Gardaí first suspected Oliver Hayes in the disappearance of Cork widow Anne Corcoran after officers recognised his distinctive walk in CCTV footage taken when her bank account was being cleared out, it emerged today.
The jury in the trial of the 50-year-old painter charged with her murder viewed footage of a heavily disguised man moving to and from bank machines in Bandon and Innishannon when her money was withdrawn after her death.
Oliver Hayes of Clancool Terrace, Bandon, and originally from nearby Daingean Beag, has pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to the 60-year-old’s manslaughter on a date between January 19 and 21, 2009. He also admits falsely imprisoning her and stealing €3,000 from her account over five days.
The Central Criminal Court heard that Anne Corcoran went missing from her home at Maulnaskimlehane, Kilbrittain near Bandon on January 19, 2009.
Garda David Leslie showed the jury CCTV footage taken from various businesses in Bandon and Innishannon from January 20, 21, 22, 23 and 24. The maximum amount of €600 was withdrawn from Ms Corcoran’s AIB account on each date.
Detective Sergeant Fergal Foley said he got a warrant to search Hayes’ home on February 4, after gardaí who knew Hayes viewed the footage recognised his ‘distinctive walk’ which resulted from a football injury.
They also recognised his grey Fiat Scudo van with its large dent and Nottingham Forest sticker.
D Sgt Foley also showed the jury photographs of blood stains found inside Mrs Corcoran’s car. He said this blood’s DNA was compared with samples taken from her bathroom and was a 100% match. Tiny pieces of orange twine could also be seen in the photographs.
Hayes had denied knowing the widow during a door-to-door questionnaire about her disappearance on the day before the search warrant was granted, February 3.
Detective Garda Tim O’Mahoney testified that when Hayes was asked if he knew her, he said he didn’t, that he knew Mrs Corcoran’s husband years earlier and did not know exactly where she lived.
When asked if he knew her car he said no, adding that he was never in her car and never got a lift from a woman.
He said he didn’t recall seeing it parked on his street in the days after his disappearance or in Old Chapel in the days after that.
He added that his girlfriend, Josephine Collins, whom he met for breakfast in Ballinaspittle every morning, had rung him at 2am to say two men had tried to steal her car.
When asked about his movements at the end of January, he said he flew to Salzburg, Austria on January 24 for a skiing holiday, returning on the 31st. He heard about Mrs Corcoran’s disappearance while away.
He told gardaí he’d lived in Clancool Terrace or ‘Singapore’ as it was known for the past 12 years. He also mentioned that his brother worked for painter Denis McCarthy.
The court heard that Denis McCarthy, who was painting Mrs Corcoran’s house, was one of three people who raised the alarm. He gave evidence that Mrs Corcoran was home when he power washed her house on January 10 and made tea for his two workers.
“That was the last time I saw Mrs Corcoran,” he said.
He returned on January 22 to begin painting but neither she nor her car were there.
“We just proceeded,” he said. When painting near the windows, he noticed her two dogs inside.
“I noticed a bag of nuts for dogs thrown all over the kitchen like the dogs had got at it,“ he recalled. “One of the dogs was banging at the window.”
The following day he noticed the dogs pulling at cushions in the sitting room.
Mr McCarthy said he tried to call Mrs Corcoran on the morning he finished but it went straight to voicemail. He tried a few times later that day.
On January 24, he returned to her house where he rang both her phones and heard her landline ringing inside.
“The dogs had done their business on the carpet,” he said. “The day I met the lady the house was neat and perfect and the dogs well cared-for.”
He phoned again the following day and returned to the house on January 26.
“The dog mess was getting worse,” he said.
“I didn’t want to be alarmist,“ he said, explaining that he asked co-workers for advice.
On January 27, He raised his concerns with a woman walking by the widow’s gate and rang local mechanic Sam Winters, who knew Mrs Corcoran. On January 28, Mr Winters phoned him to say her car was parked across from his garage.
“So I went straight to the garda station,” he explained.
Mr Winters told the jury that he prepared the victim’s car for its NCT before Christmas 2008 and she returned afterwards so he could put back on the hubcaps.
“She was meticulous. She kept her car in tip-top condition,” he said.
He noticed her car parked outside his garage from the morning of Sunday January 25 until Wednesday January 28, when he took a closer look. Bandon gardaí confirmed that it was registered to Anne Corcoran’s husband.
“I was concerned. It was there three days,” he explained.
Mr McCarthy rang him that morning before going to the garda station. Both men then met gardai at Mrs Corcoran’s house.
Elizabeth Lucey testified that she knew there was something wrong with her friend of 20 years when she heard on the night of January 27 that her dogs had soiled her carpet.
“She was an immaculate housekeeper,” said Ms Lucey.
She said Mrs Corcoran would never go away without informing her and would always put her dogs in kennels if she was leaving.
“They were like her children really,” she said.
She said she spoke to her friend by phone around noon on January 19 and texted her later. She tried to call her numerous times that week and thought it was unusual that she did not return her calls.
She called Bandon gardai also on January 28.
The trial continues before Mr Justice Paul Carney and a jury of five women and seven men and is expected to last two weeks.