Sunday 23 July 2017

'I'm sorry, I'm sorry' - Eric Locke found guilty of the murder of Sonia Blount

Sonia Blount and inset Eric Locke
Sonia Blount and inset Eric Locke

Eimear Cotter

A FORMER male model who assumed a fake identity on social media and lured his ex-girlfriend to a hotel bedroom where he strangled her to death has been found guilty of her murder

Eric Locke (35) said "I'm sorry, I'm sorry" to the friends and family of Sonia Blount as he was led away by prison officers.

Eric Locke of St John's Park East in Clondalkin (covered) pictured arriving at Tallaght District Court this morning where he was charged with the murder of Sonia Blount from Tallaght, Dublin. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin.
Eric Locke of St John's Park East in Clondalkin (covered) pictured arriving at Tallaght District Court this morning where he was charged with the murder of Sonia Blount from Tallaght, Dublin. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin.

He was unanimously found guilty of the murder of Sonia Blount by a jury of eight men and four women at the Central Criminal Court this afternoon.

Locke had admitted he caused the death of Sonia Blount but said he did not mean to kill her and pleaded the defence of diminished responsibility.

The mum-of-one was found strangled in a room in the Plaza Hotel in Tallaght on February 16, 2014.

Locke, of St John’s Park East in Clondalkin, used a fake Facebook profile to meet Ms Blount, whom he had briefly dated. The relationship had ended in January 2014 after he called her a “slut” in a row after a night out.

He later told gardai, during interview, he became “severely hurt and depressed” when Ms Blount blocked him on Facebook, blanked him at work and told him to stop texting her.

Courtroom No 9 in the Criminal Courts of Justice was packed for the verdict, which the jury returned after one hour 33 minutes of deliberating.

There were cries of “yes” and clapping from Ms Blount’s family and friends when the verdict was read out.

Her family and friends have been in the courtroom every day of the 11 day trial.

Locke’s sisters have also been in court every day to support their brother.

During the 11 day trial, the court heard Ms Blount died as a result of asphyxia, or a lack of oxygen to the brain.

State Pathologist Prof Marie Cassidy said this was caused by compression of the neck which was exaggerated by suffocation due to a gag in her mouth.

Prof Cassidy said the bruising around Ms Blount’s mouth suggested she was still alive when the gag was put in her mouth.

There were bruises to her neck, and they indicated two types of strangulation were used, the marks being consistent with cable ties and an arm lock.

The jury was told that significant force would have been needed to the front of the neck to cause Ms Blount’s death and it would need to have been maintained for a sufficient period of time.

“Probably there would have been a struggle”, she said.

Scenes of crime examiner, Detective Garda Janette O’Neill told the court there were some items strewn around the hotel room floor, including cable ties, masking tape and a mobile phone charger, and it was her view a “violent struggle” had taken place.

The trial also heard that DNA matching Locke’s was found under Ms Blount’s fingernails.

His jeans were bloodstained and forensic scientist Marcie Lee Gorman said she found a DNA profile matching Ms Blount’s on the stain.

The jury was also shown footage of Locke running away from the Plaza Hotel.

Detective Garda Camon Ryan told the court that officers began interviewing Mr Locke on February 16, 2014, after he handed himself in to gardai.

He admitted he “hurt” her.

He told gardai he’d suffered with depression for years, but meeting Ms Blount had brought him ‘back up’.

He said they had finished about four weeks earlier and it brought him "back down”.

He claimed he set up the fake "Shane Cully" profile because he wanted to talk to her, and she was ignoring him at work and had blocked him on Facebook.

They had arranged to meet in the Plaza Hotel, and he told gardai Sonia got “a shock” when he walked into the room.

He said he wanted to “frighten her and talk to her” but denied he wanted to murder her.

He said she didn't ask him to leave, but wanted them to leave together.

“I thought that once we got to reception she'd scream and that’s what stopped me,” he said.

Earlier that day, he'd gone into town and bought a Stanley blade, pellet gun, cable ties and masking tape and brought them with him to the hotel room.

Locke said Sonia was "terrified" when she saw the items.

"She was frantic. We had a fight and it happened.”

“I used my hands on her neck,” he said.

He pointed to the scratches on his face when asked if Sonia had done anything when he strangled her.

“She said: ‘Eric, what are you doing?’ but her voice was low,” he told gardai.

He said he had put her top in her mouth because he panicked.

He initially denied using anything other than his hands, but admitted using the cable of a mobile phone charger “briefly”, after a bloodstained charger was shown to him.

He also denied raping her, claiming they had consensual sex before she saw the items he’d brought with him.

During the interviews, gardai repeatedly asked him if he was upset that Ms Blount was meeting “Shane Cully”, but he denied it.

He also said dressed Ms Blount’s body after he killed her because he wanted to give her “dignity in death”.

In his defence, Locke claimed he was suffering from pervasive development disorder at the time and was acting under a “compulsion” when he killed Ms Blount. He also said it was like an “out of body experience”.

Mr Justice Michael Moriarty thanked the jury for their service.

Locke was remanded in custody to Friday for his sentence hearing.

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