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Murder accused 'started crying and admitted to stabbing his girlfriend'

Olivia Dunlea
Olivia Dunlea

A murder accused started crying and admitted to stabbing his girlfriend when gardai confronted him about inconsistencies in what he had told them.

Darren Murphy of Dan Desmond Villas, Passage West, Co Cork has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Olivia Dunlea (36) at Pembroke Crescent, Passage West, Co Cork on February 17, 2013. He has pleaded guilty to her manslaughter but his plea was not accepted by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Sergeant Anthony Harrington told prosecuting counsel Thomas Creed SC that he took a statement from Mr Murphy the day after Ms Dunlea's body was found inside her burning home. Mr Murphy told gardai that he had been out for between seven to ten pints with Olivia in the Rochestown Inn. When they went to Olivia's house they had a "heated" row so he went home and only found out about the fire when Olivia's sister called him.

After the interview Mr Murphy handed over clothes to Sgt Harrington which he said he had been wearing the previous night. When gardai checked CCTV footage from the Rochestown Inn they noticed that the clothes did not match.

Sgt Harrington, Det Sgt Tim Murphy and now retired former Sgt David Treacy went to Mr Murphy's house to ask him about the inconsistency. Det Sgt Murphy told the court that Mr Murphy at first said that he had made a mistake, and the clothes he had been wearing were upstairs.

When Sgt Harrington asked why he had handed over the wrong clothes he began to cry and said: "We had a massive row." He told gardai he "snapped" after she told him to go home because another man was coming to see her. 

Mr Murphy was arrested on suspicion of murder and taken to Togher Garda Station. Sgt Harrington told Mr Creed that during an interview on February 18, 2013 Mr Murphy told gardai that he had developed trust issues after his first girlfriend cheated on him when he was in his early 20s. He said Olivia was the first person he had ever opened up to. He told her about that relationship, about an attempt he had made on his own life and also revealed to her that he had been abused from the age of nine to 16 at a slow learners' school that he attended.

He told gardai that due to his trust issues he would check Olivia's text messages when she wasn't around. He said he would also sometimes drive up to her house without her knowledge to make sure she was not seeing anyone. "If she said she was tired or wanted to go to bed early, I would drive by to check," he said, adding that he could be there all hours of day or night.

On the night he stabbed Olivia, he said he thought they had been getting on "brilliant". When they had finished their drinks and got into a taxi outside the Rochestown Inn, Olivia complained that she had called for a taxi driver named Thomas Farrell and this was not him. Mr Murphy said this made him cry. He said Mr Farrell was a man Olivia said she used to sleep with. A previous witness, Rebecca Coughlan Collins, described Mr Farrell as the best looking man in Passage.

"She knew it upset me when she went on like that," he told gardai. "She told me I can't take a joke and to grow up."

He cried all the way home and the argument continued inside Olivia's house until Olivia threw Mr Murphy's car keys at him and told him to leave. He said she started taking off her clothes and when he asked her why, she said: "Why do you think. Foz [Mr Farrell] is calling."

"I just lost it," he said. "I stabbed her in the back of the neck, I think." In a second interview he told gardai that she had been laughing at him when she told him that Mr Farrell was calling and added: "The next thing I know was she was dead on the bed."

He said she didn't know it was coming and added: "I didn't know what I was doing."

Afterwards, he decided to set the house on fire because he knew Olivia's children would be arriving early the next day and he didn't want them to find her. He denied lighting the fire to cover up what he had done.

The trial continues tomorrow in front of Justice Patrick McCarthy and a jury of seven men and five women.