Murdered All-Ireland Irish dance champion ‘an explosion of colour’

Woman sentenced in London for role in ‘devil’s breath’ poisoning of Adrian Murphy

Kilkenny-born Adrian Murphy (43) who was murdered in London

Kilkenny-born Adrian Murphy (43) who was murdered in London

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The family of a champion Irish dancer murdered with the date-rape drug known as “devil’s breath” have said they refuse to be bitter about his killers.

A 19-year-old woman was sentenced during the week to at least 16 years in prison for her part in the fatal poisoning of Kilkenny-born Adrian Murphy (43).

Diana Cristea, (19), sentenced to at least 16 years in prison. Photograph: Met Police
Diana Cristea, (19), sentenced to at least 16 years in prison. Photograph: Met Police

Diana Cristea helped and encouraged her boyfriend, Joel Osei (26), in a plan to target men on gay dating app Grindr and rob them and drain their bank accounts.

Osei killed Murphy in London in June 2019 with an overdose of scopolamine, a substance known as devil’s breath which comes from the deadly nightshade plant family.

Afterwards, the couple attempted to buy $80,000 (€68,000) worth of diamonds from a jeweller in New York.

Speaking to The Irish Times, Murphy’s sister Anne said “nothing will bridge the gap that is in our lives now”.

“There is no getting your head around that loss. You come to terms with coping, but there is no getting your head around it,” she said.

Describing her brother, the youngest of seven children from Maudlin Street in Kilkenny city, as “an explosion of colour”, she said he was “vibrant, full of beans” and “like a bag exploding and all these beautiful colours coming out, that’s Adrian”.

Murphy had “a passion” for dancing since the age of five, first attending a set dancing school with two of his sisters, before moving into Irish dancing.

“He was always dancing around the house,” says Anne.

“He’d be tapping away upstairs on the floorboards and you’d be listening to him in the kitchen, he never stopped. Even when he was sitting, his feet were going, his hands were going, he’d be dancing with his fingers, working out dance moves.

“He was absolutely gifted, he had wings on his feet. Every contest he entered, he won hands down.”

Murphy, who attended St Kieran’s College in his home city, was “very popular with a wide circle of friends” and worked part-time in the city’s restaurants during his teenage years.

“In the restaurants he would bring it up about the dancing and tourists would ask, would you dance for us. He’d say no problem. He would dance at the drop of a hat.”

Always moving

The seven-times All-Ireland Irish dance champion left Kilkenny for the US at 19, performing in dance shows in New York before moving to New Zealand where “it all really took off”.

During his nine years in the country he set up dance schools in Auckland and the South Island as well as producing and choreographing shows such as Celtic Dance Force, Feet of Fire and FireDance.

After a brief return to Kilkenny, he moved to the UK about 10 years ago, where he again set up a dance school. Murphy also worked as a teacher and choreographer at the Royal Academy of Dance and was on a year-long sabbatical at the time of his death.

“He was always moving. He was young, free and single and when he got opportunities he took them with both hands,” says Anne.

“We are very proud of him. He set out to do things with his life, and unlike a lot of people, he did do it and he did what he loved doing. It wasn’t a job to him. It wasn’t work. It was a passion.”

Joel Osei (26) who in January was jailed for life with a minimum term of 32 years for Murphy’s murder. Photograph: Met Police
Joel Osei (26) who in January was jailed for life with a minimum term of 32 years for Murphy’s murder. Photograph: Met Police

In January, Osei, previously of Seven Sisters, north London, was jailed for life with a minimum term of 32 years for Murphy’s murder.

Following the sentencing of Cristea, of Barnet, north London, on Monday, Anne said she was “not bitter”.

“I suppose there was an element of anger, that element of why us? But bitterness is a horrible feeling, it would eat me up. It would make it very difficult for me to cope with everyday life,” she says.

She said she was satisfied with the sentencing, but was also mindful that Cristea “has a family somewhere who are feeling that loss of her”.

“It’s not quite the same as we are feeling the loss of Adrian but I try to look at it from a different perspective too, although it doesn’t make it any easier, it doesn’t take away the pain and loss.

“I hope that when she is in prison that she uses her time wisely, that she educates herself so when she comes out there is something other than crime and destroying people.”

The Murphy family “remember Adrian every day, and he is spoken about everyday”, she added.

“You’d see something and it would be like Adrian would laugh at that, or Adrian would like that. I sometimes talk to him still, but sometimes it is too raw, it is just too much.”

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