Patricia O’Connor murder trial: Jury asked to park ‘shocking’ nature of case outside door

Judge has begun summing up evidence in six week trial for jury

Patricia O’Connor’s head was struck a minimum of three blows with a solid implement and the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head, the court heard.

Patricia O’Connor’s head was struck a minimum of three blows with a solid implement and the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head, the court heard.

 

A judge has told the jury in the trial of a man accused of murdering his partner’s mother, whose dismembered remains were found scattered across the Dublin and Wicklow mountains, that they can consider the issue of self-defence.

Mr Justice Paul McDermott will continue charging the jury on Friday in the Central Criminal Court trial of Kieran Greene (35), who has pleaded not guilty to murdering Patricia O’Connor (61) at her home in Mountainview Park, Rathfarnham, Dublin 14 on May 29, 2017.

The deceased’s daughter Louise O’Connor (41) and granddaughter Stephanie O’Connor (22), both of Millmount Court, Dundrum Road, Dublin 14, and Louise O’Connor’s ex-partner Keith Johnston (43), of Avonbeg Gardens, Tallaght, Dublin 24 are all charged with impeding the apprehension or prosecution of Kieran Greene, knowing or believing him to have committed an arrestable offence on May 29, 2017.

The six-week trial has heard that the body of Mrs O’Connor was dismembered into 15 separate parts that were found at nine different locations over a 30km range in the Dublin and Wicklow mountains between June 10 and 14, 2017.

Former Depute State Pathologist, Dr Michael Curtis, has given evidence that Mrs O’Connor’s head was struck a minimum of three blows with a solid implement and the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head.

In an interview with gardaí in June 2017, Mr Greene said he was in the bathroom when Mrs O’Connor walked in and hit him with a hurl on the wrist, saying ‘Get out, Get out’. Mr Greene said he grabbed the hurl from her, hit her and did not know want happened next as when he woke up there was blood everywhere and he panicked.

The trial has heard that six months after he was charged with her murder, Mr Greene changed his account of killing and dismembering his partner’s mother. He told gardaí in December 2017 that he had taken “the rap” and felt he was being set-up, as his girlfriend Louise O’Connor subsequently started going back out with her ex-boyfriend Mr Johnston.

Mr Greene also told detectives in his December interview that Mrs O’Connor attacked him with a hurley. However, he said Mrs O’Connor’s husband, Augustine ‘Gus’ O’Connor, came into the bathroom after he fell to the ground and gave out to his wife saying: “What the f**k are you doing?” Mr Greene told detectives that Mr O’Connor had killed his wife using a crowbar and he [Mr Greene] had taken the blame.

‘Shocking’

Continuing his charge to the jury on Thursday, Mr Justice McDermott said they had heard that Augustine ‘Gus’ O’Connor had entered a guilty plea in relation to impeding the apprehension or prosecution of an offender in October 2018.

Whilst this was “the same type of offence” which Louise O’Connor, her daughter Stephanie O’Connor and Keith Johnston are charged with, he warned the jury that this was “totally irrelevant” to them. It was not evidence in the case and it cannot be regarded as such, he said.

The trial has heard that Augustine ‘Gus’ O’Connor was originally part of the trial but shortly before it began, he pleaded guilty to reporting his wife Mrs O’Connor as a missing person to gardaí at Rathfarnham Garda Station, Dublin 14 on June 1, 2017, when he knew that she was already dead.

Furthermore, the judge said the nature of this case could be described as “shocking” because of the manner in which Mrs O’Connor’s body was desecrated and asked the jury to “park this” and “leave it outside the door”. He told the jury not to allow emotion get in the way during their deliberations and to carry out a “clinical analysis” of the case by relying solely on the facts.

Mr Justice McDermott said it was up to the jury to decide what weight they gave the interviews of the four accused in the case. “It is your determination what you accept and reject in those interviews,” he remarked, repeating the fact that what one accused said about another co-accused was not evidence against that other person. “If an accused makes an admission to guilt that cannot be used as to the guilt of his co-accused,” he warned.

