Friday 24 November 2017

Young mum was 'strangled with cable ties and an arm lock', pathologist tells jury

Eric Locke, inset, Sonia Blount
Eric Locke, inset, Sonia Blount

Eimear Cotter

A young mother who was allegedly murdered by her former boyfriend was strangled to death with cable ties and an arm lock, a pathologist has told a jury.

Professor Marie Cassidy told a jury at the Central Criminal Court that Sonia Blount died as a result of a lack of oxygen to the brain which was caused by compression of the neck. This was exaggerated by suffocation due to a gag in her mouth.

It is likely the 31-year-old was still alive when a gag was put in her mouth, Prof Cassidy said.

A scenes of crime examiner has also given evidence that cable ties and other items were strewn around the hotel bedroom and it appeared a "violent struggle" had taken place.

Eric Locke (35) has admitted he caused the death of mum-of-one Sonia Blount at The Plaza Hotel in Tallaght in February 2014 but he has denied her murder.

He had been in a brief relationship with Ms Blount but it had fizzled out and a court heard he did not take the break-up well.

It is the State's case that Mr Locke, of St John's Park East in Clondalkin, assumed a false identity on social media and lured his former girlfriend to a hotel bedroom where he strangled her to death.

Professor Marie Cassidy told the jury at the Central Criminal Court that she completed the post-mortem on Ms Blount on February 17, 2014.

The victim was 5'2", of very slim build and had long brown hair.

Prof Cassidy said her nails were long and manicured and her toes were painted. Two of her fingernails had been chipped.

Ms Blount was fully dressed in a black vest top, black jeans and black boots.

Prosecutor Remy Farrell SC said there may be evidence in the trial that Mr Locke dressed the body after death and the pathologist agreed this was "an extremely difficult process".

Prof Cassidy said Ms Blount died as a result of asphyxia, or a lack of oxygen to the brain.

This was caused by compression of the neck which was exaggerated by suffocation due to a gag in her mouth.

Prof Cassidy said the bruising around Ms Blount's mouth suggested that Ms Blount was still alive when the gag was put in her mouth.

There was bruising to Ms Blount's neck and a number of the bones in her neck were fractured.

Prof Cassidy said the neck bruises indicated that two types of strangulation were used. One of the marks was very narrow and was consistent with cable ties, which had been found strewn around the hotel bedroom.

Prof Cassidy said the second mark was consistent with an arm lock.

The jury was told that significant force would have been needed to the front of the neck to cause Ms Blount's death, and that force would have needed to be maintained for a sufficient period of time.

Prof Cassidy said Ms Blount's front teeth had also been dislodged, and again she said that "great force would be required" for that to happen.

There was also bruising on Ms Blount's wrist and her left upper arm, which indicated she was grabbed with "some degree of force".

Prof Cassidy said the toxicology report showed Ms Blount had taken cocaine within hours of her death. She had not been drinking.

There was also evidence of recent sexual activity.

Cross examined by Patrick Gageby SC, Prof Cassidy agreed there was no evidence Ms Blount was tied up or that any weapon had been used.

Earlier today, scenes of crime examiner, Detective Garda Janette O'Neill said she attended The Plaza Hotel in Tallaght on February 16, 2014.

Gda O'Neill said Ms Blount was lying on the floor in bedroom 346 and she appeared to be in the recovery position, with an arm over her body.

She said it appeared her body had been moved.

The detective said Ms Blount had blood around her face and had a gag in her mouth. The gag appeared to be a white and black stripped top.

Gda O'Neill said there were a number items strewn around the floor, including cable ties and a mobile phone charger, and it was her view that a "violent struggle" had taken place.

Detective Garda Barry O'Mahony led the jury through the CCTV footage showing the movements of Eric Locke and the last movements of Ms Blount.

She is shown on CCTV cameras arriving at The Plaza Hotel, checking in at reception and then heading to Room 346 at 9.19pm. Ms Blount appears to be carrying an overnight bag.

Mr Locke is shown on CCTV ordering a drink in the Steering Wheel pub in Clondalkin shortly after 11pm, and leaving the pub just before 11.45pm.

The accused arrives in the Plaza Hotel at 11.55pm, where he collects a keycard at reception and heads up in the lift towards Room 346. He is wearing a white jacket and puts on a hat as he makes his way to the bedroom.

The CCTV footage has Mr Locke leaving the hotel at 5.38am. He is still wearing the hat but not the white jacket.

As we walks away, CCTV footage show him crouching down, and it appears he deposits something.

Mr Locke then runs away in the direction of Belgard Square.

The trial continues before Mr Justice Michael Moriarty and a jury of eight men and four women.

Online Editors

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