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Man told gardai he strangled ex when she screamed at sight of pellet gun, knife and cable ties

Eric Locke
Eric Locke

A Dublin man, who set up a fake Facebook account to meet a woman who’d stopped contact with him, told gardai he strangled her when she screamed on seeing the pellet gun, Stanley knife and cable ties he’d brought to frighten her.

It also emerged that Sonia Blount had wondered if Eric Locke, whom she described as ‘a fruit loop’, was behind the Facebook account. However, she was satisfied that he was not before agreeing to the meeting.

The evidence was heard today in the 35-year-old’s trial at the Central Criminal Court, where he’s charged with murdering the mother-of-one in a room at the Plaza Hotel in Tallaght on the 16th of February 2014.

Mr Locke, with an address at St John’s Park East in Clondalkin, has pleaded not guilty, but admits causing the death of the 31-year-old, who was found strangled and suffocated.

Detective Garda Camon Ryan told Remy Farrell SC, prosecuting, that he began interviewing the accused that night, after he’d handed himself in at a city garda station.

He told officers that he’d been suffering with depression for years, but that meeting Ms Blount a few months earlier had brought him ‘back up’.

He said they’d finished about four weeks earlier and she had later ended communication with him.

“It brought me back down,” he said.

He said he set up a fake Facebook account in the name of Shane Cully, and arranged to meet her through it.

“I went into town. I purchased masking tape, cable ties, a pellet gun and a Stanley blade,” he recalled. “I just wanted to frighten her. I didn't mean to do it.”

He said he’d used the keycard that she’d left at reception to let himself into the room.

“She got a shock it was me,” he said.

He said he told her he just wanted to talk and that he began asking her why she’d finished it and cut contact.

He said she hadn’t asked him to leave, but had wanted them to leave together.

“I thought that once we got to reception she'd just scream and that’s what stopped me,” he said.

“I took out the things and put them on the bed and she was terrified,” he said. “She was frantic. We had a fight and it happened.”

“I used my hands on her neck,” he recalled.

He was asked what she had done while he had been strangling her and he pointed to scratches on his face. He was asked if she had said anything.

“She said: ‘Eric, what are you doing?’ but her voice was low,” he replied.

He initially denied using anything other than his hands. However, he admitted using the cable of a phone charger ‘briefly’, after a bloodstained charger was shown to him.

He said he had put her top in her mouth because he panicked.

“She was breathing heavy. I thought someone would hear,” he explained.

He said he wasn’t sure if she was dead when he left around 6am. He said he had attempted suicide before deciding to hand himself in.

He denied raping her, saying they had consensual sex before she saw the items he’d brought.

He told gardai in his final interview that he hadn’t known the difference between killing and murdering.

“I’m confessing to killing Sonia, not murdering, because I didn’t intend for her to die,” he said, agreeing that he’d spoken to his solicitor.

He was asked how he felt about her three-year-old son growing up without his mother.

“Devastated,” he replied. “He’s never going to get to know his mother. He’ll feel empty, he has no mother.”

The court had earlier heard from her sister, Claire Reddan, sho said Ms Blount had been the eldest of five siblings.

She told Mr Farrell that her sister had been very upset and worried about Mr Locke after he had threatened suicide and gone missing that January. She said she wasn’t sleeping, couldn’t eat and wondered if it was her fault.

“She just couldn’t believe this was happening with someone... There wasn’t a major relationship there to cause this,” explained Ms Reddan

“She told me that he kept texting her all the time and she kept saying: ‘It's not what I want’, to just leave her alone,” she said.

Ms Reddan said that Ms Blount had put a post on Facebook that February 9th, saying: ‘The Shit’s going to hit the fan’.

“I knew it was obviously about Eric,” she said, recalling that she had asked Ms Blount about it.

“She said he was freaking her out, staring at her in work,” she said. “She was going to ask to change shifts so she didn’t have to see him.. She said: ‘He’s a proper fruit loop’.”

Ms Blount’s friend and colleague, Aisling Halloran, testified that Ms Blount had told her about their row on their last date.

“She was out having a smoke and talking to another guy,” she told Mr Farrell. “He came out and told her she was taking too long. He called her a slut.”

Ms Blount had also confided in Ms Halloran that she was going to meet a man called Shane Cully, who had befriended her on Facebook

“I said, ‘Are you sure that’s not Eric just pretending to be someone else?’ She said the thought crossed her mind,” explained Ms Halloran. “But she asked him to send her a selfie.”

She said he had, and that it had satisfied her.

The court also heard the contents of a letter written to Ms Blount on January 24th that year; it was signed, Eric.

D Gda Ciaran O’Neill told Mr Farrell that he’d found it in her home following her death.

She was told that it was a ‘heartfelt apology’ for what he had said to her and for a ‘suicide text’ he had sent her following their break up.

“Things just got wild for a while,” he wrote, adding that he didn’t want to cause ‘any more damage’.

“People looking from the outside in didn't know where my head was at, and you didn’t either,” he continued. “I should have sorted it out a while ago. It’s very hard for a man to open up.”

He said he was disgusted with the position he had put her in ‘that day’.

“The weight of the world must have been on your shoulders,” he wrote. “You were put in an impossible position.”

He said that he just got depressed about where his life was.

“31 years old and all my mates are married, have kids, have mortgages,” he wrote. “My life remains static.”

He wrote that what he had said to her was ‘not personal’.

“It’s just so f***ing unfortunate we came across each other at this point in my life,” he wrote, telling her he was now attending weekly counselling.

However, he then wrote of being disappointed and surprised that she hadn’t stood beside him.

“I know lads who’ve ripped their partners off and get another chance,” he wrote. “We could have had something good.”

He said that if she had sent him ‘a suicide text’ but he had known that she was suffering from depression, he ‘simply could not walk away’.

“I would wait around for you until you’d get to that better place,” he wrote.

He signed off by saying that she was an amazing mother, had everything going for her and that he hoped they’d ‘all find happiness’.

The trial continues before Mr Justice Michael Moriarty and a jury of eight men and four women.