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In custody Man charged with murder of widow Mary O'Keeffe whose body was found in burning car

Judge Marie Keane was told by Detective Sergeant James O'Shea that when Leonard was arrested, cautioned and formally charged at Fermoy Garda Station, he made no reply.

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The two cars are removed from Dromdeer Woods, near Doneraile, Co. Cork Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

The two cars are removed from Dromdeer Woods, near Doneraile, Co. Cork Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

The two cars are removed from Dromdeer Woods, near Doneraile, Co. Cork Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

A MAN has been charged with the murder of widow Mary O'Keeffe (72) whose body was discovered in a blazing car at a remote Cork woodland.

Michael Leonard (62) appeared before a special sitting of Fermoy District Court.

He is charged with the murder of Mrs O'Keeffe at Dromdeer East, Doneraile, Co Cork on Thursday, February 4 contrary to Common Law.

Judge Marie Keane was told by Detective Sergeant James O'Shea that when Leonard was arrested, cautioned and formally charged at Fermoy Garda Station, he made no reply.

Leonard, who has an address at Hill Crest, Glenosheen, Kilmallock, Co Limerick, appeared in court wearing black trousers, black slip-on shoes and a wine coloured hoodie.

He remained silent throughout the brief hearing.

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Mary O’Keeffe

Mary O’Keeffe

Mary O’Keeffe

Two of his female relatives were in the public gallery of the court.

Because the charge involved is murder, the issue of bail can only be dealt with by the High Court.

Judge Keane remanded the forestry worker in custody to appear again before Cork District Court on Friday next, February 12

The appearance can be by video-link.

She also confirmed free legal aid for the 62 year old.

Judge Keane also directed that all medical and psychiatric treatment required be provided for the defendant.

Leonard had been arrested on Friday taken for questioning to Fermoy Garda Station under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1984.

He was detained on his discharge from Cork University Hospital (CUH) where he had been treated for hypothermia since Thursday.

Mrs O'Keeffe's body was discovered in a gutted Dacia Duster car at the remote Dromdeer woodland shortly before 4pm on Thursday.

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

Following that examination, gardaí arrested the defendant.

The widow was found dead in the burning car after a person out walking spotted smoke coming from the isolated woodland shortly before 4pm last Thursday.

Gardaí were horrified 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 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.

Tributes were paid to the widow in the north Cork village where she was hailed as a hard-working person who was totally devoted to her family and her community.

She had worked as a chef in a north Cork sheltered housing project.

Neighbours said she loved dancing, music and playing cards with friends.

She lived alone in the family home just off Dromahane's main street.

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