Man and woman get life sentences for Cork murder

Jury finds Catherine O’Connor guilty of murdering Jonathan Duke (27)


A 37-year-old woman and a 38-year-old man have bene sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder a 27-year-old father of one whose body was found with a ligature around his neck in the River Bandon in West Cork.

Catherine O’Connor, a native of Kinsale and Ciprian Grozavu, a Romanian national, both with an address at Bridge House, Bandon, Co Cork were both found guilty following separate trials of the murder of Jonathan Duke at Bridge House, Bandon on November 13th 2011.

O’Connor was convicted today when a jury of four men and eight women returned after deliberating for two hours and 49 minutes to find her unanimously guilty of Mr Duke’s murder after hearing eleven days of evidence at the Central Criminal Court sitting in Cork.

Last month, Grozavu was also found guilty of Mr Duke’s murder by a unanimous verdict of a jury of seven men and five women after deliberating for three hours and 30 minutes during a separate trial which ran for three weeks also at the Central Criminal Court sitting in Cork.

Mr Justice Paul Carney sentenced both accused to life imprisonment, backdating Grozavu’e sentence to November 2011 when he was first taken into custody while he ordered that O’Connor be given credit for time she has spent in custody after being charged.

During the two trials, evidence was heard how gardai were alerted when two men involved in a relationship and sharing a flat on the second floor of Bridge House made a 999 call after hearing a fight in the flat upstairs and seeing the two accused, who were drinking heavily at the time, throw a body into the river.

One of the men, Shane O’Driscoll told the court that they heard a racket going on upstairs in the third floor flat occupied by O’Connor and Grozavu with shouting and roaring going on for about 15 minutes before the door opened and they heard banging coming down the stairs.

“I heard Catherine (O’Connor) saying to Chippy (Grozavu) - ‘Just drag him, he’s fucking dead anyway, he can’t feel it’ - I heard thumps going down every step of the stairs - being honest, they just fired it down the stairs as if it was nothing”.

Aaron Nolan told how he saw the pair throw Mr Duke’s body into the river. “She had the end, he had the top - they threw it like that - they came back to the house howling, thinking they were great - they were laughing like they were proud with something they had done.”

During Ms O’Connor’s trial, evidence was given by forensic scientist, Dr John Hoade that he found that a blood sample taken from under O’Connor’s fingernail matched Mr Duke’s DNA but he agreed that simply meant she was in contact with his blood when it was wet.

Assistant State Pathologist, Dr Margaret Bolster said that Mr Duke died from mechanical asphyxia or strangulation with ligatures and associated blunt and sharp force trauma causing significant blood loss from over 60 wounds including one with a piece of protruding glass.

Mr Duke also had a wound to his back which resulted in significant blood loss while he also had suffered a broken rib, a fracture skull and over a dozen wounds to his torso, said Dr Bolster, adding alcohol had hastened death but was not one of the causes of death.

Today after the jury returned their verdict in O’Connor’s case, Mr Duke’s sister, Cindy told how his death had devastated their family including her mother, Michelle, her sisters, Nicole and Shannon and Mr Duke’s 10-year-old daughter, Angel

“We imagine this is not real and when we do, we feel we could die with the pain - words would not do justice to the way we loved him .... We feel a physical pain in our hearts since the day he was taken from us and we don’t know if it will ever go away,” she said.