Wednesday 23 May 2018

Nanny had told parents she was pregnant shortly before her death

Robert Corbet is led into court during an earlier appearance related to the charge of murdering Aoife Phelan
Robert Corbet is led into court during an earlier appearance related to the charge of murdering Aoife Phelan
Robert Corbet
Aoife Phelan was found dead in 2012
Aoife Phelan

Anne Sharkey

A NANNY whose body was found in an oil barrel told her parents she was pregnant shortly before her death.

The trial of a Laois man charged with murdering Aoife Phelan in 2012 began at the Central Criminal Court yesterday.

Robert Corbet (25), of Sheffield Cross, Co Laois, pleaded not guilty to the murder of Ms Phelan (30) between October 25 and November 7, 2012, but admits manslaughter.

Isobel Kennedy SC, prosecuting, opened the trial for the jury, saying the accused had met Ms Phelan at a nightclub and had remained in contact with her through phone messaging.

The court heard that there had been sexual contact "not involving intercourse" prior to the accused receiving a text from Ms Phelan to say she was "late".

Ms Kennedy told the court that it is believed that Ms Phelan wanted a relationship and that the accused had expressed reluctance. It heard that Ms Phelan was pushy about a relationship.

It is the State's case that Corbet repeatedly struck her and dumped her body, which was later found in an oil barrel at Capoley in Portlaoise.

The prosecution told the court that the cause of death was asphyxia with blunt force trauma to the head and chest.

It is the prosecution's case that the accused brought her to his garage and caught her around the neck until she was motionless. It is claimed that he put a black sack around her head, tied cables around her and disposed of the body.

Garda Louise Young of Portlaoise station told the jury that on October 26, Michael Phelan had called to the station to report their daughter Aoife as missing.

Ms Phelan's mobile phone and handbag were later recovered from a black Toyota Land Cruiser belonging to Corbet.

Mr Phelan confirmed that Aoife had told her parents she was pregnant prior to her death. Mr Phelan confirmed that he was aware his daughter had been seeing somebody but said "I never met him".

Paul Bates, a close friend of Ms Phelan, told the court that he had met Corbet while at a nightclub with her.

He also said he had seen Ms Phelan on October 25, 2012.

Under cross-examination by Conor Devally SC, defending, he confirmed it seemed evident that she was going to meet the accused when she left his house.

Detective Garda Eddie Brennan, formerly of Portlaoise station, confirmed that in an interview with gardai, the accused had said that they were not going out with one another.

When asked if he was aware she was pregnant, Corbet had said that he did not know. When asked further, the court heard that he recalled her saying she was "a day or two late".

The accused had said that Ms Phelan was "pushing for a relationship", adding that she was "good craic, very friendly and well able for banter".

The court heard that Corbet said he was "100pc" definite that he didn't have sexual intercourse with Ms Phelan.

He had said it was physically impossible for him to be the father.

In his statement, Corbet said that Ms Phelan had visited his home. "We were kissing and it got hot and heavy. Aoife then wanted to have intercourse and I told her I was just out of a relationship and said no. A few days later, Aoife texted me to say she was late – it didn't make sense to me – I never had penetrative sex with her."

In his statement, the accused said that in September Ms Phelan had started to get "very personal", asking did he ever think about his future.

Corbet said he explained he was only 23 and she went on to state he would make a "great father".

The court heard that there would be CCTV footage shown in the trial, which continues before Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and a jury of three women and nine men.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News