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Son guilty of cutting off mum's head and using saw to chop up her body

AN IRISHMAN has been convicted of killing his mother, butchering her body and dumping her in a shallow grave.

The horrific final moments of Dublin woman Phyllis Dunleavy at the hands of her son James (40) will probably never be known.

But the eight-day trial in a Scottish court heard harrowing evidence suggesting that the 66-year-old may still have been alive, but unconscious, when her killer began to hack off her legs with a knife and saw.

Dunleavy had denied murdering his mother and attempting to defeat the ends of justice by burying her to try to hide the crime.

A jury at the High Court in Edinburgh last night convicted him, by a majority, of a reduced charge of culpable homicide.

They also found him guilty of the attempted cover-up.

As Dunleavy was led to the cells, his family gave him the thumbs-up and offered words of encouragement.


Earlier, sitting in the dock, he stared straight ahead, betraying no emotion as the jury's decision was read out.

Judge Lord Jones ordered Dunleavy to remain in the State Hospital, Carstairs, while psychiatrists continue to assess his condition.

The judge said: "You require to be detained under conditions of such security as can be provided in the State Hospital."

Mrs Dunleavy's 68-year-old husband, James Snr, kept a dignified silence as the eight women and seven men reported their decision.

So did Dunleavy's brother Austin (27) who is close to completing a football scholarship in the US.

As they left the High Court in Edinburgh, Mr Dunleavy Snr simply said: "I will not be making any statements."

The family are no strangers to tragedy. Terence Dunleavy (27), a brother of the accused, was gunned down during a drug feud in Dublin in April 2005. A sister had also died young.

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

Prosecutors alleged that days later she was dead – butchered in her son's flat in Balgreen Road, Edinburgh.

Medical experts could not tell how she died – injuries to her head, ribs and damage to small bones in her neck could have been sustained after her death.

No witnesses saw Mrs Dunleavy's final journey in a suitcase, or the undignified shallow grave being dug.

It was more than a month before Mrs Dunleavy's remains were unearthed, just a few minutes' walk from her son's address.


A large suitcase was missing from the flat and a spade with a broken shaft was found in the back green.

The trial had earlier heard how a ski instructor stumbled across the skull of Mrs Dunleavy while out walking.

Police launched Operation Sandpiper, appealing for help to identify the body. Mrs Dunleavy's claddagh ring brought the search to Ireland.

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

By early July her family in Dublin were beginning to wonder where she was. James Dunleavy had phoned on May 2 to say she was on her way home.

A call was made to police in Edinburgh, followed by a call on July 3 from Dunleavy himself. Police visited him the following day. Four days later he was charged with murder.

Matthew Hagan (26), who worked with Dunleavy on Edinburgh's tram project, told how his workmate told him just days before his arrest: "I have done something bad, brother."

Dunleavy is due back in court in April for the judge to decide the next move.