PATRICIA O’Connor’s husband pleaded guilty to falsely reporting to gardai that his wife was missing when he knew she was already dead.
A jury heard Augustine O’Connor (75) entered his guilty plea before the trials of four people charged over his wife's death got underway.
While Mr O’Connor, known as Gus, was referred to in evidence throughout the trial, the jury did not know before today that he has admitted a charge of impeding the apprehension of an offender.
The jury was told of his plea as the prosecution closed its case in the joint trial of murder accused Kieran Greene (35) and three other people.
Mr Greene's then-partner and Patricia’s daughter Louise O'Connor (41), her ex-boyfriend Keith Johnston (43) and their daughter Stephanie O'Connor (22) are charged with impeding a murder prosecution.
Patricia O’Connor (61), a retired hospital cleaner, was allegedly murdered on May 29 that year at the house at Mountainview Park, Rathfarnham she shared with family including her husband, their daughter Louise, granddaughter Stephanie and Mr Greene.
Her dismembered remains were found scattered in the Dublin and Wicklow mountains between June 10 and 14, that year. She died from blunt force trauma to the head caused by at least three blows from a solid implement.
This afternoon, senior investigating officer Inspector Brian O’Keeffe agreed with Conor Devally SC, for Mr Greene, that his client went to Rathfarnham Garda Station in June 12, 2017, when he was voluntarily interviewed. He was free to go and returned for further interviews the next day.
He said he had a fight with Patricia O’Connor; that she first attacked him and he was “thin on detail” but this resulted in her lying bleeding profusely on the bathroom floor.
He brought gardai to Wexford where a hair was found at the gravesite where he said he had temporarily buried her, and he was arrested, detained and further interviewed, Insp O’Keeffe agreed.
There was a great deal said about what happened in the aftermath of Ms O’Connor’s death, Mr Devally said. In those interviews, Mr Greene had said he was the only one involved in the physical altercation.
Insp O’Keeffe agreed it would be fair to say Mr Greene said he acted alone in removing her from the house, in driving her from the scene, covering up or hiding her presence and subsequently returning to dismember her body and distribute the remains.
In the interviews, Mr Greene said some of what he claimed to have done was so “Louise and the kids would not find out.”
Insp O’Keeffe agreed with Mr Devally that the interviews if taken at face value would give a picture that Mr Greene was the only person involved in any violence on the deceased or attempt to cover up.
Mr Devally said harvesting of CCTV and other garda man hours resulted in the net being spread wider.
Gus O’Connor was spoken to on June 14 because he had reported his wife missing on June 1. This was voluntary and in relation to the circumstances under which he made that report, the jury heard.
After the CCTV was examined and other matters were looked at, Mr O’Connor was arrested on September 2, 2017, he “wasn’t alone” and he was under suspicion of involvement in murder.
Insp O’Keeffe agreed.
Mr O’Connor was detained, questioned and released. Insp O’Keeffe agreed it would be fair to say as he listened to Mr Greene on June 12 and 13, there was no basis to arrest any other parties because of what he said.
“Other factors emerged whereby it was reasonable to arrest Gus O’Connor and other persons in September,” Mr Devally said.
Insp O’Keeffe agreed that when someone was arrested for a serious offence, it was not permissible to re-arrest them “on a whim” for the same offence. New evidence had to be sworn before a judge.
The jury heard on December 9, Mr Greene was on remand in Cloverhill prison when he made a new statement.
Mr Devally said a couple of steps were taken as a result of that.
“More than a couple of steps were taken,” Insp O’Keeffe said.
He agreed they included a search of the Dodder where vegetation was cut back and two hacksaws and an axe were found, and this would not have happened without the additional information Mr Greene gave in Cloverhill. One of the hacksaws had human hair snagged in the blade and this was sent for analysis.
A warrant was sought for the re-arrest of Mr Johnston, who had previously been arrested for the same serious offence. Insp O’Keeffe agreed this involved going to a district court to indicate a reason to a judge the reason for the re-arrest.
Subsequent to that, the co-accused were charged with the offences they are now on trial for.
Insp O’Keeffe said a lot of investigative actions were taken.
“I think there was also a charge brought against Mr Gus O’Connor,” Mr Devally said.
Insp O’Keeffe said there was, and he was charged on October 18, 2018.
Mr O’Connor had been part of this trial but on the first date on which it was listed for hearing, some weeks ago, “he took a step which dispensed with the need to continue with his trial, that was to plead guilty to an offence, that he made a report that his wife was missing on June 1, 2017 when he knew she was already dead and in doing so impeding the apprehension of an offender or perpetrator,” Mr Devally said.
“That is correct,” Insp O’Keeffe said.
Mr Devally said in the wake of what was found of the river bank, Mr Johnston was re-arrested and asked if there was any re-arrest of anyone else.
“No,” Insp O’Keeffe said.
He confirmed that Gus O’Connor was invited to react to what Mr Greene had said about him.
Insp O’Keeffe agreed with prosecutor Roisin Lacey that after Mr Greene initially admitted “something awful” he was allowed to go home because at that stage the gardai had “so little to go on.”
“It was believed that the torso was that of a male,” he said.
There was very little to go on until they went to the grave, saw what was there and were able to incorporate that with what was said in the interviews.
The trial continues before the jury and Mr Justice Paul McDermott tomorrow.