A man accused of murder approached a garda preserving the scene of the killing to ask what had happened as he was questioning his own recollection of being forced by two men at knifepoint to dispose of the victim’s remains, a court has heard.
Ionut Cosmin Nicolescu (30) said he was forced by two men to dispose of the remains of Frankie Dunne (64) after they had cut off the deceased’s head and arms soon after he found them with the body in the grounds of Castle Greine House on Boreenamanna Road in Cork on December 28th, 2019.
“I went to see if what happened to me was actually real. I asked a policeman what happened. He said there was a body there. A person (was there) from a TV station, I spoke to that person. He might have got me on camera. He aimed the camera at me,” he said.
Mr Nicolescu revealed that he approached the garda preserving the scene in the course of an interview with Romanian prosecutor Violeta Szabo conducted in Bucharest on January 16th, 2020, which was witnessed by a number of gardaí investigating Mr Dunne’s murder.
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The jury at the Central Criminal Court sitting in Cork heard that Det Insp Vincent O’Sullivan, now a chief superintendent, had travelled to Bucharest with a team of officers including Det Sgt Katrine Tansley, Det Garda Liam Lynch and Det Garda Brian Maher to meet Mr Nicolescu.
The gardaí did not interview the accused but were allowed to observe the questioning in Romanian by Ms Szabo with another member of the Irish team, Romania-born Garda Razvan Ghetau, translating his replies.
Chief Supt O’Sullivan confirmed to the jury that Mr Nicolesu’s lawyer, Violeta Oancea, was present throughout the interview which went on for several hours and led to the creation of a lengthy affidavit.
Mr Nicolescu, with an address at Branistea Village, Damovita County, Romania, has denied the murder of Mr Dunne, a father of three, on a date unknown between December 27th and December 28th, 2019, at Castle Greine House.
Just as Mr Nicolescu had previously told Chief Supt O’Sullivan in phone calls, he told Ms Szabo he arrived back at Castle Greine House, where he was squatting, after shopping in Aldi on the night of December 27th, 2019 to find two armed men in the garden with a body.
“I was startled and fearful,” he said. “I dropped the milk carton from my hand. He said shut the f**k up, behave or you will get it… He walked behind me. I saw another man… And there was another man lying down on the ground. I did not know if he was dead. He was not moving.”
Mr Nicolescu said the men undressed the the man on the ground and that a man holding a machete pulled out a roll of bin bags from his pocket.
“The man with the red beard was on top of the body cutting off his throat with the knife… He told me to put the head in the bag. I felt disgusted. I grabbed the head and put it in the bag. I put it in the bushes. I was trembling with fear. One of the men had cut off the body’s hands from the shoulders,” he added.
“It was a very sharp knife blade. The knife used to cut up the body looked like a hunting knife… I remember taking each of the body’s arms which were still warm in my hands…I threw the arms in the bushes. The idea (of the two men) was to put the body in the bag, but it was too big.
“One of the men said I should drag the body into the bushes…I grabbed him by the ankles and pulled it into the bushes. The guy threatened me and ordered me… I was covered in blood on my clothes and my hands. After I dragged the body… then I heard some steps and they just left.”
Mr Nicolescu said he went to a nearby park and stayed there for an hour or two. He returned to the derelict house through the front and went to an upstairs room where he had been staying. He kept food, personal hygiene products and several blankets there.
“I tried to wash myself. I realised I had no water. The water can was still by the gate. I cleaned myself using the sink and tub of the bathroom. I went through my routine. I prayed. I went through my phone. I tried to read my book. I didn’t talk to anyone. I had no idea what to tell the police.”
Mr Nicolescu said he called to his former boyfriend and asked him if he heard on the news about what happened at the property on Boreenmanna Road. Later, his former boyfriend told him that police had visited him asking for contact details for Mr Nicolescu.
He explained why he left Cork days after the remains of Mr Dunne were found - taking a bus to Belfast before travelling to Edinburgh and then flying home to Romania.
“I was afraid I could go to jail for something I did not do,” he said.
At the end of the statement given in Bucharest, Mr Nicolescu made some additional comments after presenting his account of what happened, including the assertion that “both men were wearing black gloves” and that “I was one or two metres from the body when the red-bearded man cut off the head”.
The jury of four men and eight women also heard from RTÉ cameraman Martin Cronin, who was filming on Boreenamanna Road on December 29th when he saw a man with a rucksack approach the garda preserving the scene.
Mr Cronin said the man then crossed over the road and spoke to him, but he did not engage with him as he was concentrating on the house and did not want to miss a Garda technical team or pathologist arriving.
He said the man was around 5ft 8in to 5ft 10 tall, of athletic build and sallow complexion. He said the man spoke with a foreign accent, but he could not identify where he was from.
The case continues.