a 37-year-old man has been jailed for life for murdering a woman he’d been “an item” with for three months.
Darren Murphy of Dan Desmond Villas, Passage West, Co Cork had pleaded not guilty to murdering Olivia Dunlea (36) at Pembroke Crescent, Passage West, Co Cork on February 17 2013 but had attempted to plead guilty to manslaughter.
Murphy, who admitted setting fire to Ms Dunlea’s home because, he claimed, he “didn’t want the kids to find her,” had pleaded guilty to a second charge of arson.
A jury in the Central Criminal Court took four-and-a-half hours to find him guilty of murder yesterday by a majority of ten-to-one. (One juror had been excused from service earlier in the trial).
There were sobs from Ms Dunlea’s family as the verdict was read out while Murphy, who held his right hand to his face throughout the trial, made no reaction.
The seven-day trial heard that for about three months, mother-of three Olivia Dunlea and Murphy had been “an item”.
On the Saturday night before her death, the pair were having a good time in the nearby Rochestown Inn but when they arrived home they had “a massive row”.
According to Murphy’s statements to gardai, Olivia threw keys at the accused and told him to get out of her house. As she was undressing she allegedly told him a former lover, known as Fás, was calling.
Murphy told gardaí that he just snapped’ and, having stabbed her six times in the neck, he set fire to the house.
State Pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy was of the view that Ms Dunlea was alive when the fire started as she had been inhaling toxic fumes and her body position suggested she made no attempt to escape the fire, the court heard.
In his closing speech to the jury, prosecuting counsel Thomas Creed SC, said Murphy could have called emergency services to try and save her.
But that’s not what Murphy did, counsel said. “He set fire to the house and left her in a situation where she could have been saved.”
Having received the inevitable phone call, Murphy came back “all full of crocodile tears knowing full well what had happened,” Mr Creed said.
In a victim impact statement read to the court, Ann Dunlea, Olivia’s mother, said justice was the family’s ultimate purpose.
“On February 17 2013, my family’s life changed beyond repair,” Olivia’s mother told the court.
“No parent should have to bury their child in these circumstances, it is not natural in the circle of life. Since the killing of our daughter we have been living our own life sentence of anger and grief sickened by how depraved and disgusting a human being can be.”
Speaking outside the Criminal Courts of Justice, Ms Dunlea expressed her family’s delight with the result but said “it still won’t bring her back”.
She wished to thank the gardaí in Togher, Douglas and their liaison officer Michelle Barron, without whom they would have been “lost”.
Mr Justice Paul Carney imposed the mandatory life sentence on the accused, backdating it to February 19 2013, the date on which he had been taken into custody.
The judge further remanded Mr Murphy in custody until June 18 in respect of the arson charge.