25-year-old Robert Corbet has been sentenced to life in prison for the murder of 30-year-old Aoife Phelan.
Corbet of Capoley/Sheffield Cross, Portlaoise had pleaded not guilty to murdering the Ballyroan native in his garage. However the haulier admitted her manslaughter between October 25 and November 7, 2012, when her body was found in a barrel, buried below ground behind his home.
His Central Criminal Court trial heard that they had met a few months earlier and that she had soon told him that she was pregnant with his child. Corbet testified that he had his doubts about the pregnancy because he had no medical proof. He said he questioned her about it on the evening of October 25 while they were in his shed.
He said she threatened to ruin his life, business and reputation if he didn’t face up to it and that these threats caused him to snap, see red and lose self control. He said he caught her around the neck, they fell, he released his grip, struck her over the back of the head and resumed strangling her.
He said she was motionless by the time he covered her head with a plastic bag and tightened two cable ties around her neck. He told gardai that he had done this to make sure she was dead.
He then put her body in a barrel, sealed it and mopped up blood before washing his hands and driving to Dublin airport to collect a friend. He returned home later that night, watched television and went to bed, the barrel containing her body still in the shed.
Corbet then flew to New York to visit his former girlfriend as planned. He agreed with gardai that Ms Phelan had been a complication and barrier to him getting back together with her.
A post-mortem exam showed that Ms Phelan died of asphyxia due to strangulation, with blunt force trauma a contributory factor. She was not pregnant.
The defence had asked for a verdict of manslaughter by reason of provocation arising out of Ms Phelan’s alleged threats and asked the jury to ignore the desecration of her body.
However the jury agreed with the prosecution that there was no provocation. The State had described what he did as deliberate and calculated.
The jury reached a majority guilty verdict of ten to two, after four and a half hours of deliberations.