A Belfast man was jailed for life on Monday after he confessed to his partner’s murder.
A jury had been sworn in at Downpatrick Crown Court with the trial of 34-year-old Michael O’Connor scheduled to start on Wednesday when defence QC Charles McCreanor asked for one of the charges to be put to him again.
Standing in the dock flanked by prison officers and with friends and family of his victim Joleen Corr filling the public gallery, O’Connor entered a guilty plea to her murder.
O'Connor, originally from Westrock Grove in Belfast but whose address is given as c/o Maghaberry prison, had also been charged with her manslaughter on December 2, 2016 but after his admission, that count was left on the books.
Following his plea, Judge Geoffrey Miller QC told the self-confessed killer: “There is only one sentence prescribed by law - that of life imprisonment.”
Mr McCreanor said O’Connor wished to apologise to the victims family for all of the “misery and harm that he had caused” and the distress he had brought on them and to the victim.
Remanding O’Connor back into custody, Judge Miller ordered a pre-sentence probation report, along with victim impact statements.
He told O’Connor once those had been completed, there would be a tariff hearing in early March where he would fix the minimum period he would have to serve in jail before being considered for release.
On December 2, 2016, Ms Corr sustained horrific brain injuries and was left in a coma after being attacked in her house in Thomas Russell Park in Downpatrick.
As a result of her injuries she was barely recognisable and having spent six months in the Royal Victoria and Musgrave Park hospitals, she was transferred home.
Following a court ruling in 2018 however, doctors withdrew treatment and she passed away on April 26, 2018.
During legal submissions earlier on Monday, the court heard it was not the case that O’Connor intended to kill his then partner but rather that he punched her once and had intended to cause really serious harm.
The judge had told the jury that over the course of the trial, which would have lasted up to three weeks, they would hear evidence from scenes of crime examiners, police officers, pathologists, paramedics as well as friends and relatives of both Ms Corr and O’Connor.
Following O’Connor’s confession, Judge Miller commended her family for the dignified way they had conducted themselves throughout the hearing.