Sunday 20 August 2017

Man told gardaí he strangled ex-girlfriend 'because she screamed when she saw pellet gun, knife and cable ties', trial hears

  • Murder accused Eric Locke was described as 'a proper fruit loop'
  • Told gardaí he strangled Blount 'because she screamed'
  • Mother strangled in hotel room 'did wonder if man she arranged to meet was ex-boyfriend'
Sonia Blount and inset Eric Locke
Sonia Blount and inset Eric Locke

Eimear Cotter and Natasha Reid

A Dublin man, who set up a fake Facebook account in order to meet his ex-girlfriend, told gardai he strangled her because she screamed when she saw the pellet gun, Stanley knife and cable ties he’d brought to frighten her.

Eric Locke said he had just wanted to talk after Sonia Blount stopped all contact with him.

The 35-year-old is on trial at the Central Criminal Court, charged with murdering the mother-of-one in a room at the Plaza Hotel in Tallaght on the 16th of February 2014.

Mr Locke, with an address at St John’s Park East in Clondalkin, has pleaded not guilty, but admits causing the death of the 31-year-old, who was found strangled and suffocated.

Eric Locke
Eric Locke

Detective Garda Camon Ryan said he began interviewing the accused that night, after he’d handed himself in at a city garda station.

He told officers that he’d been suffering with depression for years, but that meeting Ms Blount a few months earlier had brought him ‘back up’.

He said they’d finished about four weeks earlier and she had later ended communication with him.

“It brought me back down,” he said.

He said he set up a fake Facebook account in the name of Shane Cully, and arranged to meet her through it.

“I went into town. I purchased masking tape, cable ties, a pellet gun and a Stanley blade,” he recalled. “I just wanted to frighten her. I didn't mean to do it.”

Sonia Blount
Sonia Blount

He said he’d used the keycard that she’d left at reception to let himself into the room.

“She got a shock it was me,” he said.

He said he told her he just wanted to talk and began asking her why she’d finished it and cut contact.

He said she hadn’t asked him to leave, but had wanted them to leave together.

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

“I took out the things and put them on the bed and she was terrified,” he said. “She was frantic. We had a fight and it happened.”

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

He was asked what she had done while he had been strangling her and he pointed to scratches on his face. He was asked if she had said anything.

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

He initially denied using anything other than his hands. However, he admitted using the cable of a phone charger ‘briefly’, after a bloodstained charger was shown to him.

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

“She was breathing heavy. I thought someone would hear,” he explained.

He said he wasn’t sure if she was dead when he left around 6am. He said he had attempted suicide before deciding to hand himself in.

He denied raping her, saying they had consensual sex before she saw the items he’d brought.

“I'm confessing to killing Sonia, not murdering, because i didn’t intend for her to die,” he said.

He was asked how he felt about her three-year-old son growing up without his mother.

“Devastated,” he replied. “He’s never going to get to know his mother. He’ll feel empty, he has no mother."

The trial continues this afternoon before Mr Justice Michael Moriarty and a jury of eight men and four women.

Evidence

Earlier, the court heard that Sonia Blount had wondered if a man she was meeting in a Dublin hotel could have been him.

Sonia Blount admitted to a friend Aisling Halloran that the "thought had crossed her mind".

However, Ms Blount told Ms Halloran she had asked "Shane Cully" to send her a selfie and she was satisfied from the picture that the man she was meeting wasn't Eric Locke.

She also told her sister Claire Reddan that Mr Locke was "a proper fruit loop".

Locke had been in a brief relationship with Ms Blount and a court heard he did not take the break-up well.

The prosecution case is that the Dubliner assumed a false identity online in order to lure her to a hotel bedroom, where he strangled her to death.

The jury has been told it will be asked to focus on the mental state of the accused at the time.

Aisling Halloran worked with Ms Blount and Mr Locke. She said the pair both seemed to like each other but they broke up after he called her a "sl*t" for talking to a young man when they attended a gig in Vicar Street.

She told the Central Criminal Court that Sonia was in "such a state" when Eric threatened to kill himself, but she "wanted to help him as that's the type of person she was".

On February 14, 2014, Ms Halloran said she and Sonia worked the early shift and she told her she was meeting Shane Cully later that night. She said it was just a "casual thing".

Ms Halloran told the jury she asked Sonia if the person she was meeting could be Mr Locke pretending to be someone else.

She said Sonia admitted the "thought had crossed her mind" but she had asked Shane Cully to send her a selfie and she was satisfied the person in the picture wasn't Mr Locke.

In her evidence, Sonia's sister Claire Reddan said Sonia was the eldest in a family of five siblings and she was the second eldest.

Ms Reddan said Sonia was in a relationship with her son's father, Lee, for three years, but he was "very controlling" and the relationship was "very on and off".

Ms Reddan said she believes Sonia stayed with him for her son as she "didn't want to break up the family unit".

She said the relationship broke up and Lee went to Canada in August 2013.

Ms Reddan said Ms Blount started dating Mr Locke in December 2013 but it was "casual", "nothing major".

Ms Blount broke up with Mr Locke following an argument in a taxi following a gig at Vicar Street.

She said Sonia told her she was "not going down that road again".

She said Sonia was concerned about Mr Locke's behaviour at work, as he "kept looking at her and it freaked her out".

When Mr Locke went missing and threatened suicide, Ms Reddan said Sonia was worried sick about it, wasn't sleeping and couldn't eat.

She told the jury that Sonia was going to ask to change shifts in work because of his behaviour, telling her he was "a proper fruit loop".

Detective Garda Kieran O'Neill said he found a letter sent by Mr Locke to Ms Blount in her bedroom after he searched it.

In the letter, he again apologised for his behaviour following the Vicar Street gig.

He also told her that he suffers from depression, as he feels his life has remained static while his friends are getting married, having children and getting mortgages.

He said he was getting counselling to deal with his issues. However, he admitted he was "surprised" that Ms Blount wasn't supporting him.

Detective Garda Fergal O'Flaherty said Mr Locke handed himself in to Store Street Garda Station around 8pm on February 16, 2014.

Gda O'Flaherty said there were scrapes on Mr Locke's face and his left eye was bloodshot.

He was later convened to Tallaght Garda Station, and was interviewed.

Asked about his demeanour as he was transferred to Tallaght, Gda Jennifer Brogan said Mr Locke was "very quiet and calm".

Detective Garda Camon Ryan said he interviewed Mr Locke late on February 16, 2014 and he admitted that he "hurt" Ms Blount.

He was given an opportunity to sleep over night and the interviews continued the next day.

The jury is continuing to be lead through Mr Locke's interviews with gardai.

The trial continues.

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