Monday 21 August 2017

Murder accused told taxi man: 'I won't be going there again' shortly after strangling ex to death

Eric Locke, inset, Sonia Blount
Eric Locke, inset, Sonia Blount

Eimear Cotter

MURDER accused Eric Locke said, "I won't be going there again" to a taxi driver who picked him up when he left a Dublin hotel shortly after he strangled his ex-girlfriend to death, a trial has heard.

When the taxi driver noted fingernail scratches on his face, Eric Locke (35) claimed he had been dancing with a girl in the nightclub, and her boyfriend came over and gave him "a few smacks".

Eric Locke
Eric Locke
Sonia Blount

He has admitted that he caused the death of mum-of-one Sonia Blount at The Plaza Hotel in Tallaght in February 2014 but he has denied her murder.

He had been in a brief relationship with Ms Blount but it had fizzled out and a court heard he did not take the break-up well.

It is the State's case that Mr Locke, of St John's Park East in Clondalkin, assumed a false identity on social media and lured his former girlfriend to a hotel bedroom where he strangled her to death.

In his evidence to the Central Criminal Court today, taxi driver Ian McEvoy said he picked up a fare on the Belgard Road in Tallaght shortly after 5.30am.

Mother-of-one Sonia Blount (31), who died by asphyxiation and strangulation in the Plaza Hotel in Tallaght in February 2014
Mother-of-one Sonia Blount (31), who died by asphyxiation and strangulation in the Plaza Hotel in Tallaght in February 2014

Mr McEvoy described the fare as "a young lad, a good looking lad".

He said the man was smartly dressed and was wearing a white beany hat, black jeans and a "trendy top".

Mr McEvoy said the man sat in the front of his taxi, and asked him to take him to Clondalkin village.

The court heard that Mr McEvoy asked the man if he had a good night, and he replied "I won't be going there again".

He said he noted fingernail scraps on his face, around his left cheek. He said they were very noticeable.

Mr McEvoy said the man told him that he'd been in the nightclub and was dancing with a girl when her boyfriend came over and gave him a few smacks.

The taxi driver told the court he said to the man "you're going to have to explain that to everybody", and he just shrugged.

The court heard Mr McEvoy dropped the fare at the entrance to St John's estate in Clondalkin.

Mr McEvoy said he contacted gardai after he saw Mr Locke's picture in the paper.

Earlier forensic scientist Marcie Lee-Gorman said she analysed a number of samples, Mr Locke's fingerprints were found on the bathroom door handle in the hotel bedroom, as well as on a Do Not Disturb sign on the bedroom door, a keycard, a glass on the floor and on a 7up bottle.

Yesterday, State Pathologist Professor Cassidy said Ms Blount died as a result of asphyxia, or a lack of oxygen to the brain.

This was caused by compression of the neck which was exaggerated by suffocation due to a gag in her mouth.

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

There was bruising to Ms Blount's neck and a number of the bones in her neck were fractured.

Prof Cassidy said the neck bruises indicated two types of strangulation were used, and the marks were consist 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 that force would have needed to be maintained for a sufficient period of time.

Prof Cassidy said Ms Blount's front teeth had been dislodged, and again she said that "great force would be required" for that to happen.

There was also bruising on Ms Blount's wrist and her left upper arm, which indicated she was grabbed with "some degree of force".

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

Earlier yesterday, scenes of crime examiner, Detective Garda Janette O'Neill said she attended The Plaza Hotel in Tallaght on February 16, 2014.

Gda O'Neill said Ms Blount was lying on the floor in bedroom 346 and appeared to be in the recovery position, with an arm over her body.

Gda O'Neill said there were a number of items strewn around the floor, including cable ties, duct tape and a mobile phone charger, and it was her view a "violent struggle" had taken place.

The trial continues before Mr Justice Michael Moriarty.

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