Man admits murdering Mallow woman whose body was found in burning car

Mary O'Keeffe's family will have an opportunity to make a victim impact statement at Michael Leonard's sentencing on December 14.
Man admits murdering Mallow woman whose body was found in burning car

Michael Leonard (pictured) has pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to murdering 72-year-old grandmother Mary O'Keeffe.

A man has pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to murdering a 72-year-old grandmother whose body was found in a burning car.

Michael Leonard (63) of Hillcrest, Glenosheen, Kilmallock, Co. Limerick, appeared in court for a brief arraignment on Monday morning at which he responded "guilty" to the charge that he murdered Mary O'Keeffe at Doneraile, Co. Cork, on February 4 last year.

The court did not hear any evidence regarding the murder as Mr Justice Paul McDermott adjourned sentencing until December 14 when Ms O'Keeffe's family will have an opportunity to make an impact statement.

At a bail hearing last year, Det. Sgt James O'Shea said that gardaí and fire services were called to the scene of a burning vehicle at 2.20pm on February 4, 2021, in which was Ms O'Keeffe's body. Mr Justice Robert Eager refused bail and Leonard remains in custody.

During the bail hearing last year, Leonard's defence counsel Marc Thompson Grolimund BL said that his client had a good work record and that he had worked for 41 years for Coillte before becoming a consultant and retiring 12 months earlier.

Taking the stand, Leonard told Mr Grolimund that he would "absolutely" not approach any witness in the case and would "not speak to anyone in the case, bar my solicitor".

Mary O'Keeffe lived in Dromahane, near Mallow in Co. Cork and worked as a cook.
Mary O'Keeffe lived in Dromahane, near Mallow in Co. Cork and worked as a cook.

Mr Justice Eagar said that Ms O'Keeffe had suffered an "appalling" death and that he had taken into account the "degree and seriousness" of the charge of murder when denying bail, after hearing evidence from Det. Sgt O'Shea and Mr Leonard.

The late Ms O’Keeffe lived in Dromahane, near Mallow in Co. Cork and worked as a cook. She is survived by her three sons.

A post-mortem was carried out on her body at Cork University Hospital on February 5. The results of the post-mortem, which was carried out by Assistant State Pathologist Margaret Bolster, were not released.

The alarm was raised on February 4 when a passer-by spotted a car on fire near the Coillte forest in Doneraile. Ms O’Keeffe was pronounced dead at the scene.

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