Corstorphine murder trial: Son showed ‘no emotion’

An officer stands guard where the body was found. Picture: Ian Rutherford
An officer stands guard where the body was found. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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A MAN accused of beheading his mother and cutting off her legs showed no emotion when confronted by detectives, a murder trial heard today

James Dunleavy, 40, answered “no comment” to most of the questions put to him during an hour-long interview.

He also denied arguing with mother Philomena, 66, who had come from her Dublin home to visit Dunleavy’s flat in Balgreen Road.

The High Court in Edinburgh heard that the questions were put by Detective Constable Brian Manchester after Dunleavy was detained on July 8 as he left a shop near his home.

A month earlier the dismembered body of Mrs Dunleavy had been unearthed from a shallow grave on Corstorphine Hill - a 15 minute walk from the Balgreen Road flat.

After speaking to his solicitor in private, Dunleavy was questioned about his mother’s disappearance.

Detective Constable Manchester asked why, when Dunleavy had telephoned police five days earlier he had spoken about his mum in the past tense - when it had not been confirmed that she was dead.

“No comment,” replied Dunleavy.

Advocate depute Alex Prentice QC, prosecuting, asked the detective: “Throughout your dealings with Mr Dunleavy did he ever exhibit any emotion?”

Det Con Manchester told him: “No, not during the interview.”

He said at one point Dunleavy had accused him of “hawking him” or eye-balling but that was all.

The trial heard that Dunleavy also said he had not seen the photo reconstruction of his mum’s face which had been publicised in the press and on radio and television.

Professor Caroline Wilkinson, 48, of Dundee University - an expert in craniofacial identification - told how she was called in after police launched Operation Sandpiper to try to identify the mystery woman found on Corstorphine Hill.

She described how, beginning with computerised details of a skull, a picture of a face could be built up and features, such as hair, added with Photoshop.

Lucina Hackman, 44, also of Dundee University, who attended the post mortem, described tell-tale marks which showed a saw had been used on Mrs Dunleavy’s thighs.

Ms Hackman, from the university’s centre for anatomy and human identification, said Mrs Dunleavy had probably been lying on her back and the saw cuts had been made from front to back and from left to right.

Earlier, pathologist Ian Wilkinson was asked if Mrs Dunleavy might have been alive but unconscious when a blade or saw was used on one of her legs.

The pathologist said that all the signs suggested it was most likely Mrs Dunleavy had been dead when she was beheaded and both her legs were severed at the top of the thigh.

The trial heard that 5ft 4in Mrs Dunleavy suffered from coronary heart disease and there were traces of drugs in her body - including morphine.

But there was also evidence of “blunt force trauma” to her head - although the skull was intact - tiny bones in her neck had been damaged and she had suffered a number of broken ribs.

Dr Wilkinson said the official conclusion was that the cause of death was “unascertained.”

The pathologist told defence QC Gordon Jackson: “Because of the condition in which the body was found a lot of our findings have to have caveats.

“Providing a conclusive cause of death was difficult in this case.”

On trial is Mrs Dunleavy’s son, James - also known as Seamus - who denies murder and attempting to defeat the ends of justice by burying the dismembered remains in a secluded woodland clearing.

The trial continues.