"Our world is shattered ": Family react as man found guilty of murdering mum of three in jealous rage

By Liam Heylin

The Passage West man who denied murdering his girlfriend was found guilty by a jury yesterday after less than two and a half hours of deliberation.

Darren Murphy, 41, with an address at Dan Desmond Villas, Passage West, County Cork, denied murdering Olivia Dunlea, a 36-year-old mother of three at her home at Pembroke Crescent, Pembroke Woods, Passage West, on February 17 2013.

Mr Justice Pat McCarthy imposed the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment.

A jury of six women and five men delivered the unanimous guilty verdict today at the Central Criminal Court sitting in Cork. They listened to nine days of evidence and speeches before yesterday’s conclusion.

Murphy has been in custody since his arrest in February 2013. What the jury was not told was that this was the third trial of the same case. He was found guilty of murder on the first occasion but this was overturned on appeal because of the trial judge’s failure to explain thoroughly the legal meaning of the defence of provocation.

In the retrial there was a hung jury. This third trial commenced in the new courthouse in Cork and went on over the past three weeks.

The victim’s mother, Ann Dunlea, delivered a moving victim impact statement where she held back the tears until the end of it.

She said of Olivia’s three children: “They have suffered enough for a lifetime and will suffer more but one thing is definite – the love of their mother will never be lost. They are the strongest kids I know and are an absolute credit to Olivia.

“The torture for us really is that nothing we can do will shield them from the pain or make it better because grief does not expire. How do you console a crying child pining for their mother.”

Murder victim Olivia Dunlea

Mrs Dunlea also read a contribution from the victim’s three children.

“It’s not fair, it’s really not fair. Losing our Mum was losing part of us. Our best friend is gone. Our world has been flipped upside down and nothing is the same. It’s so hard without her and we miss her so much every second of every day.”

Ms Dunlea went on: “Our world is shattered and we are truly living our own life sentence sickened by how depraved and disgusting a human being can be.”

Interviewed by gardaí after the crime Murphy said an argument started on the way home from the pub about a man the defendant believed was an ex-boyfriend.

He said Olivia Dunlea told him to get out because she was waiting for another man to arrive at the house.

In interviews Murphy went on to disclose gruesome details of the murder and how during a struggle the victim asked "what about the children?"

After the murder and setting fire to the house Murphy drove the victim's car back to the Rochestown Inn and picked up his own car where he threw her keys into a stream.

Asked why, he said, “I don’t know. We used to watch a lot of detective shows. It was just playing in my head – get rid of them.”

Prosecution senior counsel Tom Creed said Murphy was a jealous-minded person.

"We have that evidence from his former girlfriend of him checking her phone. He was doing that with Olivia as well. He is in complete control.

"He is in control from the word go. He was in control when he killed Olivia. He set fire to the house. Everything about what he did afterwards was controlled.”

Defence senior counsel Tim O’Leary said the state’s case was based on admissions made by the accused:

“Not alone did he put all the pieces of the jigsaw together but he gave the state the pieces of the jigsaw.”

The defence lawyer said the defendant was not getting away with anything because he had admitted manslaughter and had in effect admitted setting fire to the victim’s house.

He said the state case was a big jumble of speculation where the defendant was having attributed to him a whole lot of control.

Instead the defendant emerged from five interviews with gardaí as “a blithering idiot”, crying, admitting killing his girlfriend and apologising to her family, and all of that shortly after 10 p.m. on the night after the killing.

While Murphy did not get into the witness box in the trial he ended his last garda interview with an apology:

“I just want to say sorry. I didn’t mean to kill her. It all just happened so fast. I didn’t want to upset any of the family or the kids. I would do anything to take it back but I can’t.”

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