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Sunday 21 September 2014

Family silent as son convicted of beheading and chopping up mother

Published 18/01/2014 | 02:30

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Phyllis Dunleavy
Phyllis Dunleavy
James Dunleavy found guilty of killing his mother in Edinburgh
James Dunleavy found guilty of killing his mother in Edinburgh

Relative of a man convicted of beheading and dismembering his mother and burying her in a shallow grave, gave him the thumbs up as he was taken down to the cells.

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James Dunleavy had denied murdering Philomena Dunleavy (66), of Marino, Dublin, and attempting to defeat the ends of justice by burying her to try to cover up the crime.

But a jury at the High Court in Edinburgh convicted him, by majority, of a reduced charge of culpable homicide. They also found him guilty of the attempted cover-up after the killing in the Scottish capital.

An eight-day trial heard harrowing evidence suggesting that Mrs Dunleavy may still have been alive, but unconscious, when her killer began to hack off her legs with knife and saw.

But the horror of her final moments at the hands of her 40-year-old son will probably never be known.

Judge Lord Jones ordered Dunleavy to remain in the Scottish State Hospital, Carstairs, while psychiatrists continue to assess his condition.

He is due back in court in April for the judge to decide the next move.

As Dunleavy was led to the cells, his family gave him the thumbs-up and offered words of encouragement.

Lord Jones told him: "You require to be detained under conditions of such security as can be provided in the State Hospital."

Mrs Dunleavy's 68-year-old husband, also James, kept a dignified silence as the jury returned their verdict.

So did brother Austin (27) who is close to completing a football scholarship, studying history in the US.

James Dunleavy, sitting in the dock, stared straight ahead, betraying no emotion.

BUTCHERED

Three psychiatrists told the trial that Dunleavy clearly had a problems -- although it was too early to say exactly what it was.

Paranoid schizophrenia was suggested as a possibility. Dunleavy, giving evidence, insisted the doctors were wrong.

"I think the gravity of the crime I am accused of may have coloured their perception," Dunleavy suggested. "They are entitled to their opinion."

His family declined to comment as they left the High Court in Edinburgh. His father simply said: "I will not be making any statements."

The Dunleavys are no straners to tragedy as Terence Dunleavy (27), a brother of the accused, was gunned down during a drug feud in Dublin in April 2005.

He was shot outside his girlfriend's flat near Croke Park, in a row over money. Another sister had also died young.

Mother-of-five Mrs Dunleavy was killed after leaving her Dublin home to visit Scotland.

She arrived in Scotland on April 24 to stay with her eldest son James -- also known as Seamus.

Prosecutors alleged that just days later she was dead -- butchered in Dunleavy's flat in Balgreen Road, Edinburgh.

It was more than a month before Mrs Dunleavy's remains were unearthed, just a few minutes' walk away from her son's address.

A large suitcase was missing from the flat and a spade with a broken shaft was found in the back green.

The trial heard how a ski instructor stumbled across the skull of Mrs Dunleavy while out walking.

CT scans of Mrs Dunleavy's skull, combined with computer technology, enabled Dundee University's craniofacial expert Dr Caroline Wilkinson to produce a likeness of the dead woman.

But by early July her family in Dublin were beginning to wonder where she was. James Dunleavy had phoned on May 2 to say she was on her way home, but she never arrived.

A call was made to police in Edinburgh, followed by a call on July 3 from Dunleavy himself. Police visited him the following day.

Four days later he was charged with her murder.

Until then Dunleavy's criminal record amounted to only a few minor convictions for disorder in Ireland and elsewhere.

 

Brian Horne

Irish Independent

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