Edinburgh murder accused had done ‘something bad’

Corstorphine Hill murder trial: A man accused of chopping up his mother and burying her in a shallow grave told a workmate he had done “something bad”, a murder trial has heard.
Corstorphine Hill murder Phyllis Dunleavy. Picture: submittedCorstorphine Hill murder Phyllis Dunleavy. Picture: submitted
Corstorphine Hill murder Phyllis Dunleavy. Picture: submitted

Matthew Hagan, 26, told the High Court in Edinburgh yesterday he recalled a strange conversation while working as a labourer on the city’s trams project.

The trial heard that last July, fellow-labourer James Dunleavy, 40, and Mr Hagan were paired together operating jack-hammers to smash their way through concrete.

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Mr Hagan, a joiner, said Dunleavy told him he was going away but would not say why.

“He said he had done something he wasn’t proud of,” he added. “He said he had done something bad, something he was ashamed of but he wouldn’t reveal to me what it was.”

Mr Hagan, from Glasgow, gave details of the conversation to detectives after Dunleavy’s arrest. He told them Dunleavy’s words were: “I have done something bad, brother.”

Dunleavy, said Mr Hagan, told him he was going away.

“I asked him where he was going and he said ‘I don’t know. It could be years, weeks, months’.”

Mr Hagan agreed with the defence QC that Dunleavy was someone who would “talk a lot of nonsense” and for him to say things which did not make sense was not unusual.

The trial also heard yesterday that Dr John Crichton and Dr Khuram Khan – who tried to assess Dunleavy – agreed he had a serious problem, but could not agree what it was. This was in part due to his refusal to discuss what he is alleged to have done.

Dr Khan, currently looking after Dunleavy in the State Hospital, Carstairs, said he could be suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, but assessment was not yet complete.

Dr Crichton said his diagnosis was paranoid personality disorder. Dr Crichton’s opinion was that although Dunleavy had odd beliefs he could be reasoned with. He was not completely in the grip of his delusions and ­obsessions.

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“I did not think him incapable of making decisions,” the psychiatrist told the trial.

He said Dunleavy might interpret “benign events” as something directed towards him and could bear a grudge.

Dr Khan said there were issues he was still trying to tease out. “It is a complicated case,” he told the trial.

Psychiatrist Dr Isobel Campbell said Dunleavy had trouble controlling his temper. She also said he grinned when asked about the death of his sister.

Dr Campbell told the trial she had only been able to speak to him once.

“He has displayed poor anger management and problem solving but this would not necessarily be indicative of mental illness,” said her report.

James Dunleavy – also known as Seamus – denies battering to death his Dublin-based mother Philomena, 66, between 30 April and 7 May last year.

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

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At the time, Dunleavy, 40, was living in a flat in Edinburgh’s Balgreen Road.

The murder charge alleges it was there 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 him of pretending his mother was unwell and had returned to Ireland.

The charge further alleges he put his mother’s torso, severed legs and head into a suitcase and took the dismembered body to Corstorphine Hill where he buried her in a secluded clearing.

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

The trial continues.