A pet owner out looking for his cat in the garden of a derelict period house instead came across the headless and dismembered body of a 64-year-old man, a murder trial has heard.
The trial of Ionut Cosmin Nicholescu (30) for the murder of father of three Francis (Frankie) Dunne got underway on Monday at a sitting of the Central Criminal Court in Cork.
Mr Dunne late of Churchfield Avenue, Knocknaheeny in Cork was found dead on the grounds of Castlegreina House in Boreenmanna Road in the city on December 28th, 2019.
In giving an outline of the case to the jury of eight women and four men Prosecuting barrister Ray Boland, SC, said that unfortunately there was some “gruesome aspects” to the murder.
He said that the evidence of the State would be that a man was out looking for his missing cat on December 28th, 2019 when he went in to the garden of the derelict house. He looked under a bush, where he came across the body of a man later identified as Mr Dunne.
Mr Dunne was naked but for his socks. His arms and head had been removed from his body. Mr Boland said the arms were found under a bush whilst the head and clothes of Mr Dunne were discovered in a refuse sack.
Mr Boland said that Mr Dunne was a man in his sixties who suffered with alcohol addiction. He was residing in a supported housing unit in Boreenmanna Road.
Mr Boland said that Frankie used to drink alcohol on the grounds of the house. He stated that the derelict property, which he described as being an unusual property which resembled a castle, was boarded up on the ground floor.
The Prosecuting barrister said that the evidence of the State would be that the accused man, Mr Nicholescu had been squatting in an upstairs room of the derelict house.
“There was no electricity or plumbing in the house. The evidence will show that the deceased (Mr Dunne) had left the (residential unit) on the night previous to the discovery (of his body) at 7.25pm.
“He went to the Office off-licence and purchased drink and went to Castlegreina House.”
Mr Boland told the jury that the Romanian accused had come to live in Ireland in 2006. He was a chef in the Silver Quay pub in Cork city.
He said that at 8.24pm on December 27th two friends walking towards a pub passed Castlegreina House and “heard things.” He told the jurors that they would hear evidence from these men over the course of the trial.
About thirteen minutes later another man passing saw a man in the garden wearing a hoodie.
Mr Boland said on the day the body was discovered gardaí rushed to the scene of the crime. The body was removed to a hospital where a postmortem examination was carried out by then locum state pathologist Dr Heidi Okkers.
She determined that Mr Dunne had died of neck compression and blunt force trauma to the head.
Glass fragments were found in the skull of the deceased and broken shards of glass were also found in his clothes. A full examination of the scene was carried out by the Scenes of Crime Unit.
Mr Boland said jurors would hear evidence that the dismemberment occurred after the death.
“He (Mr Dunne) was dead when the head and arms were removed. The evidence will show that on the night Frankie Dunne was killed the accused stayed in the derelict house in Castlegreina and went to work the following day.
When the body was discovered the accused was working in the Silver Quay.”
Mr Boland said on occasion Mr Nicholescu stayed in an attic over the staff toilets of the Silver Quay. This was unknown to management or co-workers.
Mr Boland said whilst the body was found on a Saturday Mr Nicholescu left the jurisdiction the following Monday taking a bus to Dundalk and then to Belfast.
He made to journey onwards to Romania.
Mr Boland said that the jurors would hear evidence of phone calls between the accused and Dt Sgt Vincent O’Sullivan who had traced the movements of Mr Nicholescu.
In January 2020 gardaí travelled to Romania. The accused attended voluntarily and was interviewed by Romanian police.
He told Romanian police that he had planned to sleep in the derelict house on December 27th, 2019. He stated that Frankie Dunne, whom he did not know, was unconscious on the ground.
“Standing near him (Dunne) were two men. One with a machete and one with a knife. (He claimed) that they threatened him and made him help with the disposal of the body. He said that the body was taken to the back garden.
(He said) one of the men cut off (his Dunne’s head) and his arms with a knife. One of the men instructed him to put the body and arms under a tree.
“He said they also instructed him to put the head in a refuse sack and to put the clothes in a refuse sack. He (Nicholescu) said he was afraid and this is why he complied. He said he turned around, and the men were gone.”
Mr Boland said the State’s case would be that either the two men didn’t exist or that they did and had nothing to do with the death of Mr Dunne.
“These men were phantoms as such and had nothing to do with it. Gardaí didn’t believe that these people had existed.”
Mr Boland said that the State’s evidence would be that a roll of refuse sacks was found in the derelict house. The sacks were found to have the blood of Mr Dunne on them. Mr Nicholescu had told Romanian police that the plastic refuse sacks in the house were being used by him to tidy up the mess of other transient people who had been squatting in the property.
Mr Nicholescu is charged that on a date unknown between the 27th and the 28th of December 2019 at Castle Greine in Boreenmanna Road in Cork city he did murder Frankie Dunne contrary to common law. He denies the charge.
The trial, which is expected to last up to three weeks, continues before Mr Justice Paul McDermot and the jury on Tuesday.