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'The sentences were not enough' - four members of Patricia O'Connor's extended family jailed for roles in covering up murder

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Augustine 'Gus' O'Connor. PIC: Collins Courts

Augustine 'Gus' O'Connor. PIC: Collins Courts

Murdered grandmother Patricia O’Connor

Murdered grandmother Patricia O’Connor

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Augustine 'Gus' O'Connor. PIC: Collins Courts

FOUR members of murdered grandmother Patricia O'Connor's extended family have been jailed for their roles in covering up her brutal killing.

FOUR members of grandmother Patricia O'Connor's extended family have been jailed for their roles in covering up her brutal killing - but her heartbroken son has said the sentences are "not enough."

Patricia's husband Augustine "Gus" O'Connor (76), daughter Louise (41), granddaughter Stephanie (22) and Louise's ex-boyfriend Keith Johnston (43) all had prison terms handed down at the Central Criminal Court today.

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Murdered grandmother Patricia O’Connor

Murdered grandmother Patricia O’Connor

Murdered grandmother Patricia O’Connor

The four took part in the concealment of Patricia's murder at the hands of Louise's partner, Kieran Greene, who was jailed for life on Monday.

Louise was given a three year sentence and Stephanie two years, each with the final six months suspended. Gus was jailed for 18 months and Johnston for three years

Mr Justice Paul McDermott said what Gus, Louise and Stephanie O'Connor did was a "gross betrayal" of Patricia. Gus had behaved "disgracefully," he said, and he did not believe either Louise or Stephanie had yet told the full truth of what happened that night.

He said Johnston must have known of Greene's "grotesque idea" to dismember Patricia's body when they later went on a shopping spree with an "evil purpose."

Outside court, Patricia's son Richard said the sentences were "not enough", but that "no length of time is long enough for the crimes they have committed."

Greene battered retired hospital cleaner Patricia to death with a child’s hurley in a “sustained attack” during a row in the bathroom of the family home at Mountainview Park, Rathfarnham on May 29, 2017.

He buried the grandmother-of-seven's body in a shallow grave in a cornfield in Co Wexford, but later dug it up, dismembered it with a hacksaw and scattered the remains in the Wicklow Mountains.

After the murder, Louise and Stephanie claimed Patricia had stormed out of the house following an argument. Stephanie dressed up as her dead grandmother leaving the house that night, to be captured on a neighbour’s CCTV to bolster this claim.

The plan was “hatched” with her mother Louise, who agreed to it.

Gus O’Connor knew his wife was dead but went to gardai to falsely report she was missing.

Handyman Johnston, Stephanie's father, went shopping with Greene to help him select tools that were later used by Greene to dismember the body.

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Keith Johnston and Stephanie O’Connor. PHOTO: Collins

Keith Johnston and Stephanie O’Connor. PHOTO: Collins

Keith Johnston and Stephanie O’Connor. PHOTO: Collins

The four co-accused were convicted of impeding Greene's prosecution. All except Patricia's husband had denied the charges and were found guilty by a jury in February. Gus O'Connor pleaded guilty before the trial started.

Greene had pleaded not guilty to the murder.

Judge McDermott said today the offences were "simply appalling." The reaction and response of the four accused to the killing was "dreadful." The body was disposed of in a very short period of time and "no effort was made to obtain the assistance of the gardai or emergency services."

In a very short space of time the efforts to conceal the crime became "ever more elaborate."

The remains were dismembered by Greene and found with "shock and horror" by unsuspecting members of the public, the judge said.

The object of the exercise was to ensure that her body was never found, or if found, that the murderer was never prosecuted.

Patricia had worked hard all her life for her children and grandchildren and her death had been "devastating and heartbreaking" for her family, the judge continued.

She was a person who "had a life and a future until it was ended by the murder committed by Kieran Greene."

Gus O'Connor's reaction to his wife's death was "appalling" and he did not demonstrate much interest or concern for her at the time when he simply asked the others to call the gardai and when they refused, he went to bed.

