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Man guilty of killing his mother and burying her remains

A man has been convicted of ­beheading and dismembering his mother and burying her remains in a shallow grave.

An eight-day trial heard evidence suggesting that Philomena Dunleavy, 66, may still have been alive, but unconscious, when her son began to hack off her legs with a knife and saw.

But the horror of her final moments at the hands of her James Dunleavy, 40, will probably never be known.

Mother-of-five Mrs Dunleavy, a small, slightly built and shy woman, had left her Dublin home in early April last year and arrived in Scotland on April 24 to visit her eldest son James - also known as Seamus.

Days later she was dead, according to prosecutors: killed in labourer Dunleavy's flat in Balgreen Road, ­Edinburgh, and later buried on nearby Corstorphine Hill.

Medics could not tell how she died as injuries to her head, smashed ribs and damage to small bones in her neck - often linked to strangulation - could have been sustained after her death.

It was more than a month before Mrs Dunleavy's remains were unearthed, just a few minutes' walk away from her son's address.

At first police could not identify the body but after a facial reconstruction was made by Professor Caroline ­Wilkinson of Dundee University - the likeness of which proved amazingly accurate - relatives got in touch with police.

Dunleavy, 40, denied murder and attempting to defeat the ends of justice by burying his mother's remains to try to cover up the crime.

A jury at the High Court in ­Edinburgh convicted him, by majority, of a reduced charge of culpable homicide. They also found him guilty of the attempted cover-up after hearing a large suitcase was missing from the flat and a spade with a broken shaft was found in the back green.

Mrs Dunleavy's 68-year-old husband, also James, remained silent as the eight women and seven men reported their decision, as did her son Austin, 27. As they left the High Court in ­Edinburgh, Mr Dunleavy senior simply said: "I will not be making any statements."

The Dunleavy family have suffered tragedy before. Terence Dunleavy, 27, a brother of the accused, was shot dead during a drug feud in Dublin in April 2005. His mother's visit to Edinburgh last year meant she had missed the family's annual commemoration of his death.

The trial heard that after Mrs Dunleavy's body was found the family refused to help police ­investigating her death.

No witnesses saw Mrs Dunleavy's remains being ­transported in a suitcase. No witnesses saw the digging of the undignified shallow grave - a back-breaking task in the hard soil of Corstorphine Hill.

There Mrs Dunleavy remained until ski instructor Aaron McLean-Foreman, 24, stopped to sunbathe while pushing his bike along a narrow path on a warm June afternoon.

He was confronted by the decomposed face of Mrs Dunleavy staring up from the dirt, his gaze drawn by her gleaming teeth.

The following day, June 7, archaeologist Dr Jennifer Miller and other forensic and medical experts began the painstaking work of unearthing the near-naked torso, severed head and legs. The body had been buried facing east in what might have been an attempt at a Christian burial, said Mr Miller.

Police launched Operation Sandpiper, appealing for help to identify the body. At first, Mrs Dunleavy's expensive cosmetic dentistry - carried out in Hungary - led them to consider the possibility she might be a migrant worker from Eastern Europe.

Mrs Dunleavy's claddagh ring took the search to Ireland.

CT scans of Mrs Dunleavy's skull, combined with computer technology, enabled Dundee University's craniofacial expert Dr Caroline Wilkinson to produce a likeness of the dead woman.

The trial heard that Mrs Dunleavy, who suffered from a number of medical problems and had been badly affected by a stroke, had a habit of wandering without telling anyone where she was going.

But by early July her family in Dublin were beginning to wonder where she was. Dunleavy had phoned on May 2 to say she was on her way home, but his mother had never arrived.

A call was made to police in Edinburgh, followed by another call on July 3 from Dunleavy himself. Police visited him the following day.

Four days later he was charged with her murder.

Until then Dunleavy's criminal record amounted to only a few minor convictions for disorder in Ireland and elsewhere.

Police heard about a shouting match between Dunleavy and his mother about her supposedly having an affair.

She was said to have walked out on her 68-year-old husband, a retired painter, although he insisted they were still man and wife.

Shop-keeper Mohammed Razaq, 40, known as Tariq, witnessed the argument. He also told the trial that Dunleavy - who had been showing a keen interest in Islam - had described "hearing voices" and told his friend: "I might be evil".

Two months after his arrest Dunleavy's legal team arranged for his transfer from prison to the State Hospital, Carstairs.

Three psychiatrists told the trial that Dunleavy clearly had a problems, although it was too early to say exactly of what nature. Paranoid schizophrenia was suggested as a possibility.

Dunleavy, giving evidence, insisted the doctors were wrong. "I think the gravity of the crime I am accused of may have coloured their perception," Dunleavy suggested. "They are entitled to their opinion."

He said his mother had left his flat without warning and he expected her to re-appear "miraculously."

Two damning snippets of evidence came from Carole Ross, 50, who said Mrs Dunleavy had come into Edinburgh's Portobello Police Station where she was working, asking for a cheap room.

She said she did not want to be with her son because he was having "an episode".

And Matthew Hagan, 26, who worked alongside Dunleavy on Edinburgh's tram project, told how his workmate told him, just days before his arrest: "I have done something bad, brother."

Judge Lord Jones ordered Dunleavy to remain in the State Hospital, Carstairs, while psychiatrists continue to assess his condition. He is due back in court in April for the judge to decide his sentence.

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