THE inquest into the murder of Concepta Leonard has heard from the detective sergeant in charge of the investigation, as proceedings drew to a close last Monday.
Concepta was killed by Paedar Phair (55) in her Maguiresbridge home on 15 May 2017, who was found in the garage of the property having taken his own life.
Her son, Conor Gallagher who has Down’s Syndrome was aged 30 when she was murdered, and despite being injured managed to raise the alarm.
Concepta died from multiple stab wounds to her chest and abdomen, and there was evidence of defensive cuts to her hands including potential attempts to grab the blade.
She had ended the relationship with Phair who, according to witnesses, had steadily isolated her from family and friends, in what had become a controlling, domestic abuse situation.
Concepta obtained an emergency Non-Molestation Order but Phair breached this several times and the police handling of these incidents were heavily criticised by her family.
After Phair fatally attacked Concept and stabbed Conor in the stomach he took his own life in her garage where he was discovered by police alerted to the scene.
The detective, who was part of the PSNI Major Investigation Team at the time which deals predominantly with murder and manslaughter, explained the background of the alarm being activated in Concepta’s home which was flagged on police systems as a potential domestic violence situation.
The call handler rang the house number and asked the female who answered if she needed assistance, to which the reply was, “It’s alright. It’s alright.”
While no disturbance was heard in the background however due to the tone of the female’s voice, police were immediately tasked.
A short time later a second emergency call was received from Conor, who repeatedly asked for police to come to his home.
On arrival police observed Conor in a blood-stained tee-shirt and rushed to provide First Aid, while calling an ambulance.
He had sustained both a two-centimetre puncture wound and six-centimetre gash to his abdomen.
Concepta was found deceased in her bedroom and while conducting checks through the rest of the property police located Phair in the garage.
He had no pulse but was warm to the touch and CPR was commenced until paramedics arrived and took over.
Counsel for the coroner asked if investigations were carried out into the domestic abuse reports such as phone analysis.
The detective confirmed this done and showed evidence to support Concepta’s concerns of Phair persistently contacting her after the relationship had ended, “demonstrating his inability accept the split.”
She also set out how responding officers can access the police system to establish if there are logged issues against the address in question and occupants connected to it.
“I believe the system has changed since this incident, said the detective.” I don’t know what a call-handler would normally access but they would, I assume, have access to all information. They can search under the address the call is related to and see all the reports linked to it which have ever been made … I don’t know for how long.There might be three entries or more protracted entries, depending on the nature of the incident,”
Asked if Concepta could have been cross-referenced to show a link to Phair the detective said, “All information is manually inputted, so it would depend who put that in and what links they made.”
Messages between Concepta and her friends also supported her “genuine fear” of what Phair may do to her.
It was agreed there were no direct or explicit threats, Phair’s mindset was described as “Clearly apparent … The data corroborated what
Concepta said about being persistently contacted by Phair,” said the detective.
She confirmed a log entry of Phair being arrested for harassing Concepta, and that would have been accessible to officers dealing with the situation.
“I am assuming whenever the (murder) call came in, the first priority was to get the crews to the location. I don’t know how they (officers) are trained or how much background information they go into to relay to those tasked with attending.”
Examining the log, the coroner noted the Non-Molestation Order was showing against Concepta’s but not her address.
The detective said, “To the best of my knowledge, I don’t believe cross-referencing is done automatically. I believe that is – for example – an officer ringing and asking for that to be linked up. I believe there is a possibility something may come up under an address and unless that’s linked to the person, it may not automatically link.”
This concluded all witness evidence to the inquest and the coroner will deliver her findings later this week.
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