A grieving mother who sat through three trials over the murder of her daughter, has said she is “relieved” that her daughter’s “domineering” killer has had his latest legal challenge thrown out.
Darren Murphy (42), of Dan Desmond Villas, Passage West, Co Cork had admitted killing Olivia Dunlea (36) at her home in Pembroke Crescent, Passage West, on February 17, 2013, but denied it was murder.
Murphy also admitted setting fire to Ms Dunlea's home because, he claimed, he “didn't want the kids to find her”. The separated mother-of-three had been seeing Murphy for about two months.
He was found guilty of murder by a Central Criminal Court jury in 2014, but his conviction was subsequently quashed over the then trial judge’s instructions to the jury on the defence of provocation.
A retrial in 2017 resulted in a hung jury before Murphy was convicted again following a third trial in the summer of 2018. This conviction was upheld by the Court of Appeal today.
Ms Dunlea’s mother, Anne Dunlea, and other family members were present throughout the three trials and two appeals, which took place over the course of six years, and concluded today.
Speaking outside court after Murphy’s conviction was upheld, Anne Dunlea said she was “relieved” with the Court of Appeal’s decision. “After seven years now. We have that behind us and we can start grieving properly. Our hearts are broken over him, dragging us through all this.” “Three trials and two appeals will kill you. I don’t know how we’re sane, it’s a disgrace. This was hanging over us all the time.” Ms Dunlea said she couldn’t believe the amount of opportunities Murphy got in the courts. “Terrible, I couldn’t believe it, that he could actually do that. If he was paying for all those (cases) he wouldn’t be doing it I’d say.” She said the experience was traumatising, having to hear Murphy drag Ms Dunlea’s “name through the dirt”, and added that she hoped it was the last time she would have to lay eyes on him.
The Central Criminal Court heard that Olivia and Murphy were having a good time in the nearby Rochestown Inn on the Saturday night before her death. A taxi driver, who brought them home around midnight, gave evidence that Ms Dunlea seemed to be in good spirits, but Murphy was “grumpy, kind of frosty”, and there was “tension” in the air.
In his closing speech to the jury, prosecuting counsel Thomas Creed SC, said Murphy could have called emergency services to try and save her. But that's not what he did.
“He set fire to the house and left her in a situation where she could have been saved,” Mr Creed told the jury. Murphy then “watched from Church Hill above like Nero as the house burned with Olivia in it.” Having received the inevitable phone call, Murphy then came back to the scene “all full of crocodile tears knowing full well what had happened”. It was “one big concocted lie to try and confound the people around him,” and was “all about protecting Darren Murphy,” said Mr Creed.
Not only was he killing the children's mother but he was killing their pets, counsel said. “All their little budgies and lizards upstairs in the room died.” Their dog would have died also if it wasn't for the bravery of a neighbour, counsel said.
Mr Creed finished his speech by describing the incident as a “a sustained, calculated and callous attack over a period of a number of minutes whereby he firstly tried to smother Olivia Dunlea and when he didn't succeed he stabbed her.” In the first trial, Ms Dunlea's sister, Ann Power, told Mr Creed that Murphy wanted to be with alone Olivia “24 hours a day” and was “suffocating” of her.
Dismissing Murphy’s latest case on Tuesday, President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham said the defence had cross examined a “marginal” prosecution witness to ensure the jury were told that Murphy was a “gentle giant” and a “good neighbour”. The defence also wished the jury to hear how Murphy had coped with the break-up of a previous relationship.
Far from being a “gentle giant”, the prosecution wished to adduce evidence that Murphy was “controlling” and “domineering”.
Mr Justice Birmingham said the defence had made a decision, to paint a particular picture for the jury. But if they felt it was only a partial picture, the prosecution were entitled to adduce evidence to paint the “complete picture”, so the jury could properly decide for themselves.
Furthermore, Mr Justice Birmingham said the trial judge’s instructions to the jury on the defence of provocation in this trial were “clear, and indeed emphatic”.
Mr Justice Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice John Edwards and Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly, said the court had not been persuaded to uphold either ground of appeal, and the case was therefore dismissed.