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Brother and sister describe finding human torso in Wicklow mountains at Patricia O'Connor murder trial

The trial into the murder of Patricia O’Connor heard evidence from multiple witnesses.

File photo. Patricia O'Connor
File photo. Patricia O'Connor

A BROTHER AND sister have described finding a human torso in the Wicklow mountains while having a picnic, with one of them describing the body part as looking like “a piece of a pig”, a murder trial has heard.

A walker also gave evidence that he saw something that “looked like a stomach” on the embankment of a river but initially dismissed it.

However, when he later heard on the radio that human remains had been discovered in the area, he returned and showed the body part to gardai.

The Central Criminal Court trial of Kieran Greene (34) has heard that the body of 61-year-old grandmother Patricia O’Connor was dismembered into 15 separate parts that were found at nine different locations in the Dublin and Wicklow mountains.

Giving evidence today, Christine Murphy told prosecuting counsel Roisin Lacey SC that she was having a picnic with her family at Old Bogey beside Sally Gap around 6.20pm on 10 June 2017. Her aunt Breda Kenny and her sister-in-law were with her, she said.

Murphy testified that she returned to the car around 30 minutes later with her sister-in-law to get some baby wipes. The witness said she was looking for somewhere to go to the toilet when she “came across something” over the bank at the side of the road.

“I described it as looking like a piece of a pig,” she said, adding that she pointed it out to her sister-in-law. Murphy said she did not go near the item and returned to the picnic spot, where they stayed for another 30 minutes.

When the picnic was finished, Murphy said they all went back to the parked cars and noticed that the window of her brother’s car had been smashed and a handbag was stolen.

Murphy said she saw “the torso” for a second time when she walked up along the bank looking for the stolen handbag.

It was in the same position and she called her brother Jonathan over to to look at it, she explained. The witness said she walked away from the body part and her auntie Breda rang gardaí.

Brother’s evidence

Jonathan Murphy, a brother of the previous witness, told Lacey that his father was home from the UK on 10 June so the whole family went for a picnic in a number of cars to the Dublin mountains.

They had their second picnic of the day at Old Boley, which was along the Military Road in Enniskerry, he said. Murphy agreed with Lacey that when they returned to the parked cars that evening, it appeared that someone had broken into one of the car’s and a handbag had been taken.

A decision was made to look for the handbag and everyone was looking in ditches to see if it had been thrown in there, he said.

Murphy said his sister Christine was the first to see the body part. “It was an upper torso from the ribs up to the neck and there was one arm longer than the other,” he said.

Murphy said he called his father over and his aunt Breda rang gardaí to attend the scene.

Breda Kenny told Lacey she arrived in a picnic area known as Old Boley along the Military Road in Enniskerry around 6.20pm on June 10. The cars were parked in a lay-by, which was quite close to the picnic area, she said.

Kenny said she saw the human remains but discounted them for animal remains as she was so focused on looking for the stolen handbag. However, she noticed her niece Christine and nephew Jonathan looking in a ditch so she approached them.

Kenny said they were all quite alarmed so she called 999 around 7.30pm as they were pretty certain it was human remains.

Gardaí arrive

Retired Garda Joe Keenan gave evidence that he received a call from the Garda Communications Centre in Bray on 10 June and drove to the appointed location.

He was flagged down by around 11 people, standing beside a grassy verge near a wooded area, on the Military Road in Enniskerry. Keenan said he walked onto the bank, looked down and saw what appeared to be the torso of a human person.

Garda Paul Lacey said he also attended the location with Mr Keenan on Military Road and saw a number of people at a lay-by.

He saw what appeared to be human remains located about three metres from the road. “I observed a human torso, no head, it was cut above the breast area and the arms were gone,” he said. The witness said he noticed the grass around the torso had been trampled on.

Garda Brendan Maher gave evidence that he also attended the scene on Military Road and had not expected to see the upper body remains of a human person located so close to the road.

“I thought we were going to walk into the woods,” he said, adding that the body parts were located nearly opposite the driver’s door of the garda vehicle but there wasn’t a strong smell.

He said it looked like the remains had been dropped down into the verge and had slid slightly.

Under cross-examination, Garda Maher told defence counsel Edward Sweetman BL, for Greene, that it look like someone had stood on the bank and “chucked it” in because of the way the grass was flattened. He agreed the body part was located around two metres from the car.

