Thursday 17 October 2019

Man who stabbed girlfriend multiple times before setting fire to her home jailed for life

Darren Murphy convicted of murder

The house that was set on fire and (inset) Olivia Dunlea
The house that was set on fire and (inset) Olivia Dunlea
Olivia Dunlea O'Brien from Passage West, Co Cork

Olivia Kelleher

A man who stabbed his girlfriend multiple times and set fire to her home before then returning to the scene when the fire brigade arrived to give an “Oscar like performance” was jailed for life after a jury in Cork convicted him of murder.

The family of Olivia Dunlea (36) of Passage West in Cork said their lives had become a recurring nightmare after their daughter was killed at her home in Pembroke Crescent by Darren Murphy on February 17 2013.

The family members of playschool teacher Olivia had to go through three separate trials in relation to the matter with a previous conviction being overturned on a technicality. They also experienced the agony of a hung jury.                                                                                                               

Mr Murphy (41) of Dan Desmond Drive, Passage West, Co Cork had pleaded not guilty to murder but conceded that he had committed manslaughter. The DPP declined to accept his plea.

The Central Criminal Court sitting in Cork heard that Miss Dunlea was found with multiple stab wounds in a badly burned bedroom in her home with gardai recovering a knife from a sink and a phone from a toilet bowl after a fire had been started at the property.

Prosecuting counsel, Tom Creed, SC, said that Mr Murphy came to the scene of the fire and made it look like he was in disarray with his top on backwards and inside out. Mr Creed said that Murphy wanted people to look at him so that people would say “Poor Darren in a panic.”

Darren Murphy told gardai that he "snapped", stabbed Olivia Dunlea in the neck, lit a quilt in her home before setting a fire in the middle of the kitchen table of her property.

In her victim impact statement Ann Dunlea, mother of the late teacher and youth worker Olivia, said it was “gut wrenching and heartbreaking” to watch her grandchildren struggle without the presence of their mother’s love and touch.

“How do you console a crying child pining for their mother? How do you tell three children that their mother was murdered and their family home set on fire by a deliberate act of evil?

Olivia’s children were her treasures never leaving their mother’s side. Olivia’s house was always full of warmth. We still have sleepless nights haunted by visions that no family should have to know.”

She said that they wanted to reclaim their beloved Olivia following the intrusive focus on her private life through the courts process. She said Mr Murphy had denied them the right to view Olivia’s body and to say their final goodbyes.

“No emergency services were contacted by him in an attempt to save her. The evil act of burning her body in her home will haunt us forever. We have had to sit through three trials over the last five years, listening to the gruesome details of her murder.”

Mrs Dunlea thanked Garda Michelle Baron and the Support After Crime service for their help. Mr Justice Pat McCarthy jailed Mr Murphy for life and thanked the 11 jurors for their service. The jury took two hours and twenty one minutes to reach their verdict.

The case had heard that Olivia was still alive when Mr Murphy set fire to her quilt and the table downstairs.

However, she was unable to raise the alarm because of her extensive stabbing injuries.

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