The jury has begun deliberating in the trial of the Laois man charged with murdering Nanny Aoife Phelan, having been told to ignore the desecration of her body and concentrate on the moment she was killed.
Robert Corbet (aged 25) of Capoley/Sheffield Cross, Portlaoise has pleaded not guilty to murdering the 30-year-old woman in his garage at Capoley. However he has admitted her manslaughter between October 25 and November 7, when her body was found in a barrel there, buried 10 feet below ground.
The Central Criminal Court trial has heard that they had met a few months earlier and that she had told him that she was pregnant with his child. An autopsy has since shown that Ms Phelan was not pregnant.
Mr Corbet testified on Wednesday that he had his doubts about the pregnancy and questioned her about it on the evening of October 25th.
He said they argued and that she threatened to ruin his life. He said he lost self control and strangled her in his shed. He then put her body in a barrel, buried it behind his house the following day and flew to New York to visit his former girlfriend.
His barrister yesterday (Thursday) asked the jury to ignore the desecration of her body and concentrate on the moment she was killed.
Conor Devally SC, defending, said the jurors had to consider if it was ‘reasonably possible’ that he had totally lost self control. If so, a verdict of manslaughter was open to them, he said in his closing speech.
He said it would deviate from their function were they not to consider this verdict due to his ‘cowardly, self-serving, mealy-mouthed’ actions and the fact that he was slow to engage with the truth.
He added that it would be only human to be unwilling to consider the actual moment she was killed due to the ‘desecration of Aoife Phelan’ afterwards.
“I’m asking you to refrain from that human impulse,” he said.
“The act is so ugly,” he said of what his client had done with her body.
However, he described it as an irrelevance.
“You just have to consider what happened in that moment,” he said.
He asked the jury to acquit Mr Corbet of murder and find him guilty of manslaughter on the grounds of provocation.
However Isobel Kennedy SC, prosecuting, said that there was no provocation and described the accused man’s actions as calculated.
“He does appear to be able to recall in detail what he did to her,” she said in her closing remarks.
She recalled his description of strangling her with his forearm, then both hands. She noted that he had recalled striking her and that she had made no sound.
“He goes to get the cable ties. He goes back to Aoife Phelan, puts one around her neck to be sure she’s dead, puts a bag around her head to make sure she’s dead,” said the barrister. “Then he puts another cable tie around that, all deliberate and calculated acts.”
She noted that he had put her body in a barrel and left it in his shed while he went to the airport to collect a friend. The trial heard that he rolled the body into a pit the following morning and arranged for the pit to be filled in.
“This was a man entirely in control. His acts were deliberate and calculated,” she said. “The prosecution has proved to you that his man is guilty of murder.”
The jury of nine men and three women deliberated for an hour and a half yesterday (Thursday) before Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan sent them home for the night.
They will resume their deliberations this (Friday) morning.