Dr James Maloney, a medical practitioner, gave evidence that he attended the scene at Military Road on June 10 and identified the body part as human. He pronounced the death of the unidentified person at 11.29pm that night.

The following day, Dr Maloney said he identified more human remains to gardai at Glenmacnass and again on 12 June at the Old Military Road. On 13 June, Dr Maloney said he identified further body parts at Carrigshouk and Carrickduff in Co Wicklow.

Further discoveries

Noel Ruane testified that he and his partner were walking around the river leading up to Glenmacnass Waterfall on 10 June, focusing on the discoloured water and looking for fish.

Ruane said he and his partner saw what they thought were animals organs on a rock on the embankment. He said it looked like a stomach but they dismissed what they had seen.

Ruane said they were listening to the radio at 1pm the following day and there was talk of human remains being found in the area so they said they would drive back to the location. The body part was in the same position so they rang gardaí, he said.

The statement of Dr Edward Cotter, an orthodontist and owner of Hermitage Dental, was read into the record by prosecution counsel Gerardine Small BL.

Patricia O’Connor was his patient and he had made a cast of her upper jaw and lower teeth in September 2008, he said. The witness said he passed on her medical records to gardai on 14 June.

Dr Cotter said he first met O’Connor in July 2007 and she had no upper teeth at the time and wore a denture. She had insufficient jaw-bone for dental implants so she had a bone graft to transfer bone from her hip in order to build up her upper jaw, he explained.

Small read a second statement by Mary Clarke, a specialist oral surgeon into the record.

Clarke said she attended Dublin City Mortuary on 13 June and viewed human remains believed to be those belonging to Patricia O’Connor. A positive dental identification was established, she said.

Body parts

Earlier, Detective Sergeant David Conway gave evidence of photographing body parts that were found in the Dublin and Wicklow mountains between 11 and 14 June, including a head and hands which were contained in a black plastic bag.

Other remains photographed included a foot, parts of a torso and shoulders. The remains were found at locations including Glencree, Glenmacnass Waterfall, Lough Bray Lower and a grass verge next to a wooded area along the Military Road.

On 14 June, all remains were identified as belonging to O’Connor, said Detective Sergeant Conway.

Prosecution case

The prosecution allege that O’Connor received a minimum of three blows to the head with a solid implement at her Rathfarnham home before her body was brought in the boot of her Toyota Corolla car to Co Wexford and buried in a shallow grave.

Her remains were later dug up and the body dismembered using hacksaws and a hatchet over the course of three to four hours.

Greene of Mountainview Park, Rathfarnham, Dublin 14 has pleaded not guilty to murdering Patricia O’Connor at the same address on 29 May, 2017.

The deceased’s daughter Louise O’Connor (41) and granddaughter Stephanie O’Connor (22), both of Millmount Court, Dundrum Road, Dublin 14, and Louise O’Connor’s ex-partner Keith Johnston (43), of Avonbeg Gardens, Tallaght, Dublin 24 are all charged with impeding the apprehension or prosecution of Greene, knowing or believing him to have committed an arrestable offence, to wit the murder of Patricia O’Connor on 29 May 2017.

Louise O’Connor has pleaded not guilty to agreeing to or acquiescing in her daughter Stephanie O’Connor disguising herself as Patricia O’Connor at Mountainview Park, Rathfarnham, Dublin 14 on 29 May 2017 in order to conceal the fact that Patricia O’Connor was dead.

Johnston has pleaded not  guilty to assisting Greene in the purchase of various implements at Woodie’s, Mr Price, B&Q and Shoe Zone, Tallaght, Dublin 24 on 9 June, 2017, which were to be used in the concealment of the remains of Mrs O’Connor.

Mr Johnston also denies engaging in the refurbishment of a bathroom at Mountainview Park, Rathfarnham, Dublin 14 between 31 May 2017 and 9 June 2017, in order to destroy or conceal any evidence relating to the murder of O’Connor.

Stephanie O’Connor has pleaded not guilty to disguising herself as Mrs O’Connor at Mountainview Park, Rathfarnham, Dublin 14 at a point in time after her murder on 29 May 2017 in order to conceal the fact that she was already dead.

O’Connor was first reported missing on 1 June 2017 and a number of her body parts, including her head and hands, were discovered dispersed around a 30km area later that month. The deceased had worked at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin and had retired about a year before she died.

The trial continues tomorrow before Mr Justice Paul McDermott and a jury of six men and six women. It is expected to last between five and seven weeks.

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About the author:

Alison O'Riordan

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