Sunday 22 September 2019

'The key should be thrown away - he's a danger to society' - heartbroken family of murdered mum as killer jailed

Sisters of murdered Olivia Dunlea, Anne and Amanda with her mother Ann (centre).
Pic Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
Sisters of murdered Olivia Dunlea, Anne and Amanda with her mother Ann (centre). Pic Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

Ralph Riegel

THE family of a murdered mother of three warned that while her killer Darren Murphy was handed a prison term, they are now serving a life sentence.

Murphy (41) of Dan Desmond Villas, Passage West, Cork was convicted by a Central Criminal Court jury last week of the murder of Olivia Dunlea (36).

He was handed a mandatory life sentence.

Murphy had admitted the manslaughter but denied the murder of the mother of three whose stabbed body was found in her burning home at Pembroke Crescent, Passage West, Cork on February 17 2013.

Ms Dunlea, who had only been dating the defendant for eight weeks before her 2013 death, had been stabbed six times but the young mother was still alive when her home was set on fire by Murphy.

Cork Fire Brigade members later recovered her badly burned body in an upstairs bedroom and she had to be identified from dental records.

Ms Dunlea's three young children were not in the property that evening.

Her mother, Ann, and sister, Ann, have now spoken out to describe the "total nightmare" the family have endured over the past five years with Murphy standing trial three times before being convicted of murder and handed a life sentence.

Murdered: Olivia Dunlea, from Passage West, Co Cork. Photo: Provision
Murdered: Olivia Dunlea, from Passage West, Co Cork. Photo: Provision

The family said that while they were relieved to see Murphy convicted at the third attempt, nothing will bring Olivia back.

"I was happy and sad," her mother said.

"At the end of the day, Olivia is still lost to us - we had to go through all of this?

"Five years - but we are happy with the verdict.

"But what is life (imprisonment?) Personally, I think the key should be thrown away - he should never come out again. He is a danger to society.

"Our lives have been standing still for the past five years.

"We have gone through trial after trial but, thank God, we got a good outcome in the end. But we are still without Olivia.

"She was our best friend - we were so close and we are totally heartbroken without her. She was always there for us - we got the life sentence. He got a prison term.

"Olivia was lovely - she was so warm hearted," her mother stressed.

"She was family orientated - her children were her world. They loved her so much."

Olivia's sister said they were heartbroken by the appalling fate Olivia met.

"She was a pre-school teacher - Olivia was absolutely brilliant. Her door was always open to help anyone.

"She was a daughter, a mother, an aunt, a sister and a great friend."

Murphy's manslaughter plea was rejected by the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP).

State Pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy found Ms Dunlea had been stabbed six times, suffering four shallow wounds to the front of her neck and two wounds behind her ear.

One of the wounds to the back of the neck was so deep it penetrated Ms Dunlea's spinal canal.

"It could be fatal but most likely would not deliver a rapid death," prosecutor Tom Creed SC said.

Mr Creed said Dr Cassidy, from an examination of Ms Dunlea's trachea, determined that she was still alive when the fire in her bedroom was started.

"It would appear she was still alive when the fire started."

"Her (Dr Cassidy's) opinion is that Ms Dunlea was incapacitated by the knife wound to the back of her neck."

Ms Dunlea was found lying face down on the bed having apparently made no attempt to escape the fire.

The quilt on the bed had been set alight.

Fire brigade officials found two seats for the fire - one on the bed in which Ms Dunlea was found and one on a downstairs kitchen table.

Ms Dunlea and the defendant, who were in a relationship for between six and eight weeks, had been out socialising in the Rochestown Inn not far from Ms Dunlea's home.

They got a taxi back to her Pembroke Crescent home shortly after midnight.

However, when neighbours spotted a fire at Ms Dunlea's home a short time later and Ms Dunlea's friends became concerned, Murphy was at his own home.

He drove to Ms Dunlea's house and was shouting and sobbing on the street outside.

Murphy tried at one point to rush past fire brigade officials to get into the house.

He also kept shouting: "This is my girlfriend's house."

Murphy also kept repeatedly trying to ring Ms Dunlea's mobile phone, explaining he wanted to determine where she was.

When he was being interviewed by Gardaí later that day, he paused the interview to keep trying to ring Ms Dunlea.

Murphy told Gardaí he had had a row with Ms Dunlea after they had left the pub and had gone home, leaving her at her door with her keys in her hand.

He also voluntarily gave Gardaí two sets of clothing that he said he had been wearing that night.

However, when a Garda checked the CCTV security camera footage from the pub, it was found not to match what Murphy had been wearing when out with Ms Dunlea.

Gardaí arrived at Murphy's home with a search warrant and the defendant became emotional.

He said he had made a mistake and given Gardaí the wrong clothing - the correct clothing having been placed under decking at his home before being put into the attic.

Mr Creed said Murphy then told Gardaí: "I just snapped."

He said "a massive row" had erupted between himself and Ms Dunlea and, having snapped, he grabbed a knife in the bedroom and stabbed her.

"He said he snapped, grabbed a knife by the bed and stabbed Olivia two times in the neck with it."

Mr Creed said Murphy then told Gardaí he set the quilt alight with Ms Dunlea's cigarette lighter.

A second fire was then lit on the kitchen table.

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