'The way he conned us was 10 times worse than killing my sister'
A MAN who shot his partner and then hid her body in the boot of a car sat with her family and watched a 'Crimecall' appeal for information while she was still missing.
Bernard 'Ben' Curran (53) pleaded guilty to the manslaughter in May 2010 of Helen Donegan (30), a heroin addict with whom he had been going out for almost a decade. He only admitted killing the mother of one after her body was found.
In the weeks following her death the separated father of two had moved in with Ms Donegan's brother, had put up posters appealing for information on her, and had watched a 'Crimecall' programme focusing on her disappearance.
Yesterday her family told the court that they had believed drugs would be "the death of her" but didn't expect her to be killed. "Her son kept hoping she had just gone to Spain," said Caroline O'Connor, an aunt of the victim who read out a victim impact statement on behalf of the family.
She said Ms Donegan's only son, who was 12 at the time of her death, had seen Curran as a father figure but now "hates" him.
"For seven weeks (before he was charged) he sat with us and drank tea with us and told us not to worry, that everything would be okay," she said.
The victim's brother, Martin Donegan, who allowed Curran to move in with him after his sister disappeared, said in his statement: "What he did afterward, conning us, was 10 times worse than killing her. She was not only my sister, she was my best friend.
"My nephew is afraid to come to Dublin since Helen's death," he said, adding that he is still angry that Curran sat beside the family and watched 'Crimecall' during the appeal for information on her.
He said that prior to Ms Donegan's death he was drink and drug free for three years but was now abusing alcohol and had lost his trust in people.
"I will never forget the smell from the coffin in the funeral home. Not even the smell of incense could cover it."
The Central Criminal Court heard yesterday that Curran had been charged with murder but pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of manslaughter, which was accepted by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Ms Donegan was last seen on May 4, 2010, but was not reported missing until 13 days later.
Curran, of The Weir, Lucan, Co Dublin, told the gardai she had been arranging to do a drugs run and had been meeting men in a BMW outside their home in St Patrick's Park, Celbridge, Co Kildare.
A search was later carried out of his garage, but Curran had moved her body prior to the search. A second unannounced search was carried out 13 days later on June 22 and Ms Donegan's badly decomposed body was found wrapped in plastic in the boot of a Saab car.
She was found naked from the waist down and her jewellery was missing save for one ring.
Curran subsequently told gardai she died because she attempted to stop him committing suicide.
In interview he said he had been in the process of placing the legally held shogun in his mouth when she came in to the room and tried to grab it from him. It swung around, blasting her once through the heart. He said he didn't think anyone would believe that it was an accident because people knew they had a volatile relationship, and so he hid her body.
Evidence was heard that just one hour before he had reported her missing to gardai in Celbridge, he had handed in the shotgun to gardai in Rathcoole, saying the licence was expired. This was discovered via the PULSE system where it was recorded, but it had been wiped clean of evidence.
An estate agent had also been interviewed by gardai who told them she met Curran a few hours after the killing to show him around a cottage he had wanted to rent.
She said he seemed "a bit sad" and he told her he was just coming out of a relationship.
Curran, who had not come to garda attention previously and was described as a quiet and hardworking man, will be sentenced by Mr Justice Paul Carney next Monday.