Sunday 25 February 2018

'I didn't want [the kids] to find her so I lit house on fire’ – murder accused

Man on trial pleads not guilty for murder of mum-of-two

Olivia Dunlea O'Brien from Passage West, co. Cork supplied by Provision/NO BYLINE
Gardai investigating inside Olivia Dunlea O'Brien's house in Passage West Pic Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
Wreaths outside Olivia Dunlea O'Brien's house in Passage West Pic Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

Ruaidhrí Giblin

A 37-year-old man accused of murdering a woman he had been “an item” with for three months, told gardaí he lit her house on fire because he didn't want the kids to find her, a jury has heard.

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

When 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 that of arson on the deceased woman's home.

A jury in the Central Criminal Court has heard how Mr Murphy handed two sets of clothes to gardaí which he claimed to have been wearing on the night Olivia's body was found.

However, following an examination of CCTV footage, gardaí realised the clothes were not those worn by Mr Murphy on the night in question.

Today the jury heard that when asked why he handed over the wrong pair of clothes, Mr Murphy told gardaí he had a massive row with Olivia.

Having been cautioned that anything he said would be taken down in evidence, he told them they were arguing in a taxi on the way home from a night out and continued arguing in the hall of her home.

'Olivia went into the kitchen, took out the keys and threw them at me,' Mr Murphy told gardaí. 'She said I was the one starting all the arguments and went upstairs.'

According to Mr Murphy's statement to gardaí, Ms Dunlea asked the accused to leave her home, the court heard. She told him that another man, known as Fás, was calling.

'I snapped. I grabbed the knife from the side of the bed and stuck it into her I think 2 times,' Mr Murphy told gardaí.

In a subsequent garda interview, Mr Murphy said he didn't know what he was doing. 'She knows how much I love her. I don't know why she does it to me,' the court heard.

Mr Murphy told gardaí the knife he used was always beside Olivia's bed. 'A long blade with a red handle. The kids must be going through hell. I wasn't thinking.'

He told gardaí that he knew Olivia's three children were going to be home early that Sunday. 'I didn't want them to find her so I lit the house on fire … I wanted the house to go up.'

Mr Murphy lit the quilt in the bedroom and a roll of tissue paper on the kitchen table downstairs, the court heard.

At this stage, the accused told gardaí, 'Olivia was dead on the bed.'

Mr Murphy told gardai he wasn't sure if there was much blood and the room was starting to blaze up as he left. He told them he was out of the house in a couple of minutes.

Later, he took his clothes off because he 'could feel her' on him, the court heard.

Garda Kate McCarthy told the court that Mr Murphy informed her in Togher station that he suffered from depression and stopped taking medication. He hadn't had the medication when he was in garda custody, the court heard.

Prosecuting counsel Thomas Creed SC has told the jury that “Mr Murphy has pleaded guilty to the killing of her and you will have to decide whether that killing was murder.”

The case continues tomorrow before a jury of 7 men and 5 women with Mr Justice Paul Carney presiding.

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