Judgement has been reserved in the case of a 42-year-old Cork man appealing his conviction for the murder of his girlfriend six years ago.
He had stabbed her in the neck before setting fire to her home.
Darren Murphy of Dan Desmond Villas, Passage West, Co Cork had denied the murder but admitted the manslaughter of Olivia Dunlea at her home at Pembroke Crescent, Pembroke Woods, Passage West, on February 17th, 2013.
A jury at the Central Criminal Court sitting at the Anglesea Street courthouse in Cork in June 2018 found Murphy guilty and Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy imposed the mandatory life sentence.
At the Court of Appeal sitting in Cork on Thursday, Murphy’s counsel Tim O’Leary SC argued the murder conviction was based on prejudicial evidence called by the prosecution at trial which should not have been put before the jury.
However, counsel for the DPP, Tom Creed SC argued that the prosecution had been given permission by the trial judge to call the evidence which, he said, was properly put before the jury.
The President of the Court of Appeal, Mr Justice George Bermingham and his fellow judges, Mr Justice John Edwards and Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly, said that they would reserve their judgement in the matter.
A playschool teacher, Mr Dunlea was the mother of three young children. Her mother, Ann and her sisters, Amanda and Anne, were present in court on Thursday.
During the last trial, Ann Dunlea said in her victim impact statement it was “gut wrenching and heartbreaking” to watch her grandchildren struggle without the presence of their mother’s love and touch.
Act of evil
“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, by setting her daughter’s house on fire after stabbing her and then failing to call to the fire services, had denied the family the right to see her body and to say their final goodbyes.
The June 2018 trial was the third time that Murphy had gone on trial for the murder. His first conviction was overturned on appeal and a retrial ended in a hung jury before he was convicted for the second time last year.
During the last trial, the court how Murphy told interviewing gardaí that he and Ms Dunlea had a row on the way home from the pub about a man that he believed was an ex-boyfriend.
He said Ms Dunlea told him to get out of her house because she was waiting for this man to arrive at the house. He had lost it and began attacking her.
“I stuck her head into the pillow and tried to smother her. She was trying to lift her head out of the pillow… for three to four minutes I suppose,” Murphy told gardaí.
“I could not understand what she was saying. I had my hands on either side of her head and pushed her down. I was kneeling over her. I didn’t say a word. I wasn’t thinking. It happened so fast. I couldn’t believe I was doing it.
“I twisted her head around head around towards me. She said, ‘What about my kids?’ So I grabbed the knife and stuck it into her. I didn’t open my mouth once I got on her, kneeling over her.
“I stuck it into the back of her neck… twice I think. It all happened so fast. I don’t know what I was thinking,” said Murphy adding he knew she was dead when he stabbed her in the neck and there was no sound from her after that.
While Murphy did not get into the witness box in any of his three trials, he did express remorse of his actions in his last Garda interview which was read out to the jury which convicted him.
“I just want to say sorry. I didn’t mean to kill her. It all just happened so fast. I didn’t want to upset any of the family or the kids. I would do anything to take it back but I can’t.”