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Sunday 17 December 2017

Irishman who killed and dismembered mother must remain in hospital

James Dunleavy found guilty of killing his mother in Edinburgh
James Dunleavy found guilty of killing his mother in Edinburgh
Philomena Dunleavy

Brian Horne

A MAN who beheaded his mother and buried her dismembered body in a shallow grave must stay in hospital, a judge has ordered.

Psychiatrists at the State Hospital in Carstairs, Scotland, are still trying to assess James Dunleavy's mental condition.

An earlier trial heard harrowing evidence suggesting that Philomena Dunleavy (66) may still have been alive, but unconscious, when he began to hack off her legs with a knife and saw.

But the horror of her final moments at the hands of her deranged 40-year-old son will probably never be known.

Mother-of-five Mrs Dunleavy had left her home in Annadale Crescent, Marino, Dublin, in early April last year and arrived in Scotland on April 24 to visit her eldest son James, who is also known as Seamus.

Days later she was dead, butchered in the labourer’s flat in Edinburgh.

It was more than a month before Mrs Dunleavy's remains were unearthed. A suitcase was missing from the flat, and a spade was found in the back green.

Dunleavy denied murder and attempting to defeat the ends of justice by burying his mother to try to cover up the crime.


A jury at the High Court in Edinburgh convicted him by majority of a reduced charge of culpable homicide. They also found him guilty of the attempted cover-up.

Judge Lord Jones told Dunleavy: “You require to be detained under conditions of such security as can be provided in the State Hospital.”

Yesterday, the judge continued his interim order for the doctors to continue their work.

Defence QC Gordon Jackson told the court that Dunleavy wanted the matter dealt with, but given what the doctors had said so far, that was “unrealistic”.

No one saw Mrs Dunleavy's final journey in a suitcase, nor the undignified shallow grave being dug – a back-breaking task in the hard soil of Corstorphine Hill.

There Mrs Dunleavy remained until ski instructor Aaron McLean-Foreman (24) stopped to sunbathe while pushing his bike along a narrow path on a warm June afternoon.

He was confronted by the decomposed face of Mrs Dunleavy in the dirt, his attention drawn by her gleaming teeth.

The following day, June 7, archaeologist Dr Jennifer Miller and other forensic and medical experts began unearthing the near-naked torso, severed head and legs. Police launched Operation Sandpiper, appealing for help to identify the remains. Mrs Dunleavy's claddagh ring took the search to Ireland.

CT scans of the skull, combined with computer technology, enabled Dundee University's craniofacial expert Dr Caroline Wilkinson to produce a likeness of the dead woman.


Police heard about a shouting match between Dunleavy and his mother. She was said to have walked out on her husband, James (68), though he insisted they were still man and wife.

Shopkeeper Mohammed Razaq witnessed the argument. He also told the trial that Dunleavy had described “hearing voices” and told his friend: “I might be evil.”

Two months after his arrest, Dunleavy's legal team arranged for his transfer from prison to the State Hospital.

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