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).


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.

Det Garda Eddie Brennan, formerly of Portlaoise Garda station, confirmed that in an interview with gardaí, the accused had said the two were not going out with one another.

When asked whether he was aware she was pregnant, the accused had said he did not know, but that she (Ms Phelan) was very family orientated. When asked further about this, the court heard the accused recalled her saying she was “a day or two late”.

The accused had said Ms Phelan was “pushing for a relationship”, adding she was “good craic, very friendly and well able for banter”.

The court heard the accused said he was “100 per cent definite” that he did not have sexual intercourse with Aoife Phelan.

It heard Ms Phelan had said by text message that she was late and that he had asked her who the father was. The accused had said it was physically impossible for him to be the father.

In a statement made to Det Sgt Gerard Mahoney on November 4th, the accused said he had met Aoife at a nightclub on June 13th, 2012.

The statement read “I got chatting to a girl. I was buying shots and asked her if she would have one. She mentioned her name was Aoife.”

The accused went on to say they had remained in contact by text. In his statement, the accused said Ms Phelan had visited his home. It read: “We were kissing and it got hot and heavy. Aoife performed oral sex on me and I did the same to her.

“Aoife then wanted to have intercourse and I told her I was just out of a relationship and said no. A few days later, Aoife texted me to say she was late – it didn’t make sense to me – I never had penetrative sex with her.”

In his statement, the accused said that in September, Ms Phelan had started to get “very personal”, asking did he ever think about the future. He said he explained he was only 23, and she went on to state he would make a “great father”.

The accused had said that when asked whether he would be interested in having a relationship with her he had “shut it down very fast” because of the age difference.

The court heard there will be CCTV footage shown in the trial.

The trial continues before Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and a jury of three women and nine men.