Dismemberment | 

Murdered Cork man told shop employee ‘Santa never came to me’, just hours before death

Frankie Dunne’s (64) severed arms were found dangling from a tree. A Romanian national has denied the murder

Frankie Dunne

Ionut Cosmin Nichoclescu. Photo: Cork Courts© Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Ralph RiegelIndependent.ie

A homeless man whose dismembered body was discovered in the back garden of a derelict house three days after Christmas had, just hours before his death, told an off-license employee that: "Santa never came to him."

The revelation came as a Cork murder trial heard from Gardaí that the severed arms of father-of-three Francis 'Frankie' Dunne (64) were found dangling from the branch of a tree while his head and clothing were located in plastic refuse bags just metres from his dismembered body which was lying under a tree.

Romanian national Ionut Cosmin Nicolescu (30) denied the murder of Mr Dunne before Mr Justice Paul McDermott and a Central Criminal Court jury of eight women and four men.

He has an address at Branista Village, Damovita County, Romania and is a chef by profession.

Ionut Cosmin Nichoclescu. Photo: Cork Courts© Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Nicolescu was charged two years ago with the murder of Mr Dunne at Boreenmanna Road, Cork at a time unknown between December 27 and 28 2019 contrary to Common Law.

Mr Dunne's dismembered body was discovered under a tree in the back garden of the derelict property at Castle Greine, just off the Boreenmanna Road - with his head and clothing later found nearby in plastic refuse sacks.

The trial heard evidence today from Tadhg Hennessy Burke who works at The Office off-licence on Douglas Street.

Mr Hennessy Burke said that while he did not know Frankie Dunne by name at the time, he knew him as a regular customer.

He said Mr Dunne's usual order was a bottle of white wine and four cans of beer.

At 7.27pm on December 27 2019, he said that Mr Dunne came into the off-licence to purchase alcohol.

"There was nothing out of the ordinary that night," he said.

"We would always exchange a few words. We were speaking about Christmas from what I recall. He (Mr Dunne) was saying that Santa never came to him."

"I remember feeling very sad for him."

Mr Hennessy-Burke said that Mr Dunne was sober but seemed down in spirits and was "not in good form."

"I think (he bought) a bottle of wine and a few cans. I don't remember his clothes (that night)."

"I knew his face (but not his name). He would come in three or four times a week."

Mr Hennessy-Burke contacted Gardaí when he read a newspaper article about the dismembered body found off the Boreenmanna Road and recognised Frankie Dunne from an accompanying photograph as the man he had served on December 27.

A receipt indicated that Mr Dunne spent €15.99 purchasing a bottle of white Chilean wine and four cans of lager.

The alarm was first raised by neighbour Joseph Pierce who stumbled upon Mr Dunne's dismembered body in the back garden of the derelict Castle Greine house when he was out looking for his lost cat, 'Mouse', shortly before 4pm on December 28.

Gardaí raced to the scene including Det Garda Padraig Harrington, Garda Brian Barron, Garda Michael Costello and Garda Stephen Dennehy.

Det Garda Harrington said he viewed the grim discovery.

"I saw what I now know to be the body of Frankie Dunne. He had no head, he had no arms and he was naked except for a pair of socks."

Det Supt Michael Comyns immediately declared the area a crime scene.

Crime scene specialist Garda Stephen Dennehy said Mr Dunne's dismembered body was found under a tree in the back garden.

His arms were dangling from the branch of a nearby tree while his head and clothing were in refuse sacks.

"They (Mr Dunne's severed arms) were draped over a branch. (They were) not thrown randomly - it looked as if they were placed there," he said.

Sergeant Eoin Buckley, equipped with a forensics suit, recovered the remains.

"I crawled in under the tree," he told the trial.

"I could see there were two arms - he had been dismembered - and they were hanging over the branch of the tree."

"There were two (plastic refuse) bags. One had clothing. Just by holding the other (bag) I believed it contained a human head."

Ray Boland SC, for the State, said it is the prosecution's argument that Nicolescu has attempted to blame the killing on "phantoms" - two men that the Gardaí do not believe exist.

A post mortem examination was conducted by State Pathologist Dr Heidi Okkers at Cork University Hospital (CUH) and it found that Mr Dunne died from neck compression and blunt trauma to the head.

Glass fragments were also found in Mr Dunne's scalp and on his clothing.

"(It indicated that) a bottle or bottles were broken over his head."

The post mortem confirmed that the dismemberment of Mr Dunne's body occurred after his death.

Mr Boland said the State will argue that the defendant stayed at the Castle Greine property where he had been squatting on December 27 before going to work at a nearby pub and restaurant, The Silver Key in Ballinlough.

On the evening of December 28, the defendant stayed in an attic over the staff toilet in the pub without the knowledge of his co-workers.

He worked the following day but then travelled to Dundalk, Belfast and Edinburgh before finally travelling back to his native Romania.

Mr Boland said the State will introduce evidence during the trial in the form of taped telephone conversations between the defendant and Det Garda Vincent O'Sullivan as he travelled back to Romania.

On January 16 2020, four Gardaí travelled to Romania and, with the assistance of Romanian police, met with the defendant who gave a voluntary statement.

In an interview with Romanian police, Nicolescu insisted that two other men were responsible for Mr Dunne's death.

Mr Boland said the defendant explained that, when he returned to the property on the evening of December 27, he was confronted by a body lying on the ground and two men standing over it.

"One had a machete and the other had a knife. They threatened him. He said they forced him to help with preparing for the disposal of the body."

Mr Boland said that the defendant told Romanian police he was in fear that night.

He also said that one of the two men cut off Mr Dunne's head and arms with the knife.

Nicolescu said the men instructed him to put the head and clothing in a refuse sack and to leave it under the tree.

Mr Dunne's dismembered and naked body was also left under the tree.

The defendant added that, when he later turned around, the two men had gone.

"He said he was afraid of these (two) people," Mr Boland added.

"It is the State's case that these two men were not there (that night). It is the State's case that these men were phantoms. The Gardaí did not believe these people existed."

Mr Justice McDermott was told that the trial is expected to take three weeks at hearing.

The trial continues.

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