News Courts

Thursday 18 September 2014

Murderer's tears as he's jailed for life for Aoife's brutal killing

* Robert Corbet jailed for life for the murder of nanny Aoife Phelan
* Corbet (25) said Aoife (30) had told him she was pregnant with his child
* He told gardai Aoife could 'scupper' his chances of reunion with ex
* He told trial he 'snapped' and strangled her during row
* He put her body in a barrel and buried it in a pit on his property
* Jury unanimously found him guilty - he had pleaded not guilty to murder
* In their victim impact statement, Aoife's mother described time her daughter was missing as the 'darkest period'
* Family said they did not recognise Aoife at first
* In their statement, they described her face as 'black and blue'
* Mother thanked her tragic daughter

Louise Hogan and Natasha Reid

Published 24/05/2014 | 02:30

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The parents of Aoife Phelan, Michael and Betty Phelan, leaving the court with their son Daire after Robert Corbet was found guilty of her murder. Collins Courts
Robert Corbert was found guilty of murdering Aoife Phelan.
Murder victim Aoife Phelan.

THE man found guilty of murdering Aoife Phelan broke down and held his head in his hands as the verdict was delivered and he was jailed for life.

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The mother of the 30-year-old nanny yesterday described the pain of keeping the lid of her daughter's casket closed as her "beautiful and vibrant" daughter had been beaten black and blue.

On the day her killer Robert Corbet began his life sentence, the Phelan family told how the 13 days she had spent missing were the darkest of their lives.

Corbet (25), from Sheffield Cross, Portlaoise, became emotional and held his head in his hands as Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan sentenced him to life in prison for the murder of Ms Phelan from Ballyroan in Co Laois in his garage in 2012.

The haulier had denied her murder but admitted her manslaughter, when her body was found in a barrel, buried 10ft below ground behind his home.

Sobbing

He said she told him she was pregnant and threatened to ruin his life and it would scupper his chances of getting back together with his girlfriend.

A post-mortem later found Ms Phelan had died of asphyxia due to strangulation, with blunt-force trauma as a contributory factor. She was not pregnant.

After four-and-a-half hours of deliberations, the nine-men and three-women jury in the Central Criminal Court reached a majority guilty verdict.

Her brother, Daire Phelan, delivered a powerful victim impact statement on behalf of her parents, five brothers and six sisters.

Her mother, Betty, told how she didn't recognise her daughter when she had to identify her and had kept her casket closed at her funeral as her face was "black and blue".

Her father, Michael, said the proudest day of a father's life was to walk his daughter down the aisle, but this had been taken from him.

Instead, he often had to drive by her backyard burial spot at Sheffield Cross, which sent his heart racing.

Daire said that he would never forget his mother and father sobbing uncontrollably in each other's arms after his mother identified his little sister's body.

"We have our angel back," she had told her husband.

The court heard Corbet and Ms Phelan had met a few months prior to her death and she had soon told him she was pregnant with his child.

The transcripts of thousands of phone messages were set out before the court. In one, Corbet suggested a name for the baby.

The haulier testified that he had doubts about the pregnancy as he had no medical proof. He questioned her about it on the evening of October 25 while they were in his shed.

He said she threatened to ruin his life, business and reputation if he didn't face up to it and that these threats caused him to lose self-control. He said he struck her over the back of the head and strangled her, before covering her head with a plastic bag and tightening two cable ties around her neck.

He then put her body in a barrel, sealed it and mopped up the blood before washing his hands and driving to Dublin Airport to collect a friend.

Corbet admitted that he had asked unsuspecting friends to fill in the pit with a load of filling gravel after he had rolled the barrel into it.

He then flew to New York to visit his former girlfriend as planned. He agreed with gardai that Ms Phelan had been a barrier to him getting back together with her.

He only made admissions after detectives put phone records to him. Yet, he continued to lie, telling them he had killed her in his jeep and dumped her body in a river.

It was only after they excavated the crime scene that Corbet told the truth.

The defence had asked for a verdict of manslaughter by reason of provocation arising out of Ms Phelan's alleged threats and asked the jury to ignore the desecration of her body.

However, the jury agreed with the prosecution that there was no provocation.

Irish Independent

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