Corstorphine Hill murder accused had ‘episodes’

Phyllis Dunleavy was found dead on Corstorphine Hill. Picture: ContributedPhyllis Dunleavy was found dead on Corstorphine Hill. Picture: Contributed
Phyllis Dunleavy was found dead on Corstorphine Hill. Picture: Contributed
A WOMAN whose dismembered body was found in a shallow grave said she left her son alone when he had “episodes”, a court was told yesterday.

Philomena Dunleavy’s son James, 40, is accused of battering his mother to death before burying her in woodland on Edinburgh’s Corstorphine Hill.

His murder trial heard yesterday that Mrs Dunleavy, 66, also known as Phyllis, walked into a police station just days before her death, asking where she could get a cheap room.

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Carole Ross, 50, a station assistant at Portobello, described how the the woman she had spoken to had “lovely teeth and an Irish accent”. Ms Ross continued: “She said her son had had an episode and she walked away from him when he had episodes.”

The following morning, on 28 April last year, Pc Grant Robertson was on mobile patrol when he was alerted to a woman “in a confused state” on Edinburgh’s western approach road.

Pc Robertson said he saw Mrs Dunleavy sitting on an embankment near the point where the road heads towards Murrayfield.

He told the High Court in Edinburgh: “She seemed a bit confused and reluctant to engage with me.” Eventually, she gave enough information for Pc Robertson and his colleague to take her to her son’s flat in Balgreen Road, about a mile away.

It was there, prosecutors 
allege, that Mrs Dunleavy could have been murdered between 30 April and 7 May last year.

Operation Sandpiper was launched after her near-naked torso, together with severed head and legs, were unearthed on 7 June. Almost a month later, James Dunleavy contacted police to say he thought the dead woman might be his mother.

He said she had left his flat without warning on 3 May – more than a month before her remains were unearthed.

He told police: “She wasn’t supposed to go that morning. She was supposed to stay with me. When I eventually got up, she’d already departed.”

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Detective Sgt Stuart Wilson interviewed Dunleavy on 4 July, the evening after the phone call. Dunleavy said his mother was a free spirit who came and went without warning and frequently left her mobile phone switched off so no-one could contact her.

He said he had called police after a relative saw a computer-generated image online and thought it might be his mother, who seemed to be missing.

Dunleavy told them his mother was “hard work” and “a difficult person” who suffered from nerves and anxiety. “Her condition has deteriorated since my brother, Terry, was murdered in Dublin eight years ago,” he said.

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

The murder charge alleges 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 accuses Dunleavy of pretending his mother had returned to Ireland. The charge further alleges Dunleavy put his mother’s torso, legs and head into a suitcase and took the dismembered body to Corstorphine Hill, where he buried her.

Prosecutors also claim that Mr Dunleavy vacuumed and washed his flat to remove blood stains and torched a bed and mattress.

The trial is due to continue next week.

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