Man gets life for Olivia Dunlea murder

Thursday 29 May 2014 23.10
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Darren Murphy set fire to the house after stabbing Olivia Dunlea
Darren Murphy set fire to the house after stabbing Olivia Dunlea
The court heard Ms Dunlea was alive when the fire started
The court heard Ms Dunlea was alive when the fire started

A 37-year-old man has been jailed for life for murdering a woman he had been "an item" with for three months.

Darren Murphy of Dan Desmond Villas, Passage West, Co Cork had pleaded not guilty to murdering Olivia Dunlea, 36, at Pembroke Crescent in Passage West on 17 February 2013.

Murphy, who admitted setting fire to Ms Dunlea's home because, he claimed, he "didn't want the kids to find her", had pleaded guilty to a second charge of arson.

A jury in the Central Criminal Court took four-and-a-half hours to find him guilty of murder by a majority of ten to one.

One juror had been excused from service earlier in the trial.

There were sobs from Ms Dunlea's family as the verdict was read out while Mr Murphy, who held his right hand to his face throughout the trial, made no reaction.

The seven-day trial heard that for about three months, mother-of three Ms Dunlea and Mr Murphy had been "an item".

On the Saturday night before her death, the pair were having a good time in the nearby Rochestown Inn, but they had "a massive row" when they arrived home.

According to Mr Murphy's statements to gardaí, Ms Dunlea threw keys at him and told him to get out of her house.

As she was undressing she allegedly told him a former lover, known as Fás, was calling.

Mr Murphy told gardaí that he "just snapped" and, having stabbed her six times in the neck, he set fire to the house.

State Pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy was of the view that Ms Dunlea was alive when the fire started, as she had been inhaling toxic fumes and her body position suggested she made no attempt to escape the fire, the court heard.

Mr Justice Paul Carney imposed the mandatory life sentence, backdating it to 19 February 2013, the date on which he had been taken into custody.

The judge further remanded Mr Murphy in custody until 18 June in respect of the arson charge.