Son convicted of beheading his mother

James Dunleavy. Picture: comp
James Dunleavy. Picture: comp
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A KILLER has been sent to a psychiatric hospital after being convicted of beheading his mother and burying her dismembered remains on Corstorphine Hill.

James Dunleavy was convicted of culpable homicide yesterday following an eight-day trial at the High Court in Edinburgh.

A policeman stands guard where the body was found on Corstorphine Hill. Picture: Ian Rutherford

A policeman stands guard where the body was found on Corstorphine Hill. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Judge Lord Jones ordered the 40-year-old to remain in the State Hospital at Carstairs while psychiatrists assessed his condition.

The jury had been told of a row between Dunleavy and his 66-year-old mother, Philomena, shortly before she 
disappeared.

Mrs Dunleavy arrived in the Capital from Dublin on April 24 last year and prosecutors alleged that the mother-of five was butchered by her son days later.

It was more than a month before Mrs Dunleavy’s remains were unearthed, just a few minutes’ walk away from her son’s address. A large suitcase was missing from his flat and a spade with a broken shaft was found in the back green.

Today, friends revealed Dunleavy was obsessed with conspiracy theories including 9/11 and Princess Diana. He expressed his support for the Boston bombers and would rail against the media which he believed was being controlled in a global conspiracy to hide the truth from the public.

His mates said Dunleavy would spend hours researching anti-establishment ideologies online, convinced the UK and American governments were at the centre of dozens of plots.

William White, 25, who worked at the post office below his flat in Balgreen Road, would regularly have lengthy discussions with him on the subject, which Dunleavy “backed” by internet research and newspaper cuttings.

“He really liked to talk about them, we had a chat once for four hours mainly on conspiracy theories,” he said.

“He said he was against institutions in general, he wouldn’t go to the doctors or anything like that because he didn’t trust them. James was against the government and believed that they killed Princess Diana.

“He would talk about 9/11 and that it was a conspiracy by the Americans. He said if you looked at the slowed-down footage you can see the building blowing up from the bottom upwards. He was convinced it was the US and not terrorists that were to 
blame.”

Mr White said Dunleavy seemed “very intelligent” and liked to play chess while voicing his theories, adding: “The list goes on and on what he would talk about. I didn’t think he was crazy, just very interested in it. I thought he was a nice guy but I don’t know what to think now.”

In the months before the killing, Dunleavy showed a keen interest in Islam, after also experimenting with Buddhism and New Age beliefs.

Mr White said Dunleavy would regularly go and pray in his flat or attend Blackhall Mosque.

But in a sinister conversation with another friend, Mohammed Razaq, Dunleavy declared he “might be evil” and that the Koran could not protect him from the voices in his head.

The confession came just weeks before the dismembered remains of Dunleavy’s mother were found in the secluded woodland clearing.

Former friend Mr Razaq, 40, managed the shop below and would use Dunleavy’s bedroom to pray when he could not get to his local mosque.

He said the pair had a bond between them “like brothers” but that their friendship broke down soon after Dunleavy’s mum came from her home in Marino, Dublin, to visit her son in April last year.

Giving evidence, he said Dunleavy came into his shop one evening and stayed, talking, until closing time.

“His opening comment to me was ‘I might be evil. I might be hearing voices in my head’.”

“My reply was ‘That is the Devil in your head, talking to you. Keep the Koran beside yourself to protect yourself’ and he said ‘That does not work’.”

Dunleavy also told him: “Soon your faith will be tested,” but did not explain what he meant.

The shopkeeper, who had keys to Dunleavy’s flat, witnessed a furious row because Mrs Dunleavy had split from his dad and moved in with another man, where he claimed she had been “brainwashed” by a group of women he called “the witches”.

Speaking the day after Dunleavy’s arrest, he also said that Dunleavy had been sacked from a labouring job at a city centre building site in the months before his mother’s disappearance for punching a 
colleague.

Days before her death, Mrs Dunleavy walked into a police station asking where she could get a cheap room because her son had been “having episodes”.

She explained to station assistant Carole Ross that she “walked away” when he was behaving like that and was looking for somewhere else to stay.

The following morning while out on patrol, Pc Grant Robertson saw her sitting on an embankment on Edinburgh’s West Approach Road on the other side of the city. She was acting confused and was reluctant to talk but eventually gave sufficient information for her to reluctantly return to her son’s flat.

Psychiatrists agreed Dunleavy had serious anger management issues and would lose his temper over comparatively trivial matters.

Dr Isobel Campbell, who has been in the profession for 27 years, said during their talk Dunleavy displayed “emotion entirely inappropriate to the subject under 
discussion”.

Giving an example, she said: “I mentioned to him his sister’s death and he grinned.”

He also discussed his interest in spiritual beliefs and his attraction to Islam, which led him to demand a halal diet and room to pray in the hospital.

She said Dunleavy also had a habit of making up words or using conventional words in a strange way and that he was in Carstairs to be “calibrated”.

His attempts to convince the jury otherwise – claiming doctors had been swayed by the serious nature of the charge and repeatedly declaring he loved his mother – 
failed.

The jury of eight women and seven men took less than a day to find him guilty of culpable homicide, despite his claims he believed his mum would “miraculously” turn up again.

Dr Khuram Khan, currently looking after Dunleavy in the State Hospital, said he could be suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, but assessment was not yet complete.

Lord Jones said he was satisfied father-of-one Dunleavy had a mental disorder and for assessment and treatment to continue.

Unshaven and scruffily dressed in a sports jumper, Dunleavy said “all right” and gave a thumbs up to his dad, James, and his brother in the public gallery as he was led away.

Retired painter and decorator James, 68, said he had “absolutely nothing to say” following yesterday’s verdict.

Dunleavy is due back in court in April for the judge to decide the next move.

kate.pickles@edinburghnews.com