Mum 'probably dead' before she was beheaded
Published 14/01/2014 | 02:30
A Dublin woman whose dismembered remains were found in a shallow grave was "probably dead" when she was beheaded, a court has heard.
The High Court in Edinburgh, Scotland, heard medics are unable to tell how Phyllis Dunleavy (66) from Marino died because her body had lain for so long in the ground.
However, a pathologist told the court that all the signs suggested she had been dead when she was beheaded and both her legs were severed at the top of the thigh.
Mrs Dunleavy's remains were discovered in a shallow grave on Corstorphine Hill in the city.
Her son, James (40), is on trial accused of beheading his mother, then burying her dismembered body. He denies battering her to death between April 30 and May 7 last year.
A further charge of trying to cover up the alleged murder and destroying evidence is also denied by Mr Dunleavy.
Pathologist Ian Wilkinson told the court that providing a conclusive cause of death was "difficult" in this case.
He said there was evidence of "blunt force trauma" to her head with damage to the tiny bones in her neck and she had suffered a number of broken ribs.
Dr Wilkinson said the official conclusion was that the cause of death was "unascertained".
The trial heard that 5ft 4in Mrs Dunleavy suffered from coronary heart disease and there were traces of morphine in her body.
Under cross-examination, Dr Wilkinson agreed that the injury to the neck bones might have been caused by someone gripping that point while sawing off Mrs Dunleavy's head.
Dr Wilkinson also agreed that someone else could have dismembered the body after death.
The trial heard yesterday that Dunleavy had answered "no comment" to most of the questions put to him during an hour-long interview.
The court heard questions were put by Detective Constable Brian Manchester after Mr Dunleavy was detained on July 8, 2013, as he left a shop near his home.
When asked why he had spoken of his mum in the past tense in a telephone call to police five days earlier, Mr Dunleavy replied: "No comment."
The prosecution is expected to close its case in the trial today.