Aoife Phelan killed and dumped in barrel, court told

Robert Corbet (25) goes on trial over death of 30-year-old Laois woman

Robert Corbet (25) of Sheffield Cross,  Co Laois, has  pleaded not guilty to the murder of Aoife Phelan (30) (above).

Robert Corbet (25) of Sheffield Cross, Co Laois, has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Aoife Phelan (30) (above).

Wed, May 14, 2014, 11:43

The trial of a Laois man charged with murdering a 30-year-old woman in 2012 began at the Central Criminal Court today.

Robert Corbet (25), of Sheffield Cross, Co Laois, pleaded not guilty to the murder of Aoife Phelan (30) between October 25th and November 7th, 2012, but admitted to manslaughter yesterday.

Isobel Kennedy SC, prosecuting, opened the trial for the jury today.

She said the accused had met Ms Phelan at a nightclub and had remained in contact with her through phone messaging.

The court heard there had been sexual contact “not involving intercourse” prior to the accused receiving a text from Ms Phelan to say she was “late”.

Ms Kennedy told the court it is believed Ms Phelan wanted a relationship and that the accused had expressed reluctance in this regard. It heard she (Ms Phelan) was pushy about a relationship.

It is the State’s case that the accused repeatedly struck her and dumped her body, which was later found in an oil barrel at Capoley in Portlaoise. The prosecution told the court the cause of death was asphyxia with blunt force trauma to the head and chest.

It is the prosecution’s case that Mr Corbet brought her to his garage and caught her around the neck until she was motionless. It heard he put a black sack around her head, tied cables around her and disposed of the body.

Garda Louise Young of Portlaoise station told the jury that on October 26th, Ms Phelan’s father Michael Phelan had called to the station to report his daughter Aoife missing. Ms Phelan’s mobile phone and handbag were later recovered from a black Toyota land cruiser belonging to the accused.

In his evidence to the court, Mr Phelan confirmed Aoife had told himself and her mother she was pregnant prior to her death.

The court heard Mr Phelan lives with his wife and four out of 12 children in Ballyroan, outside Portlaoise. Mr Phelan confirmed he had been aware his daughter was seeing someone, adding “I never met him”. When asked whether his daughter told him she was pregnant, he said “She did”, agreeing she was happy about it and that there had been “no fuss”.

Paul Bates, who was a close friend of Ms Phelan, told the court he had met the accused while at a nightclub with Aoife. “We were in a nightclub and he came over and started talking to her,” said Mr Bates.

Mr Bates added he had met up with Ms Phelan on October 25th, 2012.

Under cross-examination by Conor Devally SC, defending, he confirmed it seemed evident she was going to meet the accused when she left his house.