Trial of Aoife Phelan murder accused begins

Aoife Phelan
The trial of a Laois man charged with murdering a 30-year-old woman in 2012 began at the Central Criminal Court yesterday (Tuesday).

The trial of a Laois man charged with murdering a 30-year-old woman in 2012 began at the Central Criminal Court yesterday (Tuesday).

Robert Corbet (25) of Sheffield Cross, County Laois pleaded not guilty to the murder of Aoife Phelan (30) between 25 October and 7 November 2012 but admitted to manslaughter yesterday(Monday).

Isobel Kennedy SC prosecuting opened the trial for the jury on Tuesday.

She said that the accused had met Miss Phelan at a nightclub and had remained in contact with her through phone messaging.

The court heard that there had been sexual contact ‘not involving intercourse’ prior to the accused receiving a text from Miss Phelan to say she was ‘late’.

Ms Kennedy told the court that it is believed that Miss Phelan wanted a relationship and that the accused had expressed reluctance. It heard that she (Miss Phelan) was pushy about relationship.

It is the State’s case that the accused repeatedly struck her and dumped her body, which was later found in an oil barrel at Capoley in Portlaoise.

The prosecution told the court that the cause of death was asphyxia with blunt force trauma to the head and chest.

It is the prosecution’s case that Mr Corbet brought her to his garage and caught her around the neck until she was motionless. It heard that he put a black sack around her head, tied cables around her and disposed of the body.

Garda Louise Young of Portlaoise Station told the jury that on 26 of October, Michael Phelan had called to the station to report their daughter Aoife as missing. He described her as being 5 foot 7 with sandy coloured blond hair and blue eyes.

Miss Phelan’s mobile phone and handbag were later recovered from a black Toyota land cruiser belonging to the accused.

In his evidence to the court, father of the deceased, Michael Phelan confirmed that Aoife had told her parents she was pregnant prior to her death.

The court heard that Mr Phelan lives with his wife and four out of twelve children in Ballyroan outside Portlaoise.

Mr Phelan confirmed that he was aware his daughter had been seeing someone but said ‘I never met him’. When asked if his daughter told him she was pregnant he said ‘she did’ agreeing she was happy about it and that there had been ‘no fuss’.

Paul Bates, who was a close friend of Miss Phelan’s, told the court that he had met the accused while at a nightclub with Aoife.

“We were in a nightclub and he came over and started talking to her,” said Mr Bates.

Mr Bates went on to say that he had met Miss Phelan on the 25 of October 2012.

Under cross examination by Conor Devally SC defending he confirmed that it seemed evident that she was going to meet the accused when she left his house.

Detective Garda Eddie Brennan formerly of Portlaoise Garda Station confirmed that in an interview with gardai, the accused had said that they were not going out with one another.

When asked if he was aware that she was pregnant, the accused had said that he did not know but that she (Miss Phelan) was very family orientated.

When asked further, the court heard that the accused recalls her saying she was ‘a day or two late’ The accused had said that Miss Phelan was ‘pushing for a relationship’ adding that she was ‘good craic, very friendly and well able for banter’.

The court heard that the accused said he was ‘100 per cent definite that he didn’t have sexual intercourse with Aoife Phelan.

It heard that Miss Phelan had said by text message that she was late and that he had asked her who the father was. The accused had said it was physically impossible for him to be the father.

In a statement made to Detective Sergeant Gerard Mahoney on the 4 of November, the accused said that he had met Aoife at a nightclub on the 13 of June 2012.

The statement read ‘I got chatting to a girl. I was buying shots and asked her if she would have one. She mentioned her name was Aoife.’

The accused went on to say that they had remained in contact by text. In his statement, the accused said that Miss Phelan had visited his home.

It read ‘we were kissing and it got hot and heavy. Aoife performed oral sex on me and I did the same to her. Aoife then wanted to have intercourse and I told her I was just out of a relationship and said no. A few days later, Aoife texted me to say she was late – it didn’t make sense to me – I never had penetrative sex with her.’

In his statement, the accused said that in September, Miss Phelan had started to get ‘very personal’ asking did he ever think about my future. He said he explained he was only 23 and she went on to state he would make a ‘great father’.

The accused had said that when asked if he would be interested in having a relationship with her he had ‘shut it down very fast because of the age difference.

The court heard that there will be CCTV footage shown in the trial which continues before Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and a jury of three women and nine men.