Courts

Thursday 31 July 2014

Cyclist tells of finding remains of Irishwoman while enjoying sun

Ciaran Donnelly

Published 08/01/2014|14:03

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The remains of Philomena Dunleavy were found inside a suitcase, buried at a Scottish beauty spot.
Philomena Dunleavy

A CYCLIST told today how he was enjoying a day in the sun at an Edinburgh beauty spot when he found teeth and a skull in a woodland clearing.

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Professional ski instructor Aaron McLean-Foreman, 24, said the discovery left him in shock and disbelief.

 

It was some time before he could compose himself enough to go to police and report the grisly find, a murder trial heard.

 

A jury at the High Court in Edinburgh has heard that the remains on Corstorphine Hill were later identified as Philomena Dunleavy, 66, from Marino, Dublin.

 

On trial accused of beheading his mother then burying her dismembered body is her son.

 

James Dunleavy - also known as Seamus Dunleavy - denies battering her to death between April 30 and May 7 last year.

 

He also denies attempting to defeat the ends of justice by trying to cover up the alleged murder and destroy evidence.

 

At the time, Dunleavy, 40, was living in a flat Edinburgh's Balgreen Road, close to where the body was unearthed.

 

First witness in a trial expected to last up to four weeks was Mr McLean-Foreman who described events of June 6 last year.

 

He was planning a trip to New Zealand to further his sports career and had been in Edinburgh city centre.

 

Mr McLean-Foreman borrowed his dad's bike to cycle to his home in the East Craigs area of the city.

 

The Corstorphine Hill nature reserve was slightly out of his way, he said.

 

"I did not mind the detour and enjoying the sunny weather," he said.

 

The day was "as good as it gets in Scotland" as he pushed his bike up the hill.

 

"I decided to have a break in the sunshine and relax and enjoy the fine weather," Mr McLean-Foreman told the trial.

 

Because of nettles and other vegetation he looked for a clear place to sit and noticed a likely clearing ahead.

 

"Almost immediately the first thing I noticed was very white teeth," he told advocate Depute Alex Prentice QC, prosecuting. "Teeth and a skull."

 

Mr McLean-Foreman said there were marks in the earth he though had been made by a shovel.

 

"It appeared to me, after coming to terms with what I was looking at that the soil had been altered."

 

A photo of the sight which had confronted Mr McLean-Foreman was shown in court, after Mr Prentice warned it might be "disturbing."

 

Mr McLean-Foreman continued: "I have seen a fair share of sheep skulls and deer skulls while walking in the hills.

 

"I wanted to believe that was what I was looking at - but it was fairly clear that was not what I was looking at."

 

There were also flies round the area, the court heard.

 

Mr McLean-Foreman took a photo so that he could lead police back to the spot and left.

 

"I believe I went into a state something like shock," he said.

 

Later that afternoon he went to his local police station - wondering if they would believe what he had seen.

 

The murder charge alleges that in Dunleavy's Balgreen Road flat he inflicted "blunt force trauma" by means unknown, compressed his mother's throat and cut off her head and legs with a blade and something like a saw.

 

A second charge accuses Dunleavy of pretending his mum was unwell and had returned to Ireland.

 

The charge further alleges that Dunleavy put his mother's torso, severed legs and head into a suitcase and took the dismembered body to Corstorphine Hill where he buried her.

 

Prosecutors also claim that Dunleavy vacuumed and washed his flat to remove blood stains and torched a bed and mattress.

 

The trial continues.

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