Saturday 20 January 2018

'He's a proper fruit loop': tragic tale of a young mum who was too nice to cut ties with her ex

Sonia Blount: murder accused Eric Locke (inset) said he wanted to ‘frighten her and talk to her’. He denied he wanted to murder her
Sonia Blount: murder accused Eric Locke (inset) said he wanted to ‘frighten her and talk to her’. He denied he wanted to murder her

Eimear Cotter

Young mum Sonia Blount was a nice girl. Her killer Eric Locke told her she was "special". In interviews with gardaí, he described her as "bubbly, good fun, a great girl who would talk to anyone".

He hurt her when he called her a "slut" during an argument after a night out and she decided to call off the relationship, telling her sister she was "not going down that road again" - a reference to a previous controlling relationship.

Sonia tried repeatedly to extract herself from her relationship with Mr Locke, asking him to "leave me be" and to stop texting. Privately she told her sister he was "a proper fruit loop".

However, Sonia's 'niceness', her desire to help, meant she responded to his texts for weeks after they broke up.

When he threatened to commit suicide, her friends said Sonia "felt guilty", and "wanted to help him".

Eric Locke (35) has admitted he caused the death of Ms Blount but says he did not mean to kill her and will be pleading the defence of diminished responsibility.

It is the State's case that Mr Locke, of St John's Park East in Clondalkin, posed as another man on Facebook and arranged a meeting in the Plaza Hotel in Tallaght, where he strangled her.

Her body was found in a room in the hotel on February 16, 2014.

The jury at the Central Criminal Court has gotten to know Sonia this past week.

Much of what we heard came from her work colleague Aisling Halloran and friend Susan Kelly, who became tearful as she recalled her mate Sonia, who would "never let me down".

We also caught glimpses of Sonia in the texts she sent to Mr Locke and the messages sent to the "Shane Cully" person he faked online.

They paint a picture of a hard-working, young mother who loved her son, was obsessed with 'Game of Thrones' books and had a DVD collection to rival anyone in the country.

In her texts to the fictitious Shane Cully particularly, she showed herself as someone who enjoyed a bit of banter.

Her sister Claire Reddan said Sonia was with her son's father, Lee, for three years, but he was very controlling and the relationship was "very on and off". It ended when he went to Canada in August 2013.

Ms Reddan said Sonia started dating Mr Locke in December 2013 but it was "casual", and she broke it off after an argument.

In the weeks after the break-up, Sonia told her sister she was concerned about Mr Locke's behaviour at work, as he "kept looking at her and it freaked her out".

Ms Reddan said Sonia told her Mr Locke was "a proper fruit loop".

When Mr Locke went missing and threatened suicide, Ms Reddan said Sonia was worried sick about him.

Another friend, Aisling Halloran, worked with Ms Blount and Mr Locke. She said Sonia was "in such a state" when Eric threatened to kill himself, but she "wanted to help him as that's the type of person she was".

On February 14, 2014, Ms Halloran was on the early shift with Sonia. She said Sonia told her she was meeting a new man, Shane Cully, that weekend. She said he had recently friended her on Facebook and it was just a "casual thing".

Ms Halloran said she asked Sonia if the person she was meeting could be Mr Locke pretending to be someone else. She said Sonia admitted the "thought had crossed her mind" but she had asked Shane Cully to send her a selfie, and she was satisfied the person in the picture wasn't Mr Locke.

In her texts to Shane Cully, Sonia admitted she was "sick with nerves" about the liaison, as she had never done something like that before.

Her friend Susan Kelly said she and Sonia had planned to go out the night she died, but she cancelled. Ms Kelly said she believed Sonia was meeting a man and told her she hoped it wasn't Eric.

Ms Kelly told the jury Sonia replied "no, that would be a nightmare, not that whackjob from work".

It seems Mr Locke had a different view of the relationship. He told gardaí they were "really into each other" and Sonia thought he was "considerate, caring and good looking".

Detective Garda Camon Ryan told prosecutor Remy Farrell SC he began interviewing Mr Locke on February 16, 2014, after he handed himself in.

He admitted he had "hurt her".

He told officers he'd suffered with depression for years, but meeting Ms Blount had brought him 'back up'.

He said they had finished about four weeks earlier and it brought him "back down".

He claimed he set up the fake "Shane Cully" profile because he wanted to talk to her, and she was ignoring him at work and had blocked him on Facebook.

She had arranged to meet 'Shane Cully' in the Plaza Hotel, and he told gardaí Sonia got "a shock" when he walked into the room.

He said he wanted to "frighten her and talk to her" but denied he wanted to murder her.

Earlier that day, he'd gone into town and bought a Stanley blade, pellet gun, cable ties and masking tape and brought them with him to the hotel room.

Mr Locke said Sonia was "terrified" when she saw the items.

"She was frantic. We had a fight and it happened."

"I used my hands on her neck," he said.

He pointed to the scratches on his face when asked if Sonia had done anything when he strangled her.

"She said: 'Eric, what are you doing?' but her voice was low," he told gardaí.

He also said he had put her top in her mouth because he panicked.

The trial continues.

Irish Independent

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