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Cyclist tells of shock at finding beheaded mum


Dublin woman Phyllis Dunleavy. Photo: Police Scotland/PA Wire

Dublin woman Phyllis Dunleavy. Photo: Police Scotland/PA Wire

Dublin woman Phyllis Dunleavy. Photo: Police Scotland/PA Wire

A CYCLIST has described how he was enjoying a day in the sun when he stumbled across the body of Dublin woman Phyllis Dunleavy.

Professional ski instructor Aaron McLean-Foreman (24) said he was left in shock and disbelief when he found teeth and a skull in a woodland clearing at an Edinburgh beauty spot.

It was some time before he could compose himself enough to go to police and report the grisly find, a murder trial heard.

A jury at the High Court in Edinburgh has heard that the remains on Corstorphine Hill were later identified as Phyllis Dunleavy (66), from Marino in Dublin. Her son James is on trial, accused of beheading his mother and then burying her dismembered body.

He denies battering her to death between April 30 and May 7 last year. The 40-year-old also denies trying to cover up the alleged murder and destroy evidence. At the time, Mr Dunleavy was living in a flat in Edinburgh's Balgreen Road, close to where the body was unearthed.

The first witness in a trial, which is expected to last up to four weeks, was Mr McLean-Foreman who described events of June 6 last year.

He was planning a trip to New Zealand to further his sports career and had been in Edinburgh city centre. He said he was cycling home to the East Craigs area of the city and the Corstorphine Hill nature reserve was slightly out of his way.

"I did not mind the detour and was enjoying the sunny weather," he said.

"I decided to have a break in the sunshine and relax and enjoy the fine weather," Mr McLean-Foreman told the trial.

Because of nettles and other vegetation he looked for a clear place to sit and noticed a clearing ahead.

"The first thing I noticed was very white teeth," he told advocate Depute Alex Prentice QC, prosecuting. "Teeth and a skull."

Mr McLean-Foreman said there were marks in the earth he thought had been made by a shovel.

"It appeared to me, after coming to terms with what I was looking at, that the soil had been altered."

A photo of the sight which had confronted Mr McLean-Foreman was shown in court, after Mr Prentice warned it might be "disturbing".

Mr McLean-Foreman continued: "I have seen a fair share of sheep skulls and deer skulls while walking in the hills.

"I wanted to believe that was what I was looking at – but it was fairly clear that was not what I was looking at."

There were also flies round the area, the court heard.

Mr McLean-Foreman took a photo so that he could lead police back to the spot and left.

"I believe I went into a state something like shock," he said.

Later that afternoon he went to his local police station – wondering if they would believe what he had seen.



The murder charge alleges that in Mr Dunleavy's Balgreen Road flat he inflicted "blunt force trauma" by means unknown, compressed his mother's throat and cut off her head and legs with a blade and something like a saw.

A second charge accuses him of pretending his mum was unwell and had returned to Ireland.

The charge further alleges that Dunleavy put his mother's torso, severed legs and head into a suitcase and took the dismembered body to Corstorphine Hill where he buried her.

Prosecutors also claim that Dunleavy vacuumed and washed his flat to remove blood stains and torched a bed and mattress.

The trial continues.