Man (63) to go on trial for murder of woman found in burning car in Cork

Mary O’Keeffe died from severe burns and carbon monoxide poisoning, inquest hears

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has directed that a man be tried at the Central Criminal Court on a charge of murdering a 72-year-old mother of three, whose body was found in a burning car in a forest in north Cork earlier this year.

Michael Leonard (63) from Glenosheen, Kilmallock, Co Limerick appeared at Cork District Court by video link on Wednesday morning charged with the murder of Mary O'Keeffe at Dromdeer East, Doneraile, Co Cork on February 4th, 2021.

Sgt John Kelleher told the court that the DPP had directed that Mr Leonard be sent forward to the Central Criminal Court for trial on indictment on the single charge of murdering Ms O'Keeffe and he sought an adjournment until September 10th.

Defence solicitor Brendan Gill said that an adjournment until September 10th was acceptable to his client and Judge Colm Roberts remanded Mr Leonard in continuing custody to appear again at Cork District Court by video link on September 10th.

Earlier this summer, coroner for north Cork Dr Michael Kennedy opened the inquest into the death of Ms O'Keeffe, whose body was found by firefighters when they were called to deal with a car on fire beside a communications mast in a clearing in the forest at Dromdeer in Doneraile.

A widow, the late Ms O'Keeffe was originally from Lombardstown but lived in Dromahane near Mallow and worked as cook with the Mallow Sheltered Care project at Sunnyhill in the town. She was survived by her three sons, Ger and twins, Christie and Donal.

The inquest at Mallow Courthouse heard evidence from Det Sgt James O'Shea of Fermoy Garda Station that Mallow Fire Service were called to a car fire in the woods at the Dromdeer on February 4th, 2021 and when they extinguished the fire, they discovered a body in the car.

Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster visited the preserved scene and Ms O'Keeffe's body was removed to the Cork City Mortuary for the postmortem where her remains had to be identified using DNA due to the burns.

Dr Bolster told the inquest how she conducted the postmortem and found that Ms O’Keeffe died from extensive, severe third-degree burns associated with the inhalation of carbon dioxide due a fire in car.

Insp Paul Ahern said a person had been charged with Ms O'Keeffe's murder and was currently before the courts and he applied under Section 25 of the Coroner's Act to have the inquest adjourned pending criminal proceedings, which Dr Kennedy granted.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times

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