Sunday 26 October 2014

Texts between victim and murder accused were ‘good-natured’, court told

Ruaidhrí Giblin

Published 23/05/2014 | 18:53

Gardai investigating inside the house of Olivia Dunlea O'Brien (inset)
Gardai investigating inside the house of Olivia Dunlea O'Brien (inset)

A murder trial has heard that text messages between a woman and a man accused of her murder were of good nature in the hours before her body was found.

Darren Murphy (37) of Dan Desmond Villas, Passage West, Co Cork has pleaded not guilty to murdering Olivia Dunlea (36) at Pembroke Crescent, Passage West, Co Cork, on February 17 2013.

Asked how he was to plead to the charge of murder, Mr Murphy said "not guilty, guilty of manslaughter". The accused has pleaded guilty to a second charge of arson on the deceased woman's home on the same date.

The Central Criminal Court has heard that for about three months prior to February 17, Ms Dunlea and Mr Murphy were “an item”. On the Saturday night before her death, the pair were having a good time in the nearby Rochestown Inn but when they arrived home they had a massive row.

Mr Murphy told gardaí that Olivia took off her clothes, lay down on the bed and said another man, known as Fás, was calling. Mr Murphy told gardaí that at this point, he “just snapped”.

The accused said his head was racing and his heart was pounding. The knife was “no sooner in my hands than it was in her neck,” he told gardaí.

Under cross examination today from defence counsel, Michael Delaney SC, Garda Sean Minnihan said there was quite a bit of text messaging between the accused and Ms Dunlea on Saturday, February 16 2013.

The garda summarised the context of the texts as being of good nature and gave no indication of problems between them even while they were at the Rochestown Inn, the court heard.

Mr Delaney asked the garda if Mr Murphy’s extensive medical records were brought up during interviews, which contained references to an attempt of self-harm in October 2006.

The garda replied that when asked during the interview if he wanted to talk about it, Mr Murphy said no. He confirmed that Mr Murphy’s admission to hospital following his break-up with another woman was consistent with what was discussed during the interview.

The accused had disclosed during interviews that he had gone to a slow-learning school and had been sexually abused there, the court heard. It was something Mr Murphy claimed to have told Olivia also, the garda confirmed.

Giving evidence, Garda Minnihan said he examined the mobile phone of the man known as Fás and found no contact from the number belonging to Olivia Dunlea.

Using software known as XRY, the garda explained how information can be retrieved from phones when they are connected to a computer.

However, Ms Dunlea's phone could not be read because it had been thrown down a toilet by the accused and was damaged.

In his opening speech, prosecuting counsel Thomas Creed SC, told the jury they will hear from State Pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy who postulated the cause of death to be due to stab wounds and inhalation of toxic fumes.

Dr Cassidy was of the view that the extent of the bleeding was relatively minor, counsel said. Ms Dunlea was alive when the fire started as she had been inhaling toxic fumes and the body position of the deceased suggested she made no attempt to escape the fire.

The case continues on Monday before a jury of seven men and five women with Mr Justice Paul Carney presiding.

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