never been pregnant.

The trial heard that Ms Phelan had told the accused that she was pregnant with his baby. He told gardai that he killed her because her pregnancy was going to scupper his relationship with his ex-girlfriend.

Yesterday, the trial heard how Robert Corbet that he killed her because her pregnancy was going to scupper his relationship with his ex-girlfriend.

The jury in Robert Corbet's trial yesterday heard extracts from the interviews he gave gardai after her body was discovered on his property.

The 25-year-old, from Capoley, Sheffield Cross, Laois, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Ms Phelan, also from Laois.

However, he has admitted the 30-year-old's manslaughter between October 25 and November 7, when her body was found in a barrel, buried in Capoley.

The Central Criminal Court heard last week that Mr Corbet first denied involvement in her disappearance, but admitted killing her after phone records were put to him.

He said he had snapped and hit her while in his jeep, and had thrown her body in a river.

However, the trial heard that his property was searched and her body was discovered in a barrel buried 10-feet deep.

He apologised for sending gardai to the river, but said he had wanted to "protect the home place".

Detective Garda Brian Hanley testified yesterday that he interviewed the accused on November 7, hours after Ms Phelan's body was found.

The accused said he had collected her in Portlaoise on the evening of October 25 and brought her to Capoley and that they had chatted in a garage while he cleaned out his jeep.

"Then an argument broke out about our relationship. She wanted a relationship and I didn't," he said. "If I didn't agree ... she'd ruin my life, which, as I sit here, is ironic."

He said he snapped, put his right forearm around her neck and that they fell to the ground. He said she banged her head and he saw blood coming from her eye. "I had a good, firm grip," he said.

"What were you trying to do?" he was asked. "Kill her," he replied. He was asked what he thought the end result of placing his arm around her neck would be. "Death," he replied.

Mr Corbet was asked if he had wanted her to come back to life. "No," he replied.

He agreed that she was a big barrier to him getting back together with his ex-girlfriend.

"The pregnancy was going to scupper it, the love of your life. Is that why you killed Aoife Phelan?" he was asked. "Yes," he replied.

The trial continues before a jury and Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan.

Irish Independent

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