Sunday 25 September 2016

Man who murdered mum-of-three and set fire to her home appeals his conviction

Ruaidhrí Giblin

Published 16/10/2015 | 16:40

Olivia Dunlea O'Brien from Passage West, Co Cork
Olivia Dunlea O'Brien from Passage West, Co Cork

A Cork man jailed for life last year for the murder of a mother-of-three in her home, which he then set on fire, has moved to appeal his conviction.

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Darren Murphy (38), of Dan Desmond Villas, Passage West, Co Cork had pleaded not guilty to murdering Olivia Dunlea at Pembroke Crescent in Passage West on February 17 2013 but admitted unlawfully killing her.

Murphy had also admitted setting fire to Ms Dunlea's home because, he claimed, he “didn't want the kids to find her” and pleaded guilty to a second charge of arson.

He was found guilty of her murder by a Central Criminal Court jury following four hours of deliberations and was given the mandatory life sentence by Mr Justice Paul Carney on May 29 2014.

Murphy moved to appeal his conviction on four grounds today including the trial judge's summary of certain matters to the jury such as the defence of provocation.

Giving background to the defence of provocation, barrister Michael Delaney SC, for Murphy, said his client and Ms Dunlea, a separated mother-of-three, had been in a relationship together for about three months.

Mr Delaney said it was established that Ms Dunlea had previously been intimate with another man - a taxi driver known as Fás – and on the night in question, there appeared to be an expectation on Ms Dunlea's part that Fás would be dropping them home from a local pub.

On Murphy's account, when a different taxi driver arrived to collect them, Ms Dunlea allegedly told him 'you're not Fás, I asked for Fás' and this sparked tension in the taxi, Mr Delaney said.

They got home and again according to Murphy, Ms Dunlea allegedly told him 'get out, I told you Fás was calling,' Mr Delaney said.

At this point Murphy claimed he snapped, his mind went blank and became enraged.

He admitted grabbing a knife and stabbing her. Thinking that she was dead at that point, he set fire to a quilt in the bedroom and a kitchen roll downstairs.

Mr Justice Carney told the jury that if they were satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that there was an intention to kill or cause serious injury then they should tick the first box on the jury form for murder.

He went on to tell them that “if you found provocation or you're not satisfied that the statutory intention had been proved” then "not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter" would be the appropriate verdict.

Mr Delaney said there was clearly scope for confusion on the part of the jury or, as he submitted, “an element of misdirection”.

The court heard that the jury may have been of the mistaken belief that provocation “negatived” (SUB:::vetoed) intent.

Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Thomas Creed SC, said he could not find anything in the judge's words that would suggest intent had been negatived(SUB:::vetoed) and the jury didn't appear to be confused because they didn't ask any questions.

Mr Justice Carney had given the same direction on provocation in every murder trial for 25 years, Mr Creed said.

“Like Odlums oatmeal, it never varied” and there had never been any confusion by jurors, he said.

Mr Creed said he told the jury that they did not even need to consider provocation unless they were satisfied Murphy intended to kill or cause serious injury. He also told the jury that the prosecution must satisfy them that Murphy was not provoked.

The only evidence relating to the sequence of events before they reached the house was Murphy's unsworn account given to gardaí and a number of aspects of his story weren't corroborated by the taxi driver, Mr Creed said.

Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan, who sat with Mr Justice Alan Mahon and Mr Justice John Edwards, said the Court of Appeal would reserve judgment and deliver it as soon as possible.

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