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Mum 'probably dead before she was beheaded'


REMAINS: Phyllis Dunleavy's dismembered body was found in a shallow grave in Edinburgh.

REMAINS: Phyllis Dunleavy's dismembered body was found in a shallow grave in Edinburgh.

REMAINS: Phyllis Dunleavy's dismembered body was found in a shallow grave in Edinburgh.

A DUBLIN woman whose dismembered remains were found in a shallow grave was "probably dead" when she was beheaded, a court has heard.

The High Court in Edinburgh heard medics are unable to tell how Phyllis Dunleavy (66) from Marino died because her body had lain for so long in the ground.

However, a pathologist has told the court that all the signs suggested that it was likely she had been dead when she was beheaded and both her legs were severed at the top of the thigh.

Mrs Dunleavy's remains were discovered in a shallow grave on Corstorphine Hill in the city.

Her son James (40) is on trial accused of beheading his mother, then burying her dismembered body and denies battering her to death between April 30 and May 7 last year.


A further charge of trying to cover up the alleged murder and destroying evidence is also denied by Dunleavy.

Pathologist Ian Wilkinson yesterday told the court that providing a conclusive cause of death was "difficult" in this case.

He said there was evidence of "blunt force trauma" to her head with damage to the tiny bones in her neck and she had suffered a number of broken ribs.

The trial heard that 5ft 4in Mrs Dunleavy suffered from coronary heart disease and there were traces of drugs in her body – including morphine.

Under cross-examination, Dr Wilkinson agreed that the injury to the neck bones might have been caused by someone gripping that point while sawing off Mrs Dunleavy's head.

And he agreed a broken bone in the shin could have happened during handling of the body.

Dr Wilkinson also agreed that someone else could have dismembered the body after death.

Parts of the corpse had been damaged by animals, the trial heard.

Barrister Alex Prentice asked if a blow to the head could have caused the subdural haemorrhage.


"That would be a possibility," replied the pathologist, who also agreed that fists alone could have caused the injuries.

The trial heard that Dunleavy had answered "no comment" to most of the questions put to him during an hour-long interview. He denied arguing with his mother who had come from her Dublin home to visit him.

The court heard questions were put by Detective Constable Brian Manchester after Dunleavy was detained on July 8.

When asked why he had spoken of his mum in the past tense in a telephone call to police five days earlier, Dunleavy replied: "No comment."

The prosecution is expected to close its case in the trial today.