‘Compartmentalise’

He said each offence was separate and in effect there were four separate trials. “Compartmentalise what is said,” he advised.

The judge said the prosecution had relied on lies told by each accused in interviews to gardaí. He said people lie for many reasons, including shame about one’s behaviour, a desire to conceal disgraceful behaviour from one’s partner and out of panic or confusion. The prosecution had to establish that there was no “innocent explanation for the lie”, he said.

Mr Justice McDermott said the prosecution must have established beyond a reasonable doubt what is alleged against each of the four accused. “If you come to the conclusion that statements tending to indicate innocence may reasonable be true, you will acquit,” he indicated.

The offence of murder is a “most serious charge” and the prosecution must establish that a human being was killed by another, he said. The judge pointed out that it was an issue in the case whether Mr Greene had killed Mrs O’Connor as he made a statement to gardaí in December saying he did not kill her. If the jury was not satisfied that Mr Greene had killed Mrs O’Connor then that was the end of the case and they must return a not guilty verdict, he outlined.

The judge highlighted that Mr Greene’s defence had relied heavily on the second statement he made to gardaí in December, which the judge said was suggestive of the fact that Mr Greene did not kill Mrs O’Connor and her husband Mr O’Connor was the person who struck the fatal blow. If the jury chose not to rely upon the December interview and they were satisfied that Mr Greene had killed Mrs O’Connor, they would have to consider if Mr Greene intended to kill or cause serious injury or if there was a defence of self-defence open to him in the evidence.

Verdicts

Mr Justice McDermott stressed to the jury that Mr Greene’s defence was that he did not do it and he [the judge] was not seeking to undermine his defence with self-defence. However, the issue of self-defence fell to be considered as a result of Mr Greene’s acceptance of hitting Mrs O’Connor repeatedly in his June interview, said the judge, and therefore he was putting it to the jury as part of his obligation in relation to the fairness of the trial.

He told the jury they would need to consider the circumstances of his June interview, where Mr Greene said Mrs O’Connor attacked him with a hurley and his response to that. If Mr Greene used more force than he knew to be reasonably necessary, he was guilty of murder and manslaughter was not available to him. However, if he used the necessary force required in the circumstances, he was guilty of manslaughter. The judge said the issue of self-defence depended very much on the jury’s assessment of the statements which Mr Greene had made.

The judge said there were three verdicts the jury could return in relation to the murder charge against Mr Greene, namely; guilty of murder, not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter or not guilty.

“If Mr O’Connor did not do it, did Mr Greene have the requisite intent to do it or was he acting in self-defence, which reduced the count of murder to manslaughter,” he summarised.

The judge said the other offence of impeding an investigation, which Louise O’Connor, Stephanie O’Connor and Keith Johnston were charged with, was a separate offence and entirely distinct from the murder charge.

He said there were three verdicts the jury could return in relation to this charge of impeding the apprehension or prosecution of Mr Greene, knowing or believing him to have committed an arrestable offence. These were: not guilty, guilty of knowing that Mr Greene had committed murder or in the alternative, guilty of knowing that Mr Greene had committed manslaughter.

Mother-of-five Louise O’Connor has pleaded not guilty to agreeing to or acquiescing in her daughter Stephanie O’Connor disguising herself as Patricia O’Connor at Mountainview Park, Rathfarnham, Dublin 14 on May 29, 2017 in order to conceal the fact that Patricia O’Connor was dead.

Stephanie O’Connor has pleaded not guilty to disguising herself as Mrs O’Connor at Mountainview Park, Rathfarnham, Dublin 14 at a point in time after her murder on May 29, 2017 in order to conceal the fact that she was already dead.

Mr Johnston has pleaded not guilty to assisting Mr Greene in the purchase of various implements at Woodie’s, Mr Price, B&Q and Shoe Zone, Tallaght, Dublin 24 on June 9, 2017, which were to be used in the concealment of the remains of Mrs O’Connor.

Mr Justice McDermott will continue his charge to the jury on Friday morning at 10.30am