Aoife Phelan killed because ‘she wanted a relationship’

Court told how man accused of murdering nanny admitted to putting body in barrel

The man charged with murdering Laois nanny Aoife Phelan told detectives he killed her because her pregnancy was going to scupper his relationship with his ex-girlfriend.

The jury in Robert Corbet’s trial today heard extracts from the interviews he gave gardai after her body was discovered on his property.

The 25-year-old from Capoley, Sheffield Cross, Co Laois has pleaded not guilty to murdering Ms Phelan. However he has admitted the 30-year-old’s manslaughter between October 25th and November 7th, when her body was found in a barrel, buried in Capoley.

The Central Criminal Court heard last week that Mr Corbet first denied involvement in her disappearance, but admitted killing her after phone records were put to him. He said he had snapped and hit her while in his jeep and had thrown her body in a river.


However, the trial heard his property was searched and her body was discovered in a barrel buried about 10-feet deep. He apologised for sending gardai to the river, but said he had wanted “to protect the home place”.

Detective Garda Brian Hanley testified today that he interviewed the accused on November 7th, hours after Ms Phelan’s body was found.

The accused said he collected her in Portlaoise on the evening of October 25th and brought her to Capoley and they had chatted in a garage while he cleaned out his jeep.

“Then an argument broke out about our relationship. She wanted a relationship and I didn’t,” he said. “If I didn’t agree…, she’d ruin my life, which, as I sit here, is ironic.”

He said he snapped, put his right forearm around her neck and that they fell to the ground. He said she banged her head and he saw blood coming from her eye.

“I had a good, firm grip,” he said.

“What were you trying to do?” he was asked.

“Kill her,” he replied.

He was asked what he thought the end result of placing his arm around her neck would be.

“Death,” he replied.

He was later asked why she had died.

“I strangled her,” he replied.

He was asked why.

“She was forward about our relationship and giving me agro about it,” he said.

He said he started to panic when she didn’t move. He said he realised she was dead and saw an empty barrel. He put a black sack over her head.

“I put two cable ties around it,” he said.

He was asked why he had put the bag over her head.

“I wasn’t sure she was dead so I wanted to make sure,” he said. “It was as if I had this fear that she was going to come back to life.”

Asked if he had wanted her to come back to life, he replied “No”. He said he put her in the barrel, sealed it and left it in the shed overnight. The following morning, he drove it over to a large hole he had dug a few weeks earlier and rolled it in.

Detective Garda Conor Murphy said he interviewed the accused the following morning, November 8th.

“I was looking forward to seeing her, getting things sorted, to see where we stood,” he had said of their arranged meeting that night. “She seemed to be in good form... When I mentioned I was going to New York, she flipped. I think it was more to do with me going to Caitriona.”

The court has already heard Mr Corbet flew to New York to visit his ex-girlfriend on a pre-planned trip the following evening.

“I wanted everything sorted with Aoife, where we stood so I could tell Caitriona,” he said.

Asked if Ms Phelan was an obstacle, he said: “She was an obstacle, but nothing that couldn’t be talked out.”

It was suggested that he had never intended for Ms Phelan to leave his yard that night.

“Are you trying to say this was pre-meditated?” he asked in reply.

He agreed that he knew the large hole in his land was going to be covered and was asked if he wanted her to be found.

“In some sense no,” he replied. When asked why, he said: “fear of the consequences”.

“When you had a hold of her in the shed, did you want her dead?” he was asked.

“Yes,” he replied.

He was asked why.

“She was a complication with everything that was said that night,” he said. “I got a grip of her and couldn’t stop.”

He agreed that she was a big barrier to him getting back together with his ex-girlfriend.

“The pregnancy was going to scupper it, the love of your life. Is that why you killed Aoife Phelan?” he was asked.

“Yes,” he replied.

“And this was the problem out of the way?” asked the detectives.

“Yes,” he said.

The trial continues before a jury and Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan.