A murder trial jury has seen CCTV footage of a truck dumping ‘filling gravel’ at the site where a Laois nanny’s body was found eight to ten feet under ground on the accused man’s property near Portlaoise.
The footage from the morning after Aoife Phelan disappeared was shown to the Central Criminal Court yesterday (Friday) in the trial of the 25-year-old charged with her murder.
Robert Corbet of Sheffield Cross, Portlaoise, Co Laois has pleaded not guilty to her murder. However he has admitted her manslaughter between October 25th and November 7th 2012, when her body was found in a barrel, buried in Capoley.
Garda Paul Wilson talked the jury through a compilation of CCTV footage captured on the evening of October 25th and the following day.
He said it showed Mr Corbet’s jeep leaving his truck yard at Capoley around 8pm and a similar jeep passing Collier’s Lane, Portlaoise 15 minutes later. This is where Ms Phelan was last seen, and Gda Wilson said the footage appeared to show the jeep returning after collecting her.
He also showed the jury footage of the truck yard from the following morning. One clip showed a van reversing into the area just out of shot, where Ms Phelan’s body was found. The same van was then seen driving back into shot with its rear doors open.
A compilation of Mr Corbet’s movements in Portlaoise later that morning were then shown. He made a purchase in a hardware store shortly after 10am, before going to the credit union. He then made a purchase in Argos and went into another hardware store before driving in the direction of his home.
The next footage shown was captured at the Corbet yard at 10.36am and showed a truck.
“The truck reverses to the point on the map marked ‘Body’,” explained Gda Wilson. “It seems to have a load of filling gravel in the back.”
The truck then unloaded its contents.
“The driver exits and checks,” added the garda.
Footage from the yard at about 3.15 that afternoon showed a forklift containing building material.
“It is seen moving in the direction of the map marked ‘Body’,” said the garda.
Garda Eamon O’Connell also testified yesterday. He said that he attended a search of the Corbet home and land at Capoley on November 6th 2012 and was directed to dig an area that had been filled with hard-core filling.
He said he dug slowly and came across rubble, concrete, hard-core filling and builder’s waste. At a depth of six to eight feet, he came across lorry tyres, bags of domestic waste and an oil drum.
He alerted his sergeant, who was searching an area of the River Barrow, where the accused had told gardai he had dumped Ms Phelan’s body.
The excavation in Capoley resumed the following day, when Gda O’Connell removed a couch and timber before. He then came to a covering similar to tarpaulin and a large sheet of plywood, which broke to reveal a metal drum.
“It was eight to ten feet deep,” he said.
The lid of the barrel came off and he saw what he thought was a leg in a black boot and blue jeans, and an item of red clothing with fur trim. He said he knew that Ms Phelan was wearing a similar jacket when she went missing and he felt he had found her body.
The trial has already heard that Mr Corbet was arrested on suspicion of murder on November 5th. He first denied involvement but began to make admissions after phone records were put to him.
He said Ms Phelan had told him she was pregnant with his child and that he killed her in his jeep after she threatened to ruin him if he walked away.
The court heard yesterday that he then took gardai on ‘a wild goose chase’ when he pointed out where he said he had killed her and disposed of her body.
The defence made the comment when cross examining Detective Sergeant Brian Hanley, who accompanied the accused to both locations.
Det Sgt Hanley testified that he showed gardai where he had collected Ms Phelan and where he had later pulled in to a hard shoulder.
He told them that this was where ‘the incident’ happened.
“Which is?” he was asked.
“The murder of Aoife Phelan,” he replied.
The detective agreed with Conor Devally SC, defending, that this had been ‘a voyage of fiction’.
“It’s acknowledged that this was a while goose chase,” said the barrister. “We know Ms Phelan met her end on the lands or property of the Corbet family.”
The detective agreed that the effect of the journey had been to lead them away from his family home.
The trial continues before Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan.