Monday 18 December 2017

Man jailed for five years for concealing murder victim's body 'in wardrobe' and cleaning up bloody scene

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Alison O'Riordan

A Dublin man previously convicted of killing a man and his pregnant girlfriend by setting a fire in their flat has been jailed for five years for concealing a murder victim's body and cleaning up the murder scene.

Anthony Locke (38) of Ramilies Road in Ballyfermot, had pleaded not guilty to the murder of Mr Christopher Jackson (53) at his apartment on Prussia Street, between September 6 and 7, 2012.

In November last year at the Central Criminal Court, a jury of six women and six men took six hours and 47 minutes to come to a majority verdict of 10 to two that Locke was not guilty of murder but guilty of impeding the apprehension of a person who he knew or believed to be guilty of murder.

His brother Bernard Locke had pleaded guilty to the murder of Mr Jackson and was sentenced to life imprisonment in February 2014.

The court previously heard that in 1998 Anthony Locke was jailed for ten years for starting a fire in a flat which caused the deaths of a man and his pregnant girlfriend.

He pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Gerard Kavanagh (30) and his girlfriend Mary Core (29) at Decies Road, Ballyfermot on February 18, 1995.

On January 21 2016, Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy told defence counsel Mr Padraig Dwyer SC that this case appeared "in principle to be an appropriate case for a partial suspension of a custodial sentence."

The judge told Mr Dwyer that his "concern" would be that the condition of Anthony Locke "be monitored" and "how that would be done."

Mr Dwyer suggested at the time that the court put back the sentencing date to await a "probation report" which can take between four and six weeks.

"As a matter of principle it is a case where a judge ought to consider this course of action," said Mr Justice McCarthy.

Today Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy told the court he had read the report from the probation service.

Mr Dwyer, counsel for the accused, said this was a "positive report" as it disclosed that Mr Locke had "general remorse for his actions."

He asked the court to follow the recommendations of the probation report.

Mr Dwyer said his client went into custody on September 9 2012 and was remanded in Cloverhill Prison on September 11 2012.

"That is three years and seven months and that is the equivalent of a five year sentence," said Mr Dwyer.

Mr Justice McCarthy said that the probation report says Mr Locke is at "high risk of re-offending in the next 12 months."

The court heard Mr Locke is alcohol free, compliant with his medication regime and "wants to turn his life around."

The judge said the reason he adjourned the sentencing date was the reference to the fear of Mr Locke re-offending within the next 12 months "which is a readily short period of time."

Mr Dwyer asked the court if it would dispose of this matter with the conditions attached he would be obliged.

Mr Justice McCarthy said this matter came before him for sentencing where the accused concealed the body of the deceased and subsequently cleaned up the apartment where the murder had occurred.

"This must be regarded as being considerably serious and towards the top of the scale of offences of this kind. The body was concealed in a highly elaborate manner using a duvet, plastic refuse sacks but there was also extensive cleaning done, therefore one cannot but regard it in that light," he said.

He said Mr Locke had also been involved in arson offences where he set a house alight and two people were burnt.

"He is a man who undoubtedly had difficulties in his life with alcohol and drug abuse. He is of modest education and formed a relationship which lasted for many years until his partner died. He is regarded as a person with cognitive abilities significantly below the average in society and has suffered from suicidal ideations," he said.

Mr Justice McCarthy said this was a case where there is a willingness by Mr Locke "to reform himself" but nonetheless these convictions "must be considered as serious offences."

He said it was a "clear case" where Mr Locke was "under some form of duress or pressure."

The judge said that while the deceased had difficulties with alcohol and drugs, his life was "as precious as anyone else's."

Mr Justice McCarthy then said the appropriate sentence was a term of imprisonment of eight years but he would suspend "a substantial part of that sentence for pleading guilty."

"I might have considered a lower sentence were it not for the probation services. In light of that fact the rehabilitation in prison will be to benefit," he said.

Mr Justice McCarthy then sentenced Locke to eight years in prison with the final three years suspended.

He then backdated the sentence to September 9 2012 and ordered Locke to comply with probation services upon his release.

On January 21 2016, prosecution counsel Mr Conor Devally SC called Detective Garda Michael Donlon of the Bridewell Garda station to take the stand.

The court heard that "no person wished to record anything in relation" to the deceased Mr Christopher Jackson.

Det Gda Donlon agreed with Mr Devally that Anthony Locke had twenty previous convictions dating back to 1995 and these included criminal damage and larceny.

The court heard a "very serious event" happened in 1995 when a fire was started by Mr Locke in a flat which caused the deaths of two people.

"This resulted in a trial and sentence was imposed on Mr Locke in March 1998. There was two convictions for arson and two for manslaughter arising from the accused setting fire to a premises where two people died," said Mr Devally.

The court heard Mr Locke has already served the ten year prison sentence with the last three suspended.

Det Gda Donlon agreed with counsel that on Anthony Locke's release the next recorded conviction was in 2006  "under the Drugs Act."

Det Gda Donlan agreed with Mr Dwyer that the "primary physical activity" Anthony Locke engaged in was to place the body of Mr Jackson in the "wardrobe, clean up the flat and get rid of any materials that were covered in blood."

The court heard Mr Locke did not "exercise his right to be silent" in his interviews with the gardai and "provided an account" of what happened.

"He suggested to you that a mobile phone could be found at a certain location?" asked Mr Dwyer.

"Yes but that was never located," replied Det Gda Donlon.

Mr Dwyer asked the court to bear in mind the circumstances under which the offence was committed.

"Bernard Locke murdered an individual and requested Anthony Locke to clean up the premises and put the body away in a wardrobe at a time when Anthony Locke was morally weakened by the effects of alcohol over him," said counsel,

Mr Dwyer said the court would have heard evidence that Bernard Locke was "bullying, domineering and aggressive" towards his brother so there was an "air of intimidation in and around the premises at the time of the offence."

The court heard that Anthony Locke has since "disassociated" himself from his brother.

"He comes before the court obviously as a troubled man, his upbringing was quite dysfunctional and both parents had difficulty with alcohol which created a fraught atmosphere in the home," said Mr Dwyer.

Counsel also told the court that a psychological report showed that Anthony Locke had self harmed and he was "negatively affected by an incident" as a child when he was assaulted by an older person.

The court heard Anthony Locke suffered a "serious bereavement" when his long term partner died in 2009.

"They had arranged to marry two week after the actual date of death which led to an escalation of drink and drug abuse," said Mr Dwyer.

Counsel said his client "did suffer remorse" in relation to starting the fire in 1995.

Counsel asked the court to bear in mind his clients "prospect of rehabilitation" as well as having a "willingness to engage with group therapy."

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