PATRICIA O’Connor’s granddaughter dressed up as her after she was dead in a “charade” to create an “indelible” CCTV record and an illusion she was still alive, a jury has been told.
Stephanie O’Connor (22) disguised herself as her grandmother to “bolster” statements that she was “alive and well” to anyone looking for her, prosecutor Roisin Lacey SC said.
Delivering her closing speech to the jury, Ms Lacey said Stephanie’s mother Louise (41) was an “integral part of the ruse” and acted in support of her daughter.
She also said the denial of co-accused Keith Johnston, who is accused of helping murder accused Kieran Greene buy tools later used to dismember Patricia's body was "unbelievable to its core."
Four people are on trial at the Central Criminal Court charged over the death of grandmother-of-seven Patricia O'Connor (61) in 2017.
Mr Greene (35) is accused of murder while Patricia's daughter and granddaughter Louise and Stephanie O'Connor, as well as Mr Johnston (43) are charged with impeding his prosecution.
They have all pleaded not guilty.
Patricia O'Connor was allegedly murdered on May 29, 2017 at the house at Mountainview Park, Rathfarnham she shared with family including Louise, Stephanie and Mr Greene. Mr Greene was Louise's partner at the time, while Mr Johnston, Stephanie's father, was Louise's ex-boyfriend.
Patricia's dismembered remains were found scattered in 15 parts at nine locations in the Wicklow mountains between June 10 and 14 that year.
The charge against Stephanie O’Connor is that she disguised herself as her grandmother after her alleged murder to pretend that she was still alive, while her mother Louise is accused of agreeing to this.
Mr Johnston is alleged to have assisted Mr Greene in buying implements to use in the concealment of Ms O’Connor’s remains.
Ms Lacey said Stephanie and Louise O’Connor’s cases were inextricably linked. She conceded if Stephanie is found guilty, there is no case on a factual basis against her mother.
She said Stephanie O’Connor entered into the “ruse” in a time frame between 6.34pm and 10.05pm on May 29, when the prosecution maintained her grandmother was dead.
CCTV showed Stephanie was in a family group who left to go to the park just before 7pm and returned at 9pm. She was seen “plain as a pikestaff,” and identified herself returning, Ms Lacey said.
Gardai said that point in time she was in the house and did not leave by the front or back door for the rest of the night “as Stephanie O’Connor.”
“That is the essence of the State’s case against her,” she said.
Gardai viewing CCTV at the front and back had said no person entered the back door who had not exited that door moments earlier.
Defence lawyers had pointed out that the front camera only covered part of the front of the house and the entrance to the side passageway could not be seen.
This was “simply a suggestion” by the defence and an “invitation to speculate” but it was not borne out by what Stephanie said in interview, Ms Lacey said.
She never said she left the house by the front and “scuttled along” by the window and down the side of the house. Asked how often she used the side passageway, Stephanie told gardai “never.” It had a “mountain of bikes” in it and she did not have a key to the back door, she said.
Any speculation that she left by the front and came back in the side was “knocked on the head” by Stephanie O’Connor, Ms Lacey said.
At 9.34pm on the CCTV, a “figure” emerges from the front and walks out with a suitcase. Ms Lacey said this person walked in a “sprightly” manner which was very different to the deportment of Patricia O’Connor, as seen earlier.
The dark suitcase the person was carrying out had a flapping label. The person was wearing jeans and a hood up, the prosecution argued, for the purpose of disguising the hair and facial features.
The prosecution maintained this was the same suitcase that was later found in Patricia’s husband Gus O’Connor’s room.
Patricia was wearing a “flowery frock” on earlier footage and at her last sighting at 6.35pm, and not jeans and a jacket. Ms Lacey asked the jury to look back at evidence of the finding of material at the shallow grave Patricia was temporarily buried in.
It was the prosecution’s case that “that was the frock Patricia O’Connor was murdered in” and the person exiting the house at 9.34 was not Patricia but Stephanie.
Stephanie had said in her interviews she was in the sitting room for 10 to 20 minutes after she came in from the park and she heard her grandmother “storm out” of the house. She told gardai she “honestly couldn’t tell you where Kieran was.”
The CCTV “gives the lie to that“ as during the time she said she was in the sitting room, Stephanie was seen on two occasions, at 9.15pm and 9.21pm, in the back garden with her mother and Mr Greene and this tended to show “there was something being discussed.”
There was no audio but “you are entitled to infer that something was afoot,” Ms Lacey said.
“We say that was when the plan was hatched that there would be an exiting from the premises in the guise of Patricia O’Connor and lo and behold, at 9.34, that is what happens,” Ms Lacey said.
At 10.05pm, a figure comes in from the side passageway with a coat over their arm and carrying a suitcase before entering the rear door. This was a blonde-haired female wearing a light-coloured top carrying a suitcase with two distinctive dark flaps. The same person closes the door.
Stephanie said in interview “it could be me” closing the door but she was not sure, but when asked who the woman coming in the back door was, she said “me, I guess” and “I’m bringing a bag from the shed.”
She said it was “just a bag”, her mother asked her to get it and “I do what I’m told.”
