Jury in Laois murder trial to resume deliberations tomorrow

Thursday 22 May 2014 16.10
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Robert Corbet admits killing Aoife Phelan but denies murdering her
Robert Corbet admits killing Aoife Phelan but denies murdering her
The court heard Aoife Phelan was not pregnant at the time of her death
The court heard Aoife Phelan was not pregnant at the time of her death

The jury in the trial of a 25-year-old man accused of the murder of a 30-year-old nanny in Portlaoise two years ago will resume its deliberations in the morning.

Robert Corbet of Sheffield Cross in Co Laois admits killing Aoife Phelan between 25 October and 7 November 2012 but denies murdering her.

He claims he was provoked and lost all self control after he says she threatened to ruin his life and business because she was pregnant.

The prosecution said his actions were deliberate and calculated and he was not provoked.

Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan told them they had to consider if it was possible at the time Mr Corbet killed Ms Phelan, he did so as a result of provocation due to things Ms Phelan said to him, resulting in him losing all self control and killing Ms Phelan in that state.

The court has heard Ms Phelan died of asphyxia and blunt force trauma to the head and chest and was not pregnant at the time of her death.

The court heard Mr Corbet hit her and strangled her in a garage at his home in Co Laois before dumping her body in a barrel.

The barrel was buried in a pit on his land.

Mr Corbet claimed that he had asked her for clarification about the pregnancy.

He told the court she got very angry and made threats that she would ruin his life and his business.

He said the protective instinct went off in him and he just snapped.

He said it was a loss of self control and he just could not stop.

The court has also heard he lied to gardaí in initial interviews about when he last spoke to Ms Phelan and also about what he had done with her body.

Prosecuting counsel Isobel Kennedy said Mr Corbet intended to kill or cause serious injury to Ms Phelan.

She said the series of lies he told to gardaí was highly relevant to the jury's assessment of him as credible and truthful.

Ms Kennedy said they would have to decide if he was telling the truth or lying about what he said Ms Phelan said to him on the night of her death.

She said if those words were spoken, they would have to decide if he totally lost self control or did he act in a careful, calculated and deliberate way.

Ms Kennedy said he already knew Ms Phelan was 30, wanted a relationship and had told him she was pregnant.

She said Mr Corbet was besotted with his ex-girlfriend and Ms Phelan was an impediment to the resumption of his relationship with her.

She said the prosecution had proved all the elements of murder and proved beyond reasonable doubt that he was not provoked.

Ms Kennedy said the evidence indicated a man entirely in control who was acting in a deliberate, calculated way, not a man who had totally lost self control.

She said the prosecution suggested to the jury that he was guilty beyond reasonable doubt of murder.

Mr Corbet's defence counsel, Conor Devalley, told the jury members they could not be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr Corbet did not have a total loss of self control emanating from acts or words of Ms Phelan.

He said much of the evidence referred to by the prosecution about what Mr Corbet did after killing Ms Phelan was less than admirable and should be condemned.

Mr Devalley described his client's actions as self serving, mealy mouthed and cowardly and he said much of his behaviour was monstrous.

However, he said the jury should refrain from the very human impulse to be unwilling to consider his defence of provocation because of the ugliness of Mr Corbet's actions afterwards.

He said they must apply their minds dispassionately to the evidence.

He told them all they had to consider was what happened in the garage on the night of 25 October 2012.

He said the defence suggested that they must conclude that a sudden loss of control in a sudden and overwhelming fashion was a reasonable possibility in this case.

He said Mr Corbet had had to grow up fast because of the death of his father.

However, he said he grew up like an "ill formed weed" to what he thought was a man, and in some ways stayed a little boy.

He said Ms Phelan threatened his maturity and threatened what he thought was his life's and his father's life's work and he reacted with a total loss of self control.

Mr Devalley said it was impossible to say that Ms Phelan did not issue these threats.

The jury spent an hour-and-a-half deliberating today and were sent home for the evening.

The court had been told that one of the jurors had to leave at 4pm today.