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Central Criminal Court Man (63) to face trial accused of murdering Mary O'Keeffe who was found in burning car

Michael Leonard is charged with the murder of Mary O'Keeffe (72) on February 4 2021

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The Ford EcoSport owned by Mary O’Keeffe and shell of the Dacia Duster SUV are removed from the scene of the tragedy at Dromdeer in February

The Ford EcoSport owned by Mary O’Keeffe and shell of the Dacia Duster SUV are removed from the scene of the tragedy at Dromdeer in February

The Ford EcoSport owned by Mary O’Keeffe and shell of the Dacia Duster SUV are removed from the scene of the tragedy at Dromdeer in February

A man accused of the murder of a widow whose body was found in a burning car will face trial before the Central Criminal Court

Michael Leonard (63) will be remanded to the Central Criminal Court after Judge Colm Roberts at Cork District Court was told the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had issued final directions in the matter.

Leonard is charged with the murder of Mary O'Keeffe (72) on February 4 2021.

Her body was found in a burning car in a remote area of forestry at Dromdeer outside Doneraile in north Cork.

Leonard of Glenosheen, Kilmallock, Co Limerick appeared by video-link before Cork District Court.

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Mary O’Keeffe

Mary O’Keeffe

Mary O’Keeffe

He was making his ninth appearance having first been charged with Mrs O'Keeffe's murder before Fermoy District Court last February.

Judge Roberts was told by Sergeant John Kelleher that Gardaí had received DPP instructions that Leonard be sent forward to the Central Criminal Court for trial on indictment on the single charge of murdering Mrs O’Keeffe.

Gardaí were seeking an adjournment in the matter until September 10.

Brendan Gill, for the defendant, told the court his client was consenting to this application.

Judge Roberts remanded Leonard in continuing custody to appear again by video-link before Cork District Court on September 10 when a remand for trial will be dealt with.

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The court has already directed that Leonard receive both medical and psychological support while in custody.

Mrs O'Keeffe, who worked as a cook, was discovered in a gutted Dacia Duster car at the remote Dromdeer woodland shortly before 4pm on February 4.

The widow's remains were removed to CUH where a full post mortem examination was conducted by Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster.

The widow was found dead in the burning car after a person out walking spotted smoke coming from the isolated Coillte woodland.

Gardai were horrified on arrival to realise that a body was in the front passenger seat of the blazing car.

Such was the severity of the fire and the intense heat that the vehicle was burned back to its steel chassis shell.

The elderly woman later had to be identified from dental records.

Mrs O'Keeffe lived in Dromahane and was the mother of three adult sons.

Her husband, Donal, died over 20 years ago. She worked as a chef in a north Cork sheltered housing project.

Earlier this summer, North Cork Coroner Dr Michael Kennedy adjourned the inquest into the death of the widow, who was originally from Lombardstown in Cork.

Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster carried out a post-mortem at Cork University Hospital (CUH) and said that Ms O’Keeffe died from extensive severe third degree burns associated with the inhalation of carbon dioxide due to a fire in car.

The inquest was adjourned on the application of the Gardaí given that criminal proceedings were underway.

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