Why she would engage in this “charade” was explained by her knowledge that there was CCTV next door, Ms Lacey said.
“The prosecution says this charade was entered into to create an indelible record on real evidence, CCTV footage, to attempt to create on record a situation where Patricia O’Connor was alive and well and walked out of that house at 9.34, in case it was needed to bolster any statements to that effect to anybody who was legitimately looking for her,” Ms Lacey said.
They “needed proof of her being alive” to support statements to Patricia’s son Richard O’Connor and the gardai.
Activity on Stephanie’s laptop “correlates exactly” with the times the prosecution said she was out of the house.
There was no direct evidence of the time of death or that Patricia was dead by 9.34 but the jury could infer from the actions that were taking place that she was. Actions did not take place in a vacuum, Ms Lacey said.
“There is no other reasonable, legitimate or common sense explanation for that,” she said. “It was done to create the illusion on CCTV and that illusion is that she is alive and well when in actual fact the polar opposite is the case.”
Louise O’Connor’s case was inextricably linked to her daughter’s, Ms Lacey said. There was no direct evidence of her agreeing or acquiescing; there was nothing written or heard and nothing admitted. However, Ms Lacey said the jury could infer it; Louise’s actions took place in a continuum within a very narrow timeframe.
“She was an integral part of this ruse, this charade that is linked to her awareness as much as Stephanie O’Connor’s of the CCTV,” Ms Lacey said. “She is acting in support of Stephanie O’Connor.”
When shown the footage of the figure emerging from the house and leaving at 9.34pm, she identified this as her mother.
Louise is seen on CCTV walking out of the house a minute after the figure leaves at 9.34pm and told the gardai she was checking and saw her mother going down the road.
Ms Lacey said if the jury was satisfied the person leaving with the suitcase was Stephanie then what Louise said was a lie. The prosecution said this was to conceal her guilt in knowing that it was in fact Stephanie.
When it was put to her, she told gardai: “Me ma walked out and turned into Stephanie? That is ridiculous.”
“She is quite clear who is leaving the house, it’s her mother,” Ms Lacey said. There was no margin for error.
Louise is seen emerging from the house again five minutes before Stephanie “returns,” Ms Lacey said. The jury could infer agreement or acquiescent from this coincidence in timing, she said
“The charade is complete, Stephanie O’Connor can come back in now,” she said. “Lo and behold, five minutes later, Stephanie O’Connor comes in the back door.”
“There was a contrivance and Louise O’Connor was a vital link in that contrivance.”
In Keith Johnston’s case. Ms Lacey said he was very closely connected with the O’Connors and was a trusted member of the extended family. He had forged a friendship with Kieran Greene, knew him and described him as being useless at DIY.
Mr Johnston in voluntary interview had told gardai when he was doing work in the bathroom after Patricia went missing, he had a “nagging thought” that he could potentially be cleaning up a crime scene.
This was important because it preceded the shopping trip he went on with Mr Greene on June 9.
There were “omissions” in what he initially told gardai about where they went and what was bought.
The jury was entitled to infer that these were lies and provable by CCTV evidence from the shops. He told gardai in his June 14 voluntary interview they had gone to Homebase and a drill bit and tiles, then said they might have gone to Nutgrove and Churchtown, to Tesco and Homebase but “nowhere else I can think of.”
There was “no mention of B&Q, Woodies, Mr Price or Shoezone," where he was seen on CCTV with Mr Greene.
“If these purchases were legitimate, why the secrecy?” Ms Lacey asked.
By June 14, Mr Greene had already been arrested for murder, Patricia’s remains were still being recovered and the house at Mountainview Park was being searched.
“Yet on June 14, there’s silence, he’s silent as a tomb when it comes to telling the gardai about the kind of places he went shopping with Kieran Greene, only six days previous to that,” Ms Lacey said.
The tools were very specific and “specialised” including two axes, two hacksaws, blades, a tarpaulin, as well as wellington boots.
Mr Johnston had told gardai he did not ask Mr Greene what they were for and was not interested.
“Did he have no interest, no curiosity, why this useless-at-DIY friend was embarking on this frolic of shopping for tools?” Ms Lacey said.
They were not tools required for the redecorating of a bathroom and in relation to the wellies, Mr Johnston said Mr Greene did not like fishing.
“What was curious - two of each. What was that? Some DIY version of Noah’s Ark? Two by two?” Ms Lacey said.
Mr Johnston was the “DIY savvy man,” who had said Mr Greene “wouldn’t even know what tools to get.”
“Keith Johnston, the man with the expertise is there, all over the CCTV footage on June 9,” she said.
He had said he did not put two and two together, but Ms Lacey said he had been anxious to distance himself from those purchases.
Ms Lacey told the jury he had been suspicious enough when he was working on the bathroom days earlier to say “I’m not going to lie, I had a sneaky look around the house.”
“Obviously I did, she is missing, and I'm here doing this, it does go through your mind,” he had told gardai.
What he said was “unbelievable to its core,” Ms Lacey said.
She told the jury there was “compelling” evidence to find all four accused guilty.
The trial continues.