Friday 23 February 2018

Killer Locke says 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry' to victim's family and blows kiss in court

Gardaí wanted murderer Eric Locke to be charged with sex assault on Sonia

Sonia Blount
Sonia Blount

Eimear Cotter

Gardaí recommended that a man who murdered his ex-girlfriend after he set up a fake online identity should also be charged with sexual assault or rape.

Eric Locke was unanimously found guilty of the murder of mum-of-one Sonia Blount by a jury at the Central Criminal Court. As he was led away yesterday, Locke said "I'm sorry, I'm sorry" to her family and he also blew a kiss to his sisters.

Locke (35) had admitted he caused the death of Ms Blount but said he did not mean to kill her and pleaded the defence of diminished responsibility.

The jury returned after one hour and 33 minutes of deliberating. There were cries of "yes" and clapping from Ms Blount's family and friends when the verdict was read out. A representative from Victim Support Services told Ms Blount's family not to look at Locke.

The mum-of-one was found strangled in a room in the Plaza Hotel in Tallaght on February 16, 2014.

Locke, of St John's Park East in Clondalkin, used a fake Facebook profile to lure Ms Blount to the hotel in Tallaght. The two had been in a relationship which had ended in January 2014 after he called her a "slut" during a row. It was alleged by the prosecution that Locke killed Ms Blount because he was angry she was meeting a stranger for sex in a hotel room and this induced a rage in him for "revenge and retribution".

Eric Locke (covered) arriving at a previous court hearing. Photo: Colin Keegan
Eric Locke (covered) arriving at a previous court hearing. Photo: Colin Keegan
Mother-of-one Sonia Blount who was found dead in the Plaza Hotel, Tallaght, Dublin

His defence team argued Locke was mentally unwell at the time of the killing and suffered an "out of body experience".

The Irish Independent can reveal that gardaí recommended that he should also be charged with either the sexual assault or rape of Ms Blount.

Read more: 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry' - Eric Locke found guilty of the murder of Sonia Blount

The recommendation was sent in a detailed file to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). However, it is understood prosecutors deemed that there was not enough evidence to charge him with these offences. Locke claimed that he had consensual sex with Ms Blount. But sources say that investigators do not believe this was possible considering he was armed with a pellet gun, masking tape and cable ties.

Eric Locke will be sentenced on Friday
Eric Locke will be sentenced on Friday

A senior source said that gardaí believe that Locke should be classified as a convicted sex offender because it would expose him to the "checks and balances" of the register.

During the trial, the court heard Ms Blount from the Allenton Estate in Old Bawn, Tallaght, died as a result of asphyxia, or a lack of oxygen to the brain. State Pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy said this was caused by compression of the neck which was exaggerated by suffocation due to a gag. There were bruises to her neck, and they indicated two types of strangulation were used, the marks being consistent with cable ties and an arm lock.

Scenes of crime examiner Detective Garda Janette O'Neill told the court it was her view a "violent struggle" took place.

Detective Garda Camon Ryan said officers began interviewing Locke on February 16, 2014, after he handed himself in to gardaí. He claimed he set up the fake 'Shane Cully' Facebook profile because he wanted to talk to her, and she was ignoring him.

They had arranged to meet 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 and bought a Stanley blade, the pellet gun and cable ties. 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.

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

His sentence hearing takes place on Friday.

Irish Independent

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