A chef has been found guilty of the murder of a father of three who was found dismembered and headless on the grounds of a derelict house in Cork on December 28th, 2019 by a man who was out looking for his missing cat.
Ionut Cosmin Nicholescu (30) who is a native of Romania but was living in Cork had pleaded not guilty to the murder of Frankie Dunne. Mr Dunne was found dead on the grounds of Castlegreine House in Cork on December 28th, 2019.
A jury of eight women and four men at the Central Criminal Court sitting in Cork reached a unanimous guilty verdict after deliberating for seven hours and 52 minutes. Mr Justice Paul McDermott thanked the jurors for their service in the trial which got under way on March 13th. He said that the jury had listened to evidence that was at times “traumatic in nature”.
The trial heard that Frankie Dunne (64) spent what was to be his last Christmas day with his family on the northside of Cork city before he was found dead three days later in the garden of the period house on Boreenmanna Road in Cork.
The body of Mr Dunne was found by local man Joseph Pierce who had gone in to the garden of the period house looking for his missing cat.
Mr Pierce looked under a bush and spotted a body. He raised the alarm. When gardaí arrived at the scene he said that he might have been mistaken and that what he had seen could have been a mannequin or holy statue. However, it was the body of a man.
Gardaí subsequently found the head of the deceased in a refuse bag in the garden of the period house while the arms of the late Mr Dunne were “draped over a branch on a tree”.
The two-storey period house, which dates back to the early 1890s was empty, as its owner had gone into a nursing home.
Jurors were told that Mr Dunne was living in a support unit for persons living with addiction. Mr Dunne had a chronic dependence on alcohol. He was known to have a few drinks in the garden of Castlegreine House as it was near the Cork Simon run unit where he was staying.
Mr Nicholescu, who is from Branistea Village in Dambovita County, Romania was squatting in Castlegreine House.
The jury also heard evidence from State Pathologist Dr Heiki Okkers. She said that a postmortem indicated that Mr Dunne had his head and arms removed after he was murdered with the killer making a few incisions before the actual cuts were made.
Dr Okkers said “blood was not flowing when the head was cut off”. She said this showed that Mr Dunne was dead before his head was cut off. No vital reactions were recorded at the amputation sites. Dr Okkers said this also meant that Mr Dunne had already passed away when his arms were amputated. A postmortem revealed that Mr Dunne had glass shards embedded in his skull and died of neck compression associated with blunt force trauma to his head and face. The trial heard that he had 16 specific injuries to his head and neck. All of his injuries were consistent with an assault.
Dr Okkers said the defensive wounds sustained by Mr Dunne possibly suggested that he was “first struck by a blunt object and then a neck compression occurred”. She noted that Mr Dunne had petechial haemorrhages in his eyes which is a sign of strangulation. Fragments of glass were found on his clothes.
Dr Okkers said Mr Dunne had sustained injuries to his chest, abdomen, ribs, sternum, head, arms, and back. A large number of scratches, bruises, abrasions and lacerations were recorded on the face of the deceased.
In the aftermath of the murder of Mr Dunne gardaí carried out a search of the main attic and the small attic in the Silver Key restaurant where Ionut Nicholescu was employed. Items of clothing were found in the small attic. The owner of the establishment, Tony Campion, said he was not aware that anyone had ever stayed in the attic.
Gardaí had determined that Mr Nicholescu had returned to his native country in the aftermath of the murder having reported for work at the Silver Key restaurant and pub the day after the body of Mr Dunne was discovered. On December 30th, 2019 he boarded a bus to Belfast and then took flights to Edinburgh and onwards to Bucharest.
Mr Nicholescu did not give any evidence in his case. However, he had told Romanian police who interviewed him in Bucharest that he had no involvement in the murder.
He claimed he was instead forced to bag the remains of Mr Dunne when he stumbled across two men on the grounds of Castlegreine House who had carried out the murder. He said that the two men had been armed with a machete and a knife.
However, Ray Boland, SC for the Prosecution, in his closing speech to the jury said that while Nicholescu was undoubtedly a clever man his description of the two “phantom” men was “comically evil” and “straight out of central casting”.
“One is tall and one is small. One is large and one is light. One has a machete and one has a knife.”
Philipp Rahn, SC for the defence, had said that there was a clear lack of “any reason or motive” for the murder. There was no history or animosity between the two men.
Mr Rahn also said that there was “a very significant forensic problem” relating to an unidentified fingerprint on a bag containing the clothes of the deceased.
“You have lots and lots of material out of the garda investigation but you cannot be satisfied that there are no relevant questions unanswered. There has to be a reasonable doubt.”
The trial heard that Frankie Dunne was a “character” who could have been “anybody’s father, brother or uncle.” Mary O’Driscoll, a key support worker at Clanmornin House, said that Frankie was one of the “easiest people” to deal with at the facility.
Another staff member at the unit where Frankie was staying described him as having “got on with everyone.”
The native of Churchfield Avenue in the northside of Cork city had lived in the dry house for six months before his death. Don Bulman said that he last saw Frankie Dunne on the evening of December 27th, 2019. He recalled that Frankie was a little sad because the anniversary of his father had occurred over Christmas.
At his funeral mass at St Mary’s on the Hill church, in Knocknaheeny in Cork, Mr Dunne’s nieces Breda and Yvonne said that the family would forever cherish their memories of seeing Frankie on Christmas Eve and Christmas day.
It was a simple family Christmas with Frankie joining in the festivities and watching Mr Bean on television.
Breda told mourners Frankie was a “character” who touched the lives of all he met. He loved horse racing, fixing broken phones and second hand shops. He was never happier than when he had found bargains for his loved ones.
Breda said her “uncle, god father and good friend” was noted for his wit.
He fought his demons but was never anything other than kindness mourners were told.
Members of the Dunne family were present in court when the jury returned their verdict. They were visibly moved when the foreman said that the jury had found Mr Nicholescu guilty of murder.