The Passage West man serving a life sentence for murdering his girlfriend by stabbing her in the neck and setting fire to her home was in the Court of Appeal today appealing the murder conviction.
Darren Murphy, 42, with an address at Dan Desmond Villas, Passage West, denied murdering Olivia Dunlea, a 36-year-old mother of three at her home at Pembroke Crescent, Pembroke Woods, Passage West, on February 17, 2013, but admitted manslaughter.
The jury found him guilty after two hours of deliberation and Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy imposed the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment at the Central Criminal Court sitting in Cork.
This followed nine days of evidence and speeches before the trial reached its conclusion.
Defence senior counsel Tim O’Leary said today appeal against the murder conviction was based on prejudicial evidence called by the prosecution which should not have been put before the jury. Tom Creed SC for the DPP argued that the prosecution was given permission by the trial judge to call the evidence which he said was properly put before the jury.
The three judges of the Court of Appeal indicated that they would reserve their judgment meaning that their decision on the application to quash the murder conviction will not be given possibly for a number of weeks at the court when it is sitting in Dublin.
Ann Dunlea – the victim’s mother – spoke in her impact statement at the sentencing hearing of Darren Murphy stabbing Olivia in the neck and setting fire to her home: “Our world is shattered and we are truly living our own life sentence sickened by how depraved and disgusting a human being can be.”
Interviewed by gardaí, Darren Murphy said an argument started on the way home from the pub about a man the defendant believed was an ex-boyfriend. He said Olivia Dunlea told him to get out because she was waiting for this man to arrive at the house, having taken off her clothes.
“I stuck her head into the pillow and tried to smother her. She was trying to lift her head out of the pillow… for three to four minutes I suppose,” Murphy, 41, said.
Asked if Olivia was crying out for help, he told gardaí, “I could not understand what she was saying. I had my hands on either side of her head and pushed her down. I was kneeling over her. I didn’t say a word. I wasn’t thinking. It happened so fast. I couldn’t believe I was doing it.
“I twisted her head around head around towards me. She said, ‘what about my kids?’ So I grabbed the knife and stuck it into her. I didn’t open my mouth once I got on her kneeling over her. I stuck it into the back of her neck… twice I think. It all happened so fast. I don’t know what I was thinking.”
Asked when he knew she was dead, Murphy replied: “When I stabbed her in the back of the neck there was no sound out of her after that.”
After setting fire to the house he drove her car back to the Rochestown Inn and picked up his own car where he threw her keys into a stream. Asked why, he said, “I don’t know. We used to watch a lot of detective shows. It was just playing in my head – get rid of them.”
In the trial, defence senior counsel Tim O’Leary said the state’s case was based on admissions made by the accused and in that regard he said, “Not alone did he put all the pieces of the jigsaw together but he gave the state the pieces of the jigsaw.”
The defence lawyer said the defendant was not getting away with anything because he had admitted manslaughter and had in effect admitted setting fire to the victim’s house.
While Murphy did not get into the witness box in the trial he ended his last garda interview with an apology: “I just want to say sorry. I didn’t mean to kill her. It all just happened so fast. I didn’t want to upset any of the family or the kids. I would do anything to take it back but I can’t.”