He "behaved disgracefully" and denied her the "dignity and respect she deserved in life as in death."

The "charade" he maintained after was a "gross act of betrayal" of his wife and her family and a serious interference with the course of justice.

In mitigation, Gus had expressed remorse, told gardai he felt "rotten" and pleaded guilty.

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Louise O'Connor has been found guilty of impeding her mother's killer Kieran Greene's prosecution
Pic Collins Courts

Louise O'Connor has been found guilty of impeding her mother's killer Kieran Greene's prosecution Pic Collins Courts

Louise O'Connor has been found guilty of impeding her mother's killer Kieran Greene's prosecution Pic Collins Courts

The "ruse" Louise and Stephanie took part in was to create the impression that Patricia was a missing person. Their lies created a "cover story" for Greene and they maintained it even after the emergence of the "horrible details" of how Patricia had been disinterred and dismembered, the judge said.

As Patricia's daughter and granddaughter "their reactions to what was done to her were shocking and callous, a fact that was compounded by the close family connections."

Louise bore a greater degree of culpability and responsibility than her daughter because of her dominant position in the household.

While the dismemberment of the body was not part of the case against them, their behaviour allowed Greene to continue to take whatever steps he felt appropriate to avoid detection, Judge McDermott said.

Both Louise and Stephanie had since conviction accepted the jury's verdict but even now, Judge McDermott was not satisfied that either of them had told the full truth of what happened that night.

He was satisfied Stephanie was not the originator of the idea (to disguise herself), and was not acting on her own.

Patricia had been described by her son as a hard-working "straight talker" who had opened up her home to her family and the judge was not satisfied that her personality or any tensions in the house due to overcrowding were mitigating features.

In mitigation, Louise had expressed her devastation at her mother's murder and the consequences of her own actions.

The judge took account of the effect Louise's sentencing would have on her children.

Johnston knowingly went with Patricia's murderer, knowing she was dead, to assist him in selecting tools that he must have known were going to be used for the "dreadful purpose" of dismembering her, the judge said.

This showed "callous disregard and total disrespect" for Patricia, who had been violently killed. The remains were "desecrated" in a "horrible way" and Greene must have known when he helped Greene on the "shopping spree" that Patricia would not be granted a decent, respectful burial, the judge said.

Johnston became a "willing participant in the very cruel deception" of Richard O'Connor and family members.

On CCTV, Greene and Johnston were seen in shops "calmly and diligently" doing something familiar to everyone "but with an underlying evil purpose."

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Kieran Greene - convicted of Patricia O'Connor murder

Kieran Greene - convicted of Patricia O'Connor murder

Kieran Greene - convicted of Patricia O'Connor murder

Greene "took the most extreme steps imaginable" to avoid detection and Johnston "assisted him in doing so."

Johnston maintained his innocence.

In mitigation, he said Johnston had been described as a dutiful and attentive parent.

There was silence in the courtroom as the sentences were handed down and none of the accused reacted. They all sat apat under social distancing measures, except for Louise and Stephanie who sat together in the dock

The mother and daughter both stood to acknowledge their bonds for the suspended portions of their sentences.

Louise, dressed in a grey t-shirt and jeans, replied "yes" almost inaudibly when asked if she agreed to the terms. Her daughter, wearing a "Rick and Morty" cartoon t-shirt said "I do."

The judge refused a request from Gus O'Connor's barrister Michael P O'Higgins to suspend his client's sentence.

The four were then led away.

Members of Patricia's family were in an overflow courtroom next door.

After the hearing, Richard O'Connor made a brief statement on behalf of Patricia's loved ones on the steps of the Criminal Courts of Justice.

Members of the large family group wore flowers which he said symbolised his mother's love of gardening and the loss of a loved one.

"My mam was a kind, loving person; a mother, a sister and a grandmother with many years left to live that were so cruelly taken from her," he said.

"The sentences given today, we feel were not enough, but no length of time is long enough for the crimes they have committed. May they live with this on their conscience for the rest of their lives. As a family, we will try to heal the pain caused by their actions."

Online Editors