Man convicted in Scotland of killing Irish mother

Friday 17 January 2014 22.12
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The dismembered remains of Philomena Dunleavy were found in Edinburgh last year
The dismembered remains of Philomena Dunleavy were found in Edinburgh last year
Police issued a computer likeness of the remains in an effort to identify the body
Police issued a computer likeness of the remains in an effort to identify the body
A claddagh ring was discovered with Philomena Dunleavy's body, which led to speculation she was Irish
A claddagh ring was discovered with Philomena Dunleavy's body, which led to speculation she was Irish

A man has been found guilty of killing his Irish mother and burying her in a shallow grave in Edinburgh, Scotland.

James Dunleavy, 40, was convicted of killing Philomena Dunleavy, 66, following a trial at the High Court in Edinburgh.

Mrs Dunleavy had left her Dublin home in early April last year and arrived in Scotland on 24 April to visit her eldest son James, also known as Seamus.

Prosecutors alleged that days later she was killed in Dunleavy's flat in Balgreen Road, Edinburgh.

Medics could not tell how she died and injuries to her head, smashed ribs and damage to small bones in her neck, often linked to strangulation, could have been sustained after her death.

Advocate depute Alex Prentie QC, prosecuting, warned the jury that "loose ends" and unanswered questions would remain.

Mrs Dunleavy's remains were unearthed just a few minutes walk away from her son's address.

A large suitcase was missing from the flat and a spade with a broken shaft was found in the back green.

Scottish police began efforts to identify the remains.

CT scans of Mrs Dunleavy's skull, combined with computer technology, enabled Dundee University's craniofacial expert Dr Caroline Wilkinson to produce a likeness of the dead woman.

Mrs Dunleavy's claddagh ring then took the search to Ireland.

The trial heard that Mrs Dunleavy, who suffered from a number of medical problems and had been badly affected by a stroke, had a habit of wandering without telling anyone where she was going.

But by early July her family in Dublin was beginning to wonder where she was.

James Dunleavy had phoned on 2 May to say she was on her way home.

A call was made to police in Edinburgh, followed by a call on 3 July from Dunleavy himself. Police visited him the following day.

Four days later he was charged with murder.

The 40-year-old denied murder and attempting to defeat the ends of justice by burying his mother to try to cover up the crime.

A jury at the High Court in Edinburgh convicted him, by majority, of a reduced charge of culpable homicide. They also found him guilty of the attempted cover-up.

Mrs Dunleavy's 68-year-old husband, also James, and a brother of the accused remained silent as the eight women and seven man reported their decision.

As Dunleavy was led to the cells, his family gave him the thumbs-up and offered words of encouragement.

Lord Jones told him: "You require to be detained under conditions of such security as can be provided in the State Hospital."

As they left the High Court in Edinburgh, Mr Dunleavy senior said: "I will not be making any statements."

The trial heard evidence of a shouting match between Dunleavy and his mother about her supposed affair with another man.

Shopkeeper Mohammed Razaq, 40, known as Tariq, witnessed the argument. He also told the trial that Dunleavy, who had been showing a keen interest in Islam, had described "hearing voices" and told his friend: "I might be evil."

Two months after his arrest, Dunleavy's legal team arranged for his transfer from prison to a state hospital.

Three psychiatrists told the trial that Dunleavy clearly had problems, although it was too early to say exactly what it was.

Paranoid schizophrenia was suggested as a possibility.

Dunleavy, giving evidence, insisted the doctors were wrong.

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

He said his mum had left his flat without warning and he expected her to re-appear "miraculously".

Two key pieces of evidence came from Carole Ross, 50, who said Mrs Dunleavy had come into Edinburgh's Portobello Police Station where she was working and asked for a cheap room.

She said she did not want to be with her son because he was having "an episode".

Matthew Hagan, 26, who worked alongside Dunleavy on Edinburgh's tram project, told how his workmate told him, just days before his arrest: "I have done something bad, brother."

Judge Lord Jones ordered Dunleavy to remain in the State Hospital, Carstairs, while psychiatrists continue to assess his condition.

He is due back in court in April for the judge to decide the next move.