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Tuesday 28 November 2023 Dublin: 6°C
Alamy Stock Photo

Man pleads guilty to murdering a grandmother whose body was found in burning car

Gardai and fire services arrived at the scene of the burning car in Co Cork last February.

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 this morning at which he responded, “guilty”, to the charge that he murdered Mary O’Keeffe at Doneraile, Co Cork on 4 February last year.

The court did not hear any evidence regarding the murder as Justice Paul McDermott adjourned sentencing until 14 December when Ms O’Keefe’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 containing Ms O’Keeffe’s body at 2.20pm on 4 February 2021.

Justice Robert Eagar 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 Grolimund that he would “absolutely” not approach any witness in the case and would “not speak to anyone in the case, bar my solicitor”.

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 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 5 February.

The results of the post-mortem, which was carried out by Assistant State Pathologist Margaret Bolster, were not released.

The alarm was raised on 4 February when a passer-by spotted a car on fire near the Coillte forest in Doneraile.

Ms O’Keeffe was pronounced dead at the scene.