THE mother of a Cork woman brutally murdered in her home has spoken of the torturous process of waiting for justice.
Olivia Dunlea was murdered at Pembroke Crescent, Passage West, in 2013 by her partner Darren Murphy.
Her mother, Ann Dunlea, has been a regular attendee at three court trials and two appeals since Olivia was murdered seven years ago by Murphy, from Dan Desmond Place in Passage West.
She had been going out with Murphy for around two months when her 36-year-old life was cruelly cut short.
Ann was at the Court of Appeal in Dublin last Tuesday to hear the latest appeal taken by Murphy rejected.
The three-judge court had reserved its judgment last December, until last Tuesday.
Now, Ann says, she and the rest of Olivia’s family can finally start to grieve for her.
Olivia was murdered in her home at Pembroke Crescent, Pembroke Woods, in Passage West.
She was Ann’s eldest child, and was the big sister for Ann’s two other daughters — one also called Ann, and Amanda.
The grieving mother said that the whole family was very close and regularly enjoyed doing things together.
“For the last seven years, our hearts are broken, and we have spent hundreds of hours up and down to Dublin.”
Of the mammoth legal road since Olivia’s death, Ann said: “It has been torture. We have been waiting for over seven years now.”
She added that when the judgment was announced, she and other relatives could hardly take it in that Murphy’s appeal had been dismissed.
In a victim impact statement at the last trial, Ann told the court: “Our world is shattered and we are truly living our own life-sentence, sickened by how depraved and disgusting a human being can be.”
She said the legal process had been very drawn-out and stressful, particularly for Oliva’s three teenage children.
“I didn’t want Olivia’s children growing up thinking there was no law there. I was almost giving up on it. It should not have gone on for as long as it did. Her oldest is now 19, the second is 18, and the third is 16.”
This view was echoed by the director of the Support After Crime Services organisation in Cork, Sally Hanlon.
She said: “The family has not had a chance to grieve properly.”
Ms Hanlon added that she would like to know how much the legal cases and challenges cost the State.
She said it was one of the longest legal processes she can recall.
She added: “The whole criminal justice system has to be reviewed.”
She acknowledged, however, that any person accused and convicted in the wrong must have an opportunity to clear their name through an appeals process.
Ann is adamant that now is Olivia’s time — the time for her family to grieve properly now that the legal process is over.
She wants people to remember the person Olivia was, instead of how she died.
She was a playschool teacher and a youth leader, whose family home was in Victoria Avenue in Cork city.
Ann said: “She loved life and her world was her children. She idolised her children and was very family-orientated.”
She elaborated: “At her house in Passage West, everybody was always welcome.”
She still misses the morning texts between her and Olivia, telling each other their bits of news.
“I don’t have that any more. And if she was going out on a Saturday night, the kids would come here.”
She is very happy to have a great relationship with Olivia’s children and says they and her other grandchildren are her reason to get up every morning.
One of the grandchildren was born just days before her auntie Olivia was murdered.
Ann is sad that one of her grandchildren received Confirmation recently, without Olivia as her sponsor. She had been Olivia’s godchild. Instead, one of Olivia’s children took on the role in place of her.
Ann said: “But Olivia should have been there. That man took life out of her body and destroyed all our lives.”
The sight of gardaí coming to her house to tell her about Olivia’s death haunts her. She recalled: “I never thought I would see a garda knocking on my door. They are part of the furniture of our lives now.”
She said she was so grateful to them and to the State’s legal team, who helped finally secure Murphy’s conviction.
Murphy had admitted to killing Olivia, but denied her murder. He told gardaí that he stuck her head into a pillow and tried to smother her, before stabbing her and then setting fire to her home.
He said it all happened so fast and that he wasn’t thinking.
In another Garda interview, he said he was sorry and that he hadn’t meant to kill Olivia.
In the fire, pets belonging to Olivia’s children also died.
The Dunlea family’s pain was increased last year when they discovered Murphy had been granted temporary release to visit a relative’s grave in Passage West.
Ann recalled: “I thought I would lose the plot. When you are in prison, your freedom should be taken.”