The family of a woman who was murdered by her boyfriend are calling for an overhaul of the criminal justice system after they had to endure three murder trials before they saw the killer jailed for life.
Mother-of-three, playschool teacher and youth leader Olivia Dunlea (36), who lived in Passage West, Co Cork, was stabbed repeatedly in her home by Darren Murphy (41), on February 17th, 2013.
As she lay dying in her bed, he set fire to her quilt before going downstairs and lighting another fire. The blaze was an attempt to conceal his crime.
Murphy was jailed for life at the Central Criminal Court in Cork last week after the jury found him guilty of murder. The two previous murder trials in the case had resulted in a hung jury and a conviction which was overturned on a legal issue.
Speaking at the family home in Victoria Avenue in the city, Ann Dunlea, mother of the deceased, recalled that an undertaker had to inform them that they couldn’t dress their loved one for her funeral or even say their last goodbyes. Her daughter had to be identified from her dental records.
Ann Dunlea said Murphy should never be allowed to walk the streets of Ireland again. She said the family would never understand his “web of lies.” Nor could they comprehend how he would arrive at the scene of the fire pretending to be a grieving boyfriend in what the prosecution deemed to be an “Oscar winning performance”.
“He shouldn’t be left outside the gates. He is in a hotel [in Cork Prison],” Ann Dunlea said.
“The night of the fire he was screaming ‘Where is she (Olivia)?’ He was ringing her. He was in an ‘awful state’ over her... If he had called an ambulance even. He should never see daylight again. Life has to mean life. He can’t be out in a few years.”
She said Murphy insulted the memory of their daughter by suggesting to gardaí that he only set fire to the house to prevent Olivia’s children from returning from their sleepover with their aunt to find their mother dead.
Ms Dunlea said the lies in court drove her “mad”.
“There wasn’t a day in court that you wouldn’t want to get up and say: ‘That is my child.’ We were demented [by all the trials]. Everything [in the first two trials] was in Dublin. We had to provide sitters for the kids. Weeks and weeks. It was all about him [Darren Murphy]. We were the victims. Not him.”
Anne Dunlea, sister of the deceased, said Murphy got a prison term while they “got the life sentence.”
She gave birth to her daughter Charlotte just days before she lost Olivia. Anne didn’t drive at the time and Olivia had changed her car to accommodate the new arrival. Her big sister she says was a “helper” in life.
“I have four children and she was getting a seven-seater car to help me. She was full of excitement about Charlotte being born. Charlotte’s birthday is the 12th and Olivia’s anniversary is the 17th.”
Anne and her sibling Amanda fondly recalled their younger days with their late sister who adored Christmas. She always got her decorations out at the earliest possible opportunity.
Olivia was the eldest of the trio and she was the “funny” one who loved George Michael and doing their make up for teenage discos.
Anne said during the trials it was the “Darren Murphy show” and her sister became a footnote in her own life. “If this was America he would have been sentenced to five hundred years.”
Amanda Dunlea said there was “more support for the accused than the family.”
She stressed they would have been lost without the support of family liaison officer Garda Michelle Barron but in reality professional help was minimal. The sisters said they often felt“physical pain” over the way Olivia died.
The family said they would like to thank gardaí and officials from the DPP’s office for their courtesy during the three cases. They were particularly grateful for the professionalism of Senior Counsel, Tom Creed, who was the voice of the prosecution in the three trials.
Murphy (41) of Dan Desmond Drive, Passage West, Co Cork had pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to manslaughter. The DPP declined to accept his plea.
The trial was told that Murphy reacted so strongly to the break up of an earlier relationship that he slashed his wrists and required admission to a psychiatric unit. Witnesses in the trial had indicated that he had wanted to control his girlfriend.
In her victim impact statement to the court last Friday, Ann Dunlea said she had consulted her grandchildren to see what they wanted to say about their mother. The response from Aaron (17), Megan (15) and Darragh (14) was as follows:
“It’s not fair, it’s really not fair. Losing our mum was losing part of us. Our best friend is gone. Our world has been flipped upside down and nothing is the same. It’s so hard without her, and we miss her so much every second of every day.”
Ann said: “We want to talk because the dead can’t talk for themselves... She was the best mother and aunty. She saw the good in everyone.”