Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Murder victim Frankie Dunne had head and arms removed after his death, trial hears

The body of the 64 year old was found under a tree on the grounds of Castlegreine House on Boreenmanna Road in Cork city in December 2019.

A FATHER OF three who was found dismembered and headless at a derelict house in Cork had his head and arms removed after he was murdered, with the killer making a few incisions before the actual cuts were made, a murder trial has heard.

The body of 64-year-old Frankie Dunne was found under a tree on the grounds of Castlegreine House on Boreenmanna Road in Cork city on 28 December, 2019.

Local pet owner Joseph Pierce had been out looking for his missing cat when he made the grim discovery of the body.

Gardaí found the head of the deceased in a refuse bag in the garden of the period house whilst the arms of the late Mr Dunne were “draped over a branch on a tree.”

Romanian commis chef Ionut Cosmin Nicholescu, (30) who worked at the Silver Quay pub and restaurant in Cork city, is on trial at the Central Criminal Court in Cork in connection with the murder. He has denied having any involvement in the murder.

Then locum State Pathologist, Dr Heidi Okkers, carried out the postmortem on Frankie Dunne, who had been living in a high-support unit for homeless people with addiction issues.

She said “blood was not flowing when the head was cut off.” She said this indicated that Mr Dunne was dead before his head was cut off.

No vital reactions were recorded at the amputation sites. Dr Okkers said this also meant that Mr Dunne had already passed when his arms were amputated.

Dr Okkers said whoever carried out the decapitation made “multiple incision wounds to the neck.”

“There was a few incision marks before the actual cut. Attempts to cut were made prior to the real cut. The same thing in the arms.”

Glass shards

She told the jury of eight women and four men that Mr Dunne had glass shards embedded in his skull and died of neck compression associated with blunt force trauma to his head and face.

The trial heard that Mr Dunne had 16 specific injuries to his head and neck. All of his injuries were consistent with an assault.

Dr Okkers said that toxicology reports indicated that Mr Dunne was six times over the legal limit for driving and would not “have been fully able to defend himself.” She said that the alcohol reading whilst high was not unusual for a person with difficulties with alcohol.

She said that the defensive wounds sustained by Mr Dunne possibly suggested that he was “first struck by a blunt object and then a neck compression occurred.” She noted that Mr Dunne had petechial haemorrhages in his eyes which is a sign of strangulation. Fragments of glass were found on his clothes.

Dr Okkers said that Mr Dunne had sustained injuries to amongst other regions his chest, abdomen, ribs, sternum, head, arms and back. A large number of scratches, bruises, abrasions and lacerations were recorded on the face of the deceased.

Linear abrasions, incision wounds and bruising were found on the ears. The front scalp had multiple linear scratch abrasions and a glass shard was lodged in the surface of the skull. There was deep bruising to the scalp which also had a fracture.

Multiple abrasions were found on the jaw and the chest and back area had abrasions. Both arms, which had been cut from the body, had bruising. Mr Dunne also had a fracture to his sternum.

Defence barrister, Philipp Rahn, SC, asked the pathologist if it was possible — given the number of injuries sustained by Mr Dunne that they were inflicted on him by two people. Dr Okkers said that Mr Dunne was of small stature and that the injuries could have been caused by one or two people.

Pub owner

Meanwhile, the fourth day of the trial also heard from Tony Campion, the owner of the Silver Quay pub, who agreed with statement of Ray Boland, prosecuting barrister, that Campion only knew the native of Branistea, Dambovita County to say “hello to”.

In the aftermath of the murder of Mr Dunne, gardaí carried out a search of the main attic and the small attic in the Silver Quay. Items of clothing were found in the small attic. Campion said he was not aware that anyone had ever stayed in the small attic.

Nicholescu had given management an address in Farranree in Cork city when he started work four years earlier. The trial heard he was was known to staff as “Johnny” and was a good worker who was always neat in appearance.

The trial also heard that Frankie Dunne was a “character” who could have been “anybody’s father, brother or uncle.”

Mary O’Driscoll, a key support worker at Clanmornin House, a high-support unit in Cork for service users of the homeless community with complex needs such as as addiction, said that Frankie was one of the “easiest people” to deal with at the facility.

“He loved music and his family were very involved in music. Traditional Irish music was his life. [I last saw him] when I was coming off shift on December 26th. On Christmas Day he went to family. He came back that evening and watched a movie with other residents. He was in good form.”


She said that Frankie was beginning to cut back on his drinking. He could be “cantankerous” on occasion under the influence of alcohol.

Under cross examination by defence barrister, Philipp Rahn, she acknowledged that Mr Dunne had been been involved in a physical altercation with another service user during his stay at the facility. However, she said it was minor in nature.

“99% of the time with Frankie it was verbal.”

Another staff member at Clanmornin Don Bulman described Mr Dunne as having been a person who “got on with everyone.”

The native of Churchfield Avenue in the northside of Cork city had lived in the dry house in Boreenmanna Road in Cork for six months prior to his death. Don Bulman said that he he last saw Frankie Dunne on the evening of 27 December, 2019. He recalled that Frankie was a little sad because the anniversary of his father had occurred over Christmas.

“[Frankie] had a great connection with his family. He loved music. [The last time I saw him] we spoke about his family and the anniversary. He planned to go see his family the day after. His nephew was on the phone to him a lot.”

Frankie was one of the better ones [service users]. He got on with everyone.”

When asked by Rahn if he ever saw Frankie being physically violent he said he “didn’t think he was capable of it.”

‘They all have their days’

Rahn asked Bulman about records which are kept at Clanmornin House relating to the twelve residents onsite. He noted that entries were recorded by staff about Mr Dunne being verbally abusive and aggressive to other residents and staff.

Bulman insisted that Frankie Dunne had “no issues with staff.”

“They [service users] all have their days. But we don’t feel that was an issue. You are dealing with someone who is dependent on a substance. You must look at the bigger picture. We are dealing with people with substance issues. These outbursts accompany it.

“95% of service users present in this way. We see this every day of the week. They are letting off steam.

“I don’t think the gardai were ever called for Frankie Dunne. Frankie Dunne never gave us a cause to call gardaí. There was never a need.

“[These records] are all are one resident saying one thing and the other saying another. Residents in a communal area who are just not getting on.”

Meanwhile, a fellow service user who was staying at Clanmornin House at the time of the murder said that the late Frankie Dunne was “amazing — a good soul.”

She knew him for around 10 years and said that he got on with everybody. She denies suggestions made by Rahn that Mr Dunne had been “aggressive” towards other residents.

“He was never an aggressive man. I would never see that side to him. He was just a drinker.”

The woman said she last saw Mr Dunne on 26 December, 2019. She accompanied him to the off licence on Douglas Street in Cork where he bought alcohol. As she was abstaining from drink she only purchased tobacco. Mr Dunne wanted to show her around the grounds of the “abandoned” Castlegreine House but she declined.

Social worker Sinead Quinlan, who was employed at Clanmornin House at the time of the murder, said that Frankie wasn’t as upbeat as normal over Christmas 2019 but “that was normal” for residents over the poignant holiday period.

She said that Frankie was “good craic” and “funny.”

“He was a big talker. He would talk for Ireland ! He got on with people. They (service users) have their moments. There are a lot of big personalities in the one house.”

Ms Quinlan said she had no recollection of Mr Dunne ever being physically or verbally aggressive.

Olivia Kelleher