Four family members jailed for covering up Patricia O’Connor murder

‘No length of time is long enough for the crimes they have committed,’ son says

 

Four people were jailed on Friday for helping to cover up the murder of a Dublin grandmother whose dismembered remains were later found scattered across the Dublin and Wicklow mountains.

Mr Justice Paul McDermott said the reaction of those present in the house following the murder of Patricia O’Connor (61) was “dreadful” and the impact of what happened to her has been “devastating and heartbreaking” for her siblings, her son Richard and her friends and former colleagues.

The victim was, the judge said, “a person who had a life and a future until it was ended by Kieran Greene. ”

Earlier this week, Greene (35) was sentenced to life in prison for murdering the retired hospital worker in the bathroom of her Rathfarnham home on May 29th, 2017.

Mr Justice McDermott on Friday sentenced the deceased’s granddaughter Stephanie O’Connor (22) to two years in prison with the final six months suspended.

Her mother Louise O’Connor (41) was sentenced to three years with the final six months suspended while Keith Johnston (43) - who is father to two of Louise O’Connor’s five children including Stephanie O’Connor - and from Avonbeg Gardens, Tallaght, Dublin 24 was sentenced to three years.

The trial heard evidence that Stephanie O’Connor of Millmount Court, Dundrum Road, Dublin 14 engaged in a “ruse” whereby she dressed as her grandmother to make it seem as if she stormed out of the house and left on the day of the murder.

The jury accepted the State’s case that her mother Louise O’Connor of the same address had agreed to or acquiesced in her daughter disguising herself as Patricia O’Connor in order to conceal the fact that Patricia O’Connor was dead.

The court heard that Johnston bought tools that were to be used in what Mr Justice McDermott termed the “grotesque” dismemberment of Patricia O’Connor.

All three were found guilty of impeding the apprehension or prosecution of Greene, who was Louise O’Connor’s former partner.

Referring to Louise O’Connor, who agreed to “a ruse” in which her daughter had disguised herself as her grandmother, the judge said she bore substantial culpability and a greater role in the case than her daughter due to her dominant role in the household.

Patricia O’Connor, a retired grandmother, was murdered in the bathroom of her Rathfarnham home on May 29th, 2017
Patricia O’Connor, a retired grandmother, was murdered in the bathroom of her Rathfarnham home on May 29th, 2017

Mr Justice McDermott said he did not accept her daughter Stephanie O’Connor had told the full truth about her involvement in the matter but bore a lesser responsibility for the offence than her mother. She was likely not to be the originator or to have come up with the idea for “the pretence” but she had committed a serious offence, he said.

Referring to the two women, the judge said no attempt had been made to help or assist Patricia O’Connor, who was their mother and grandmother. “Their reaction as to what was done to her and what followed was shocking and callous and compounded by the connection between all involved,” he stressed.

The judge said Keith Johnston, a “trusted member” of Patricia O’Connor’s extended family who helped her murderer buy DIY tools which he knew were to be used in the dismemberment of the grandmother’s remains, took part in a “grotesque idea” and it was clear that he intended that the deceased’s remains were never to be found. His actions were a callous disregard and total disrespect for Patricia O’Connor, he said.

The deceased’s husband Augustine ‘Gus’ O’Connor was also sentenced to 18 months imprisonment for reporting his wife as a missing person when he knew she was already dead.

Mr Justice McDermott said it was “appalling” that on hearing his wife had been murdered by Kieran Greene in his home O’Connor suggested calling emergency services but when that was rejected did nothing about it and went to bed.

His actions in later reporting his wife as a missing person knowing she had been murdered was a betrayal of his wife and his son, he said. The 76-year-old from Mill Close Glasheen, Stamullen, Co Meath pleaded guilty to impeding the apprehension or prosecution of his wife’s murderer just before his trial was due to begin.

The judge set a headline sentence of three years but took into account O’Connor’s late plea of guilty, expression of remorse, that he has led a blameless life up to this and has no previous convictions. He therefore fixed a sentence of 18 months.

The family of Patricia O’Connor said afterwards they believed no sentence could ever be enough for those who helped to cover up her murder.

Wearing flowers to symbolise their loss and the dead woman’s love of gardening, family and friends of the deceased gathered outside the Criminal Courts of Justice building.

‘Kind and loving’

Her son Richard thanked the gardaí, Director of Public Prosecutions, the jury, Defence Forces and everyone involved in gaining guilty verdicts for those involved in his mother’s murder and the subsequent cover-up.

He also thanked the people who found his mother’s remains scattered at different locations in the Dublin and Wicklow mountains and reported what they had seen to gardaí.

He said: “My mam was a kind and loving person, a mother, a sister and a grandmother, who had many years left to live that were so cruelly taken from her.

“The sentences given today, we feel is not enough but no length of time is long enough for the crimes they have committed. May they live with this on their consciences for the rest of their lives.”

Asking for privacy, he said the family will try to heal the pain.