Sunday 18 February 2018

Man used false identity to meet ex-girlfriend in hotel room where he strangled her, trial told

Eric Locke, inset, Sonia Blount
Eric Locke, inset, Sonia Blount

Eimear Cotter

A former male model assumed a false identity on social media and lured a young mum-of-one to a hotel bedroom where he strangled her to death, a jury has been told.

Eric Locke (35) has admitted that he caused the death of Sonia Blount in a hotel room in Tallaght in February 2014.

He had been in a brief relationship with Ms Blount but it had fizzled out and a court heard he did not take the break-up well.

A jury at the Central Criminal Court has been told it is going to be asked to concentrate on the mental state of Mr Locke at the time of Ms Blount's death.

The accused, of St John's Park East in Clondalkin, has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Sonia Blount at The Plaza Hotel in Tallaght on February 16, 2014.

In his opening address to the jury, Remy Farrell SC said this case was "not a whodunit" but rather the jury would be asked to concentrate on the mental state of the accused.

Mr Farrell told the court Ms Blount was a 31-year-old mother and had a three-year-old boy from a previous relationship.

She had a brief relationship with Mr Locke in late 2013 but by early January 2014 that relationship had fizzled out.

Mr Farrell said it appears Mr Locke did not take the break-up very well. He said it appeared Mr Locke had threatened to commit suicide and continued to send Ms Blount text messages for some period of time after the break-up.

By early February 2014, Mr Farrell said it appeared the situation had calmed down and Mr Locke had accepted the break-up of the relationship.

After the first week of February, Mr Farrell said Ms Blount stopped communicating with Mr Locke - specifically she blocked him on Facebook.

Mr Farrell said it seems Mr Locke was very unhappy that Ms Blount had blocked him on Facebook and was no longer communicating with him.

He said Ms Blount held her son's birthday party on February 15, 2014, and she indicated to family she was going out with a female friend that night.

However, Mr Farrell said Ms Blount had been in contact with a man who went by the name of "Shane Cully" on Facebook.

The messaging began as banter, but developed into more risqué and intimate private messaging, and the pair later arranged to meet up for a sexual encounter.

Mr Farrell said there was no Shane Cully, but rather Mr Locke had assumed a false identity and arranged to meet Ms Blount.

Mr Farrell warned the jury it was important for them not to judge and emphasised that Ms Blount was not on trial.

He said Mr Locke brought cable ties, masking tape and an airgun to the hotel, which he said, was "brought with the view of dominating, overpowering" the victim.

The jury was told that Ms Blount's remains were found later on February 16 lying on the floor of the bedroom. There was a garment in her mouth and she died by asphyxiation and strangulation.

Mr Farrell said the accused was later interviewed by gardai and admitted he strangled Ms Blount, who became upset when she saw the items, that he panicked in some way and strangled her but "didn't mean to kill her".

Mr Farrell said the communications between the two would provide a digital fingerprint of the arc of their relationship.

He said there would also be evidence of what the accused did in the aftermath of Ms Blount's death as well as his movements the next day.

The trial opened with evidence from gardai from the Mapping Section.

Staff at The Plaza Hotel have also given evidence of finding Ms Blount's body lying on the floor of room 346, and told the court that they contacted the owner of the hotel as well as the emergency services.

The trial continues before Mr Justice Michael Moriarty and a jury of eight men and four women.

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