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Taxi driver tells murder trial accused had fingernail scrapes on face

Eric Locke
Eric Locke

The trial of a Dublin man, charged with murdering his ex-girlfriend, has heard that DNA matching his was found under her fingernails, and that a man matching his description had scrapes on his face when he left the scene.

The jury also heard the content of text messages sent between the two following their breakup, including his pleas for a second chance, her pleas to be left alone, followed by messages from him saying he was 'checking out'.

The evidence was given to the Central Criminal Court today in the trial of 35-year-old Eric Locke, who's charged with murdering mother-of-one Sonia Blount at a room in the Plaza Hotel in Tallaght on February 16, 2014.

The prosecutor had told the jury that the accused had assumed a false identity in order to meet the 31-year-old in the room, where she was found strangled and suffocated.

Mr Locke, with an address at St John's Park East in Clondalkin, has pleaded not guilty. However his barrister has said that 'the defence admits that the accused caused Ms Blount's death'.

Taxi driver Ian McEvoy said that he collected a passenger near the hotel between 5.30am and 6am on the day in question. He was going to Clondalkin village.

"It was a young lad, good-looking lad, beanie hat, well dressed….just smart, jeans, trendy top," he recalled.

The driver asked him he if he'd had a good night.

"He said: 'I won’t be going there again'.

"He said he was in the nightclub and had been in a row," testified Mr McEvoy.

"He said he was dancing with a girl when her boyfriend came over and gave him a few slaps."

Mr McEvoy said he'd noticed marks on his left cheek when he was getting in.

"I said: 'Give us a look at your face', and he turned around and there were scrapes, fingernail scrapes," he said. "They were very noticeable."

He said that the passenger just shrugged when he told him he'd have to explain them to everybody.

The man directed him to St John's Grove in Clondalkin, where he got out.

Mr McEvoy was asked if he had seen him again.

"Just the picture in the paper," he replied. "That's when I phoned the guards."

Forensic scientist Marce Lee Gorman carried out DNA profiling in the case. She had been told that Eric Locke had said he'd strangled Ms Blount with his hands and a phone wire.

His jeans were bloodstained and she found a DNA profile matching Ms Blount's on the stain.

Sonia Blount

The witness had also been told that he had scratches to his face and that blood was found on Ms Blount's fingernails.

She said she found DNA matching Mr Locke's in the samples taken from Ms Blount's nails. However, she said it was equally likely that this came from her scratching him as from the intimate contact he'd said they'd had.

Gda Mark Shortt provided the jury with the content of text messages sent between the two from January 11 that year, the date their relationship broke down. They had gone to a concert that night and he began sending her text messages at around 3.30am the following morning.

He said he felt awful for what he'd said but mentioned her going for '20 minute' smoke breaks when they went out. He said she never told him she was attracted to him and that he felt insecure 'when you talk to guys like that'.

She asked him to leave it. Similar messages continued the following day.

He promised that he would never let it happen again and that he could be a good person.

He pleaded for another chance and she pleaded with him to stop.

He told her the following morning that he had walked off the job in the factory, where they both worked. He asked her to meet him for a coffee but she said no, and voiced concern about him leaving work.

He then sent a message that he was 'checking out', that he couldn't take it and was sorry.

"You're what??" she replied.

She sent more text messages throughout that day, telling him that she was worried sick and asking him to let her know that he was ok.

He didn't reply until the following morning, when he wrote that he was in a hotel with a rope.

"I'm doing this now," he said. "I just want peace."

However, he sent her another message a few hour hours later, saying he couldn't do it.

"Can you meet me?" he asked. "I'm really on the edge."

She asked him to get help and not to contact her again. However, they continued to communicate for a time.

The jury had already seen footage of Mr Locke running away from the Plaza Hotel at around 5.40am, hours before Ms Blount's body was found on the floor of the room, along with an imitation firearm, cable ties and duct tape.

There were ligature marks around her neck and a blood-stained t-shirt had been stuffed deeply in her mouth, with such force that it had damaged her teeth. A forensic expert said that a 'violent struggle' had taken place.

The trial continues Thursday afternoon before a jury of eight men and four women.