Man goes on trial accused of murdering woman he had been 'an item' with for three months
A 37-year-old man has gone on trial accused of murdering a woman he had been “an item” with for three months.
Darren Murphy of Dan Desmond Village, Passage West, Co Cork has pleaded not guilty to murdering Olivia Dunlea (36) at Pembroke Crescent, Passage West, Co Cork on February 17 2013.
When asked how he was to plead to the charge Mr Murphy said "not guilty, guilty of manslaughter". Mr Murphy pleaded guilty to a second charge that of arson on the deceased woman's home.
In the Central Criminal Court earlier today, prosecuting counsel Thomas Creed SC told the jury in his opening statement that the body of Ms Dunlea was found in an upstairs bedroom following a fire in her house.
She was divorced and had three young children aged between 9 and 12, he said.
Mr Murphy admitted that he “snapped” and grabbed a nearby knife. He lit a quilt beside the bed and a roll of tissue paper on top of the kitchen table downstairs before leaving the house, counsel said.
Mr Creed told the jury that “Mr Murphy has pleaded guilty to the killing of her and you will have to decide whether that killing was murder.”
For about three months previously Ms Dunlea and Mr Murphy were an item, counsel said, or as the old expression went, “they were doing a line together”. At weekends, Mr Murphy would stay over when the children would have been with Olivia's sister or mother, counsel said.
On Saturday February 16 they went to the Rochestown Inn and according to three people who they met there both Mr Murphy and Ms Dunlea were in good spirits when they left the pub.
Around midnight going into the 17th they were driven by taxi to Pembroke Crescent where Olivia resided. The cab driver was of the view, counsel said, that both of them were drunk but not falling around the place and he didn't note anything unusual about the journey or when they left the car.
At about 1am a neighbour of Ms Dunlea noticed a fire in her home and rang the fire brigade.
Another neighbour rang Mr Murphy who answered the phone to say he was at home having left Ms Dunlea while she was looking for keys at her door. His reaction to hearing that Olivia's house was on fire was 'Oh Jesus, oh Jesus,' and he was very shocked, counsel said.
When asked where Olivia was, Mr Murphy said he left her at the door, that she was looking for her keys and that he drove home in his own car from where he had left it. He told witnesses on the scene that they were having a fight about two gentlemen known as Fás and Frick.
One witness was aware that 2 to 3 years previously Olivia had been in a relationship with the man known as Frick, Mr Creed said.
He drove to her house, left his car in the middle of the road with the lights on and ran to the front door where he was held back by firemen, the court heard. He was trying to ring Olivia's phone and was crying.
A fireman was inside the house checking for hotspots when he found the outline of a body in an upstairs bedroom, counsel said. There was a smaller fire on the kitchen table which appeared to be a separate fire entirely and gardaí preserved the area as a crime scene.
Mr Murphy made a voluntary statement to gardai and handed two sets of clothes to them which he claimed to have been wearing on the night in question.
However, following an examination of CCTV footage taken from the Rochestown Inn, gardai realised that the clothes Mr Murphy handed over to them were not the clothes he was wearing on the night in question. They were significantly different, counsel said.
Gardai then went to Mr Murphy's home and when he was confronted regarding discrepancies in the clothing he admitted he made a mistake. Counsel said the acused began “sobbing” and stated 'I just snapped'.
At 10:30pm on February 17 2013, Mr Murphy was arrested on suspicion of murder. He was cautioned and detained in Togher garda station for interview.
Counsel told the jury that there is no question the the body found in the house was that of Ms Dunlea. He said State Pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy "will tell you that despite the extent of fire trauma there were 6 stab wounds on Ms Dunlea's body".
Dr Cassidy was of the view that the extent of the bleeding was relatively minor, counsel said. Ms Dunlea was alive when the fire started as she had been inhaling toxic fumes and the body position of the deceased suggested she made no attempt to escape the fire.
Dr Cassidy postulated, counsel said, that Ms Dunlea may have been incapacitated when the fire started and the wounds could have caused spinal shock, a form of instant paralysis. The the cause of death being a stab wound to the neck and inhalation of toxic fumes, counsel said.
The case continues tomorrow before a jury of seven men and five women with Mr Justice Paul Carney presiding.