Corstorphine murder ‘will always raise questions’

Phyllis Dunleavy. Picture: comp
Phyllis Dunleavy. Picture: comp
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THE TRIAL of a man accused of dismembering his mother and burying her in a shallow grave was told today that there would always be unanswered questions.

Advocate depute Alex Prentice QC, prosecuting, began his closing speech to the jury by saying that James Dunleavy, 40, had indeed done “something bad”.

Workmate Matthew Hagan, 26, claims Dunleavy made the comment to him just days before his arrest.

Mr Prentice sent on to tell the jury that the case against Dunleavy was a circumstantial one in which pieces of evidence came together like strands in a cable.

“This is a classic case of that type,” said the prosecutor. “There will be some unanswered questions in this case, some unresolved issues.”

He suggested some of the jury might have hoped at the begining of the trial that it would be interesting.

“But as is often the case in our courts there is a great deal of tragedy and misery unfolding which you have to hear.”

Mr Prentice said one of the “loose ends” in the case was the account of a row between Dunleavy and his mother given by shopkeeper Mohammed Tariq Razaq.

The prosecutor said he was not suggesting Dunleavy did not love his mother but there was something going on between them, possibly because Mrs Dunleavy had a new man in her life.

“There is something going on between son and mother and it is linked in some way to this relationship. That is all I can say.”

He appealed to the jury to apply “common sense” to the question of what happened to Mrs Dunleavy.

Her son claimed she left his flat in Balgreen Road, Edinburgh, without warning to go home to Dublin.

But she left clothing, 870 Euros and her identity card in her son’s home.

“Do you not think it is extraordinary that all these things were left,” said Mr Prentice.

He said it was possible that Mrs Dunleavy had been walking in the woods on Corstorphine Hill when she was attacked and killed.

But why, he asked, would her killer cut on her head and legs?

“Dismemberment has an advantage for someone who has killed a person. It makes the body more transportable.”

Mr Prentice said her killer had to take risks but had buried Mrs Dunleavy without being seen.

“That was an ideal spot for a while, until Aaron McLean Foreman, 24, passed on a June afternoon, looked down and saw the decomposed face of Mrs Dunleavy looking out of the dirt.”

The jury were later told that police found no evidence that a man had cut up his mum’s body despite “CSI in spades”.

In his closing speech at the High Court in Edinburgh, defence QC Gordon Jackson said Dunleavy had a very simple response to the Crown case: “I never.”

Mr Jackson continued: “Nothing could be simpler than that. He says ‘I didn’t do any of it’

“I didn’t kill her, I didn’t harm her, I didn’t do anything to her body and I did not bury her.”

The lawyer admitted that Dunleavy was “prime suspect” but told jurors suspicion was not enough to convict.

“It is not a court of prejudice or a court of bias it is a court of law,” he told them.

Mr Jackson recalled how police and forensic scientists had given evidence about their thorough search of the flat in Balgreen Road - where Mrs Dunleavy, from Dublin, was staying with her son.

“CSI in spades. They did it to the nth degree,” he said.

They had used blood-revealing chemical Luminol, special lighting and taken up the flooring.

“You could not imagine a more intense, detailed examination for something that might have been cleared up.

“What did they find? Nothing.”

Mr Jackson went on to argue that even if the Crown could prove beyond reasonable doubt that Dunleavy buried his mother, they could not prove he killed her.

He also said that if the jury went against him, Dunleavy’s mental state was such that the verdict should be guilty of a reduced charge of culpable homicide, not murder.

The jury are expected to be asked to begin considering their verdicts tomorrow after judge Lord Jones has given them legal directions.

Dunleavy - also known as Seamus Dunleavy - denies battering to death mum Philomena, 66, between April 30 and May 7 last year.

He also denies attempting to defeat the ends of justice by trying to cover up the alleged murder and destroy evidence.

The murder charge alleges that it was there that he inflicted “blunt force trauma” by means unknown, compressed his mother’s throat and cut off her head and legs with a blade and something like a saw.

A second charge - as now amended - accuses Dunleavy of transporting his mother’s dismembered body to a secluded clearing on Corstorphine Hill and burying her there.

The trial continues.