Man jailed for killing girlfriend and setting her home on fire

Darren Murphy (41) given life sentence for murder of Olivia Dunlea in Cork in 2013

A man who stabbed his girlfriend multiple times and set fire to her home, before returning to the scene to give an “Oscar like performance” when the fire brigade arrived, has been jailed for life.

Darren Murphy was convicted on Friday of murdering Olivia Dunlea (36) on February 17th, 2013 by a jury at a sitting of the Central Criminal Court in Cork.

The 41-year-old, from Dan Desmond Drive, Passage West, pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to the playschool teacher's manslaughter. However, the Director of Public Prosecutions did not accept his plea.

Ms Dunlea was found with multiple stab wounds in a badly burned bedroom in her home at Pembroke Crescent, Passage West. Gardaí recovered a knife from a sink and a phone from a toilet bowl after the fire.

Tom Creed SC, prosecuting, said Murphy came to the scene of the fire and made it look like he was in disarray with his top on backwards and inside out. Mr Creed said Murphy wanted people to look at him and say “poor Darren”.

However, he later told gardaí that he “snapped” and stabbed Ms Dunlea in the neck before ligthing her quilt on fire and then setting a fire in the middle of her kitchen table.

Still alive

The case had heard that Ms Dunlea was still alive when Murphy set the fires but was unable to raise the alarm due to the extent of her injuries.

The Dunlea family said their lives had been like a recurring nightmare since her death.

There were three separate trials in relation to the killing with a previous conviction being overturned on a technicality and the jury being unable to agree a verdict on another occasion.

In her victim impact statement, Ann Dunlea, the deceased’s mother, said it was “gut wrenching and heartbreaking” to watch her grandchildren struggle without the presence of their mother’s love and touch.

“How do you console a crying child pining for their mother? How do you tell three children that their mother was murdered and their family home set on fire by a deliberate act of evil?”

She said Murphy had, by setting the fire, denied the family the right to see the deceased’s body and to say their final goodbyes.

"No emergency services were contacted by him in an attempt to save her. The evil act of burning her body in her home will haunt us forever. We have had to sit through three trials over the last five years, listening to the gruesome details of her murder," Mrs Dunlea said.