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'I was last to see my mum alive', admits accused

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VICTIM: Philomena Dunleavy's remains were found at a nature reserve near her son's home

VICTIM: Philomena Dunleavy's remains were found at a nature reserve near her son's home

VICTIM: Philomena Dunleavy's remains were found at a nature reserve near her son's home

A SON accused of chopping up his mum has admitted he was the last person to see her alive.

Giving evidence for just over an hour James Dunleavy (40) repeatedly insisted he loved mother Philomena (66), and denied murdering or dismembering her and burying her in a shallow grave between April 30 and May 7 last year.

He also told a jury at the High Court in Edinburgh that he did not have mental health problems and claimed doctors had been swayed by the serious charge he was facing.

He told how he believed his mother from Marino, Dublin, would "miraculously" turn up again after she left his Edinburgh flat, without warning early one morning.

RELATIONSHIP

Mother of five Mrs Dunleavy had been staying with her son in the city's Balgreen Road – just a few minutes' walk away from where her remains were found on Corstorphine Hill, a local nature reserve.

Dunleavy, also known as Seamus and backed by his father, retired painter and decorator James (68), told the trial that Philomena Dunleavy was in the habit of "going walkabout" without saying where she was going.

Defence QC Gordon Jackson asking: "Did you do anything that would have caused the death of your mother?"

Dunleavy told the lawyer he did not and said he was not responsible for what happened before she was buried.

The trial heard that after growing up in Dublin, Dunleavy moved to the Coventry and Birmingham areas of England in 1990 where he worked as a labourer on building sites, leaving behind a daughter after a relationship broke up.

He moved to Edinburgh to work on the construction of the city's tram lines. His mum had visited him in Edinburgh on a previous occasion.

Dunleavy denied arguing with his mother just before she is believed to have died, saying a neighbour who described a row had misinterpreted "a wordy discussion" between them.

"We were just having a bit of banter, that's all," he insisted.

Asked if he was surprised by his mum's sudden departure, Dunleavy said: "That was my mother's MO."

He described making a meal for her the previous evening. "Something curried," he said.

He could not remember whether he used caraway seeds with the lamb. Such seeds were found in his mother's stomach after her body was unearthed last June.

He claimed he had not seen any of the publicity which followed the gruesome find because he didn't read newspapers or watch television.

"I did nothing to my mother. I thought she would miraculously appear again," he said.

Advocate depute Alex Prentice QC pointed out that when police searched the Balgreen Road flat they found €870, Mrs Dunleavy's identity card and clothing belonging to her.

They did not find a large suitcase which, it was claimed, had previously been left at the address.

Dunleavy told the court he had thrown out a bed because an incontinent acquaintance who stayed with him had soiled the mattress, but denied setting fire to it.

HOSPITAL

He also insisted that workmate Matthew Hagan who told the trial that Dunleavy told him he had done "a bad thing" had picked him up wrong because of the noise of the machinery they were using.

James Dunleavy senior said his wife had been badly affected by a stroke and had a long stay in a Dublin hospital.

He said he received a phone call from his son in late April or early May last year.

"James rang me to say she was on her way home, that she would be there that night. But she never returned. He added: "It was no surprise."

The trial is expected to hear closing speeches today.

hnews@herald.ie


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