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Ireland Court of Appeal reserves ruling in case of man convicted of murdering his girlfriend

18:40  05 december  2019
18:40  05 december  2019 Source:   independent.ie

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a person posing for the camera: Olivia Dunlea Olivia Dunlea

THE Court of Appeal has reserved its ruling in the case of a man convicted of murdering his girlfriend after he stabbed her multiple times and then left to die in her burning home.

Darren Murphy (42) has appealed his conviction for the murder of mother of three, Olivia Dunlea (36).

Murphy of Dan Desmond Drive, Passage West, Cork had admitted the manslaughter of Ms Dunlea before the Central Criminal Court last year but had vehemently denied her murder.

He was convicted by a Central Criminal Court jury of murder and handed a mandatory life sentence.

The young mother of three was stabbed a total of six times - and was still alive when Murphy set fire to her home at Pembroke Crescent, Passage West on February 17 2013.

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None of her three young children were present in the property at the time.

Ms Dunlea, who had only been dating the defendant for eight weeks before her 2013 death, had been stabbed six times but the young mother was still alive when her home was set on fire by Murphy.

a woman smiling for the camera: Murdered: Olivia Dunlea, from Passage West, Co Cork. Photo: Provision Murdered: Olivia Dunlea, from Passage West, Co Cork. Photo: Provision Cork Fire Brigade members later recovered her badly burned body in an upstairs bedroom and she had to be identified from dental records.

She died just one week before her 37th birthday.

As fire brigade personnel were battling the blaze, Murphy arrived at the scene in a state of disarray and became very emotional.

However, he later told Gardaí he had snapped after a row started and he claimed he was provoked.

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Defence counsel Tim O'Leary SC said his client had succumbed to a jealous rage and said he had been provoked.

The appeal revolved around key evidence that was admitted during the June 2018 trial.

Following the hearing, the three Court of Appeal judges ruled that they would reserve judgement pending consideration of the precise issues raised.

Members of the Dunlea family were present in the Cork court during the appeal hearing.

Ms Dunlea's family said that while Murphy was handed a prison term, they are now serving a life sentence without hope of parole.

Her mother, Ann, and sister, Ann, said they have endured a "total nightmare" over the past six years.

Murphy had stood trial three times before being convicted of murder - and he is now appealing that 2018 conviction.

The family said that while they were relieved to see Murphy convicted at the third attempt last year, nothing will bring Olivia back.

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"I was happy and sad," her mother said.

"At the end of the day, Olivia is still lost to us - we had to go through all of this?"

"What is life (imprisonment?) Personally, I think the key should be thrown away - he should never come out again. He is a danger to society."

"Our lives have been standing still for the past six years."

"We have gone through trial after trial but, thank God, we got a good outcome in the end (last year). But we are still without Olivia."

"She was our best friend - we were so close and we are totally heartbroken without her. She was always there for us - we got the life sentence. He got a prison term."

"Olivia was lovely - she was so warm hearted," her mother stressed.

"She was family orientated - her children were her world. They loved her so much."

Olivia's sister said they were heartbroken by the appalling fate Olivia met.

"She was a pre-school teacher - Olivia was absolutely brilliant. Her door was always open to help anyone."

"She was a daughter, a mother, an aunt, a sister and a great friend."

Murphy's manslaughter plea had been rejected by the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP).

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Though the case law is still evolving, the drift of the appellate rulings has been toward increasing In his instructions to the jury in this case , Acting Justice Alan R. Honorof of State Supreme Court A majority of the jurors favored a verdict of murder from the beginning. Four held out for a lesser charge

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State Pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy found Ms Dunlea had been stabbed six times, suffering four shallow wounds to the front of her neck and two wounds behind her ear.

One of the wounds to the back of the neck was so deep it penetrated Ms Dunlea's spinal canal.

"It could be fatal but most likely would not deliver a rapid death," prosecutor Tom Creed SC said last year.

Mr Creed said Dr Cassidy, from an examination of Ms Dunlea's trachea, determined that she was still alive when the fire in her bedroom was started.

"It would appear she was still alive when the fire started. Her (Dr Cassidy's) opinion is that Ms Dunlea was incapacitated by the knife wound to the back of her neck."

Ms Dunlea was found lying face down on the bed having apparently made no attempt to escape the fire.

The quilt on the bed had been set alight.

Fire brigade officials found two seats for the fire - one on the bed in which Ms Dunlea was found and one on a downstairs kitchen table.

Ms Dunlea and the defendant, who were in a relationship for between six and eight weeks, had been out socialising in the Rochestown Inn not far from Ms Dunlea's home.

They got a taxi back to her Pembroke Crescent home shortly after midnight.

However, when neighbours spotted a fire at Ms Dunlea's home a short time later and Ms Dunlea's friends became concerned, Murphy was at his own home.

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He drove to Ms Dunlea's house and was shouting and sobbing on the street outside.

Murphy tried at one point to rush past fire brigade officials to get into the house.

He also kept shouting: "This is my girlfriend's house."

Murphy also kept repeatedly trying to ring Ms Dunlea's mobile phone, explaining he wanted to determine where she was.

When he was being interviewed by Gardaí later that day, he paused the interview to keep trying to ring Ms Dunlea.

Murphy later told Gardaí he had had a row with Ms Dunlea after they had left the pub and had gone home, leaving her at her door with her keys in her hand.

He also voluntarily gave Gardaí two sets of clothing that he said he had been wearing that night.

However, when a Garda checked the CCTV security camera footage from the pub, it was found not to match what Murphy had been wearing when out with Ms Dunlea.

Gardaí arrived at Murphy's home with a search warrant and the defendant became emotional.

He said he had made a mistake and given Gardaí the wrong clothing - the correct clothing having been placed under decking at his home before being put into the attic.

Mr Creed said Murphy then told Gardaí: "I just snapped."

He said "a massive row" had erupted between himself and Ms Dunlea and, having snapped, he grabbed a knife in the bedroom and stabbed her.

"He said he snapped, grabbed a knife by the bed and stabbed Olivia two times in the neck with it."

Mr Creed said Murphy then told Gardaí he set the quilt alight with Ms Dunlea's own cigarette lighter.

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