Body of grandmother most likely dismembered using a power tool, court hears

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The body of a 61-year-old grandmother was most likely dismembered using a power tool before her remains were scattered at nine different locations in the Dublin and Wicklow mountains, a murder trial has heard.

However, the jury heard there was “more irregularity” on the deceased severed wrists and hands, raising the possibility that they had been removed by a non-powered hand-held saw.

Former Deputy State Pathologist, Dr Michael Curtis, today gave evidence in the trial of father-of-three Kieran Greene (34), who has pleaded not guilty to murdering Patricia O’Connor at her home in Mountainview Park, Rathfarnham, Dublin 14 on May 29, 2017.

The Central Criminal Court has heard that the body of Mrs O’Connor was dismembered into 15 separate parts that were found at nine different locations over 30 kms in the Dublin and Wicklow mountains between June 10 and 14, 2017. Evidence has been given that the results of a post-mortem examination confirmed that she suffered a “violent death”.

The trial has also heard that Mr Greene walked into Rathfarnham Garda Station on June 12, 2017 and told a detective that he had done “something terrible” and had scattered the body parts of the grandmother in the Dublin mountains.

In his evidence, Dr Curtis told prosecution counsel Roisin Lacey SC that he performed post-mortems on 15 separate body parts over four days between June 11 and 14, 2017.

The witness said he was aware that members of the public had discovered human remains at the side of the Military Road, between Enniskerry and Glencree, at 7.40pm on June 10.

Dr Curtis testified that he had visited the scene on June 11 and observed a decomposed upper torso attached to a portion of the upper limbs. No shotgun pellets were found in the torso and blow fly eggs were visible in the left armpit, which indicated Mrs O’Connor had been dead for a couple of days, he said.

Ms Lacey asked Dr Curtis if he had been in a position to make any identification in terms of gender. The witness said he had taken tests of DNA and measurement of bones to assess the gender. The initial measurements of the bones put it as being in the “male spectrum” on anthropological charts but the DNA tests showed the remains came from a female, he explained.

A post-mortem of the head and two hands was conducted on June 13 and no bullet or shotgun pellets were located inside the head, he noted. The tissue belonging to the head and hands was in a state of putrefaction with extensive skin slippage especially on the back of the hands and live insects were present, he said. He testified that the hands were “sawn through” at the wrists and the head hair was beginning to detach.

The skull exhibited three “full thickness” lacerations to the front region and the presence of bruising in the scalp tissues indicated this had been caused before death, he said. “With this degree of head trauma, it is highly probable that a brain injury had been sustained but because of the state of the brain it was impossible to demonstrate that because of severe decomposition,” Dr Curtis explained.

The witness suggested that it was probable that Mrs O’Connor had a hysterectomy but he could not be certain.

A toxicology report showed traces of alcohol were found in the body but no drugs were detected, he pointed out.

In conclusion, Dr Curtis said he examined 15 dismembered body parts, which made up the entire body of an adult woman. The dismembered portions exhibited “sharply cut bone edges”.

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“The act of dismemberment was most probably carried out with a power tool such as a reciprocating saw. These appearances contrasted with the severed wrists and hands, where there was more irregularity at the bone ends,” said Dr Curtis, adding that this raised the possibility that the hands had been removed with a non-powered hand-held saw.

He said the deceased’s head was struck a minimum of three blows with a solid implement resulting in five scalp lacerations and the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head.

There was no evidence of any defensive type injuries to Mrs O’Connor’s hands or forearms and no ligature marks were present, he said.

Under cross-examination by Conor Devally SC, defending Mr Greene, Dr Curtis agreed that Mrs O’Connor’s entire body had been recovered.

Asked for her potential weight, Dr Curtis told Mr Devally that the deceased was “probably stocky”. He said it was not possible to exclude the possibility that one of the wounds to her head could have been caused by falling onto a shower step and it was probable she died rapidly.

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 Mr Greene, knowing or believing him to have committed an arrestable offence, to wit the murder of Mrs O’Connor on May 29, 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 May 29, 2017 in order to conceal the fact that Patricia O’Connor was dead.

Mr Johnston has pleaded not guilty to assisting Mr Greene in the purchase of various implements at Woodie’s, Mr Price, B&Q and Shoe Zone, Tallaght, Dublin 24 on June 9, 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 May 31, 2017 and June 9, 2017, in order to destroy or conceal any evidence relating to the murder of Mrs 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 May 29, 2017 in order to conceal the fact that she was already dead.

The trial continues tomorrow before Mr Justice Paul McDermott and a jury of six men and six women.

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