Robert Corbet found guilty of murdering Aoife Phelan in 2012

Friday 23 May 2014 23.37
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Robert Corbet had admitted killing Aoife Phelan in October 2012 but had denied murdering her (Pic: Laois Nationalist)
Robert Corbet had admitted killing Aoife Phelan in October 2012 but had denied murdering her (Pic: Laois Nationalist)
Aoife Phelan was killed in Portlaoise in October 2012
Aoife Phelan was killed in Portlaoise in October 2012

A 25-year-old man has been found guilty of the murder of a 30-year-old woman in Portlaoise two years ago.

Robert Corbet had admitted killing Aoife Phelan in October 2012 but had denied murdering her.

He claimed he was provoked and lost self control after Ms Phelan, who had told him she was pregnant, threatened to ruin his life and his business.

Ms Phelan was not pregnant at the time of her death.

Under cross-examination Mr Corbet said he did not know how she would ruin his business.

He said the protective instinct went off in him as he saw someone threatening everything he had worked for and he just snapped.

He said he caught Ms Phelan around the neck with his right arm.

He said they fell to the ground and he kept his grip. He said it was very surreal and felt like an out-of-body experience.

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

Mr Corbet then said he put a black bag around Ms Phelan’s head and put cable ties around her neck before dropping her body in a barrel.

He later put the barrel into a pit he had dug a few weeks earlier on his land and arranged for the pit to be filled in the next day.

The jury found him guilty of murder by a majority verdict of ten to two.

Ms Phelan was one of 12 children and her brother Daire read a victim impact statement on behalf of the family.

In the statement, Ms Phelan’s mother, Betty, said her daughter was beautiful, vibrant, happy and bubbly and the family was devastated by her senseless loss.    

She said time had stopped for all of them and they were caught in a nightmare of anger, grief, pain and sadness.    

She said their hearts were broken.

She said the 13 days Ms Phelan was missing were the darkest days of her life and she feared the worst right away.  

She said she did not recognise her daughter on the night she had to identify her body and would never forget her face that night. 

She said it was hard for her to think of Aoife alone in the dark with no family with her.

Her father Michael spoke about how he would never get to walk her down the aisle.

Her brothers and sisters spoke of the effect Aoife's death had had on them and on her nieces and nephews.   

They spoke about how uncharacteristic it was for her not to contact her family.  

They spoke about Aoife's kind heart and good humour, the laughs they had had shared. 

One sister spoke about how she tried to sing at Aoife's funeral but could not.

They asked how much compassion was felt for Aoife or her family on the night she died or on the following 13 cold dark lonely nights she was lost to the family.

Afterwards, Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan sentenced Robert Corbet to the mandatory term of life in prison. 

His lawyer, Conor Devalley, said his client requested that he receive psychiatric assistance while in jail.