Picture of murder-accused found under schoolgirl's pillow at care home

The jury in the trial of a Sligo man accused of murdering 14-year-old Melissa Mahon has heard that a picture of the accused was found under the schoolgirl’s pillow at the care home she had been placed in.

The jury in the trial of a Sligo man accused of murdering 14-year-old Melissa Mahon has heard that a picture of the accused was found under the schoolgirl’s pillow at the care home she had been placed in.

Fiona Keogh, a social care worker at Lis na nOg residential care home, told the Central Criminal Court that during the second week of Melissa's placement in September 2006 she was making the girl's bed and found a picture of Ronnie Dunbar under the pillow.

Mr Dunbar (aged 44), also known as Ronald McManus, of Rathbraughan Park, Sligo, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Melissa on a date unknown between September 14 and 30, 2006. He also denies threatening to kill one of his own daughters during that period.

Ms Keogh told Isobel Kennedy SC, prosecuting, that she knew the accused to see as he had collected Melissa from the home on occasion and she had also seen him with the girl when she was off duty in the town.

She said the picture of Mr Dunbar was a circular cut out from a photograph and written on the back were the words 'best (or good) wishes "McManus"'.

Ms Keogh said she placed the photograph on Melissa's bedside locker and intended to discuss it with her but did not get an opportunity to do so before she disappeared. Ms Keogh informed the acting manager of the home and Melissa's social worker.

Maria Lloyd, another employee at the home told the court that she thinks she saw Melissa running at speed towards the Rathbraughan estate on September 21, 2006, a week after her disappearance.

Ms Lloyd told Sean Gillane BL, prosecuting, that she was on a bus when she saw a female running at speed in the same direction as the bus, around 15 yards ahead of it.

Ms Lloyd said the girl was wearing a pink hooded top which had black stains on the back of it. She thought the female might be Melissa as the girl had recently dyed her hair jet black and had stained the back of her top in the process.

Under cross examination Ms Lloyd agreed with Brendan Grehan SC, defending, that she was only 80 per cent sure that the person she saw was Melissa and while she thought the sighting took place on September 21, 2006 she could not be sure of the date.

She said the person she saw had her hair in a ponytail with a fringe. Ms Lloyd caught only a split second glance at the person's face as she ran into a lane way which led into the Rathbraughan Estate.

Darren Duncan told the court that he owned the house which Mr Dunbar rented and had seen Melissa Mahon in the window of an upstairs room of that house on either August 12 or 13. The court earlier heard that Melissa had gone missing from her family home on August 4 and did not go into care until August 28.

The jury heard evidence from letting agents that Mr Dunbar moved from his house on Rathbraughan Park to the house immediately next door on September 11, 2006.

Sergeant Tom Colsh said he was directed to go to Mr Dunbar's original address on September 15, the day after Melissa went missing. He said the house was unoccupied and that a man appeared from the next house asking if everything was ok.

Sgt Colsh said he asked this man if he knew where the occupier of the house was and he replied that he had not seen him in a long time. Sgt Colsh said the accused said his name was Ronald McManus. Another patrol car arrived and informed Sgt Colsh that he was actually talking to Mr Dunbar.

Mr Dunbar then agreed that he had recently moved out of the house Sgt Colsh was attempting to get into and invited Sgt Colsh to search his new address. He said he had not seen Melissa Mahon since the last time she had gone missing and told Sgt Colsh that he had been assisting the Health Board in relation to her.

Sgt Colsh said that he searched Mr Dunbar's new address and found only his two daughters present there.

The trial continues before Mr Justice Barry White and a jury of six men and six women. It is expected to last for another four weeks.

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