Irishman says he was the last to see his mother alive – but denies killing her

James Dunleavy denies causing mother’s death in Edinburgh and burying her body


An Irish man accused of killing his mother agreed yesterday he was the last person to see her alive – but denied causing her death, dismembering her and burying her in a shallow grave.

Giving evidence for just over an hour, James Dunleavy (40) repeatedly insisted he loved his mother Philomena (66) and denied murdering her.

He also told a jury at the High Court in Edinburgh that he did not have mental health problems and claimed doctors had been swayed by the serious charge he was facing.

He told how he believed she would “miraculously” turn up again after she left his Edinburgh flat without warning early one morning.

Mother-of-five Ms Dunleavy from Marino, Dublin, had been staying with her son in the city’s Balgreen Road – just a few minutes walk from where her remains were found on Corstorphine Hill, a local nature reserve.

Mr Dunleavy – also known as Séamus – backed by his father, retired painter and decorator James (68), told the trial Philomena Dunleavy was in the habit of “going walkabout” without saying where she was going.

Defence QC Gordon Jackson said three psychiatrists agreed Mr Dunleavy was suffering from some sort of mental disorder.

Coloured perception
“I think the gravity of the crime I am accused of may have coloured their perception,” Mr Dunleavy suggested. “They are entitled to their opinion.”

The trial heard that after growing up in Dublin, Mr Dunleavy moved to the Coventry and Birmingham area of England around 1990, where he worked as a labourer on building sites, leaving behind a daughter after a long-term relationship broke up.

He moved to Edinburgh to work on the construction of the city’s tram lines.

Mr Dunleavy denied arguing with his mother just before she is believed to have died, saying a neighbour who described a row had misinterpreted “a wordy discussion” between them.

Asked if he was surprised by his mother’s sudden departure, Mr Dunleavy said: “That was my mother’s MO [Modus Operandi].”

He described making a meal for her the previous evening. “Something curried,” he said. He could not remember whether he used caraway seeds. Such seeds were found in his mother’s stomach after her body was unearthed last June.

Advocate depute Alex Prentice QC pointed out that when police searched the Balgreen Road flat they found €870, Ms Dunleavy’s identity card and clothing belonging to her.

Mr Dunleavy told the court he had thrown out a bed because an incontinent acquaintance who stayed with him had soiled the mattress, but denied setting fire to it.

He also insisted that workmate Matthew Hagan, who told the trial Mr Dunleavy told him he had done “a bad thing”, had picked him up wrong because of the noise of the machinery they were using.

James Dunleavy snr said his wife had been badly affected by a stroke and had a long stay in a Dublin hospital.

He said he received a phone call from his son in late April or early May 2012. “James rang to say she was on her way home, that she would be there that night. But she never returned.” He added: “It was no surprise.”

The trial is expected to hear closing speeches today.