Man (63) pleads guilty to murdering woman found in burning car in Co Cork

Michael Leonard from Kilmallock to be sentenced next month over death of Mary O’Keeffe in February 2021

A man has pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to murdering a 72-year-old grandmother whose body was found in a burning car.

Michael Leonard (63), of Hillcrest, Glenosheen, Kilmallock, Co Limerick, appeared in court for a brief arraignment on Monday morning at which he responded “guilty” to the charge of murdering Mary O’Keeffe at Doneraile, Co Cork on February 4th of last year.

The court did not hear any evidence regarding the murder as Mr Justice Paul McDermott adjourned sentencing until December 14th, when Ms O’Keefe’s family will have an opportunity to make an impact statement.

At a bail hearing last year Det Sgt James O’Shea said that gardaí and fire services were called to the scene of a burning vehicle in which Ms O’Keeffe’s body was found at around 2.20pm. Mr Justice Robert Eager refused bail and Leonard remains in custody.


During the bail hearing, Leonard’s defence counsel Marc Thompson Grolimund BL said that his client had a good work record and had worked for 41 years for Coillte before becoming a consultant and retiring 12 months earlier.

Mr Justice Eagar said that Ms O’Keeffe had suffered an “appalling” death and that he had taken into account the “degree and seriousness” of the charge of murder when denying bail, after hearing evidence from Det Sgt O’Shea and Mr Leonard.

The late Ms O’Keeffe lived in Dromahane, near Mallow, and worked as a cook. She is survived by her three sons.