A convicted murderer has been given an eight-year sentence for throwing the dead body of another man into a Cork river after the victim had found out about the first killing.
Jonathan Duke (27) was strangled to death at Bridge House, Sean Hales Place, Bandon, Co Cork, on November 12th, 2011. His body was then thrown into the nearby River Bandon.
Just 24 hours earlier, a resident of the building, 42-year-old John Forrester, had met a similar fate.
Mr Duke, a father-of-one, was visiting Mr Forrester’s murderers there when he became aware of what had happened the previous day. Gardaí believe he was killed because he had knowledge of the first murder.
Mr Forrester’s former girlfriend, mother-of-three Catherine O’Connor, from Kinsale, is currently serving life in prison for both murders. Her boyfriend at the time of the killings, Ciprian Grozavu (47), denied murdering both men and went on trial for their murders separately.
The Romanian father-of-one was found guilty of both murders and sentenced to life in prison. However, he appealed his murder conviction in the case of Mr Duke and the Court of Appeal quashed it and ordered a retrial.
The trial took place at the Central Criminal Court in Limerick earlier in the summer. He was acquitted of murder by the jury upon direction of the judge. However, he was found guilty by a unanimous jury of two counts of impeding the apprehension or prosecution of another.
On Tuesday at the Central Criminal Court, Mr Justice Michael MacGrath sentenced Grozavu to eight years for assisting O’Connor in trying to dispose of the body of Mr Duke in the river and a concurrent sentence of six years for helping O’Connor remove the body from the scene.
Mr Justice MacGrath said Detective Garda Anne Murphy had told the court that two witnesses in a first floor apartment at Bridge House heard O’Connor outside their flat saying: “Just pull him, Chippy [Ciprian], he’s dead anyway.”
‘Cheering and laughing’
The two witnesses then went to their window and observed O’Connor and Grozavu drop Mr Duke over the railings at the river, a 20-foot drop.
Upon the return of O’Connor and Grozavu to the upstairs apartment, the witnesses then heard “cheering and laughing”. The two witnesses left their flat to find the door of the upstairs flat open, through which pools of blood were visible.
The witnesses saw their opportunity to escape and called 999, said the judge.
When gardaí arrived at the scene, they found Mr Duke’s bank card on the corridor floor and went upstairs to find “significant pools of blood” in the upstairs apartment.
Gardaí at the scene asked Grozavu what happened and were told by Grozavu that the blood was his as he had some injuries showing.
At around the same time, Garda Aine O’Regan discovered and identified the body of Mr Duke, who was known as ‘Dukie’ around Bandon.
A previous trial heard that the body had more than 100 separate injuries, after being beaten and stabbed.
Grozavu then told garda that he’d been asleep earlier and that three men, including Mr Duke, had entered his home and attacked him with a variety of weapons including a sword and a hammer.
After initial denials to gardaí, he later admitted disposing of the body with O’Connor.
The two were arrested and O’Connor was convicted and given a life sentence for the murder.
Mr Justice MacGrath said that the attempt to dispose of the body was the more grievous offence and was “a gross insult to Mr Duke’s dignity, which Mr Duke is entitled to in life as in death”.
The judge said that Grozavu had 13 previous convictions that included murder, assault, stalking, harassment, possession of drugs, drunk driving and careless driving.
The judge said the offence of impeding an investigation carried a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment and found that a headline sentence of nine years was appropriate. Mr Justice MacGrath said he considered the murder of Mr Forrester by Grozavu and O’Connor the night before as an aggravating factor.
The judge said he accepted that Det Gda Murphy had told the court that Grozavu claimed he was in fear of O’Connor and her brothers, who were violent people.
Mr Justice MacGrath said that Grozavu’s work and family background would not mitigate the offence but that his “multiple” certificates and qualifications achieved in prison would see a discount of one year granted.
He sentenced Grozavu to eight years’ imprisonment for the offence of attempting to dispose of the body of Mr Duke in the river.
The judge said that on the offence of moving the body from the scene, he would set a headline sentence of seven years and mitigate it to six, having made similar considerations as in the previous sentence.
He said the sentences were to run concurrently and then backdated both to November 13, 2011, when Grozavu was first taken into custody.
Mr Justice MacGrath offered his condolences to the family of Mr Duke and said that they carried themselves with “fortitude and dignity over many years through a harrowing experience”.