Tuesday 17 September 2019

'I lost partner of 36 years, I'll never get over it,' says murder accused in trial

Testimony: Des Duffy told the jury that his partner of 36 years, Des Sullivan, was abusive to him. Picture: Collins
Testimony: Des Duffy told the jury that his partner of 36 years, Des Sullivan, was abusive to him. Picture: Collins
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

Des Duffy, accused of murdering his partner Des Sullivan, yesterday told the court he was not there to "blacken" the name of the man he described as his "life partner".

"You don't spend 36 years of your life with somebody if you don't love them," he said.

A crumpled tissue in his hand, the 70-year-old Dubliner took to the witness stand in his murder trial, claiming that he was "devastated and heartbroken" by what had happened on the night of May 23, 2016 with the death of his partner Mr Sullivan (59).

"I lost my partner of 36 years and I will never, ever get over that," he said.

Mr Duffy broke down several times during his testimony amid the silence of courtroom 13 at the Courts of Criminal Justice.

He had grown up on Rathgar Road in Dublin. His father was a mathematician, his mother a housewife and he had one brother eight years older than him.

Asked what it was like to grow up as a gay man, he said it had been difficult being of his generation, and said: "You hid your sexuality."

Referring to former Dublin Lord Mayor Mary Frehill, who had given evidence earlier in the morning about knowing the couple, Mr Duffy revealed he had gone out with her younger sister, Anne.

Gay men would 'camouflage [their] sexuality' by going out with girls.

When he "came out" to his parents, his father knew it was "not a lifestyle choice", he said, and that it was not going to be easy for him. He told him that if he wished to seek 'medical help', he would assist him.

Asked if he had sought help, Mr Duffy said he had turned to drink and had a nervous breakdown.

His voice faltered as he said he had ended up in St Patrick's mental facility as a patient for three months and had been recommended electroconvulsive therapy by a doctor but had declined it.

"I dried out eventually," he said, adding that he ceased drinking for years afterwards.

"I was described earlier on as Des Sullivan's drinking partner - I certainly wasn't," he told the court.

"I was his partner in life but I wasn't his drinking partner as I wasn't a pub person."


He described how he had met him in April 1982.

They moved to London to find work and he recalled he had bought two business suits for interviews.

One day he came home and Dessie said: "Take a look at your suit in the wardrobe." Doing so, he found he had attacked the sleeves of both suits with scissors.

Mr Duffy said that "you rarely got an explanation" from Dessie as to why he did this sort of thing.

He said people had asked him over the years why he had stayed with him, adding that many women stay in "abusive, violent relationships".

"I covered up. I didn't tell people what was going on," he said. "At the end of the day I did love the man."

Irish Independent

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