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Thug left partner with skull 'like a broken Easter egg' and went on Belfast bus trip, court told

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Joleen Corr, seen here with mother Carol, died after being put in vegetative state by her partner Michael O’Connor

Joleen Corr, seen here with mother Carol, died after being put in vegetative state by her partner Michael O’Connor

Michael O’Connor

Michael O’Connor

Joleen Corr, seen here with mother Carol, died after being put in vegetative state by her partner Michael O’Connor

A violent thug who caused his partner to fall down stairs when he struck her took a bus to Belfast and left her to die, a court has heard.

Michael O'Connor (34) and his vulnerable partner Joleen Corr had been fighting over her mobile phone on December 2, 2016 when he struck her.

The conference call hearing at Downpatrick Crown Court heard that the blow caused Joleen to fall down the stairs at her home in Thomas Russell Park.

The fall caused a skull fracture, described by a witness as "feeling like a broken Easter egg", and subdural haematoma, which was the cause of death, prosecuting QC Phillip Mateer said.

He added that her jaw had also been broken and there were almost 50 bruises all over her body, which was "black and blue".

Joleen's family had attended a police station so they could listen and watch the conference call hearing.

Relatives listened intently as Mr Mateer outlined that as the mother-of-one lay stricken in her bed having been knocked down the stairs, O'Connor callously took a bath before taking their two-and-a-half-year-old son on the 10.15 bus to Belfast "because he had things to do".

The argument, which started when Joleen's ex-boyfriend accidentally telephoned her, had occurred the night before but O'Connor did not alert anyone until 12.30pm, calling a neighbour to ask him to check on Joleen, claiming she had called him because "she had taken a load of tablets".

The neighbour who went to help, seeing the state Joleen was in, called O'Connor and asked him "what did you do to her", the lawyer added.

He said the defendant claimed: "I done nothing to her - she tried to hang herself last night."

Mr Mateer said those claims could be dismissed by the scientific and medical evidence as there were no drugs in Joleen's system, no ligature marks, and due to the severity of her brain injury "she could not have possibly phoned the defendant".

With Joleen lying in hospital in a vegetative state, O'Connor, originally from Westrock Grove in Belfast but whose address was given as c/o Maghaberry Prison, was initially charged with inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent.

But following a landmark ruling in 2018, doctors withdrew treatment and she died on April 26, 2018.

O'Connor had been due to go on trial in February but at the eleventh hour he asked to be rearraigned and finally admitted his guilt.

Mr Mateer told Judge Miller the guilty plea to murder was accepted on the basis that O'Connor had struck Joleen once causing her to fall down the stairs, and that in striking her he did not intend to kill her but did intend to cause her GBH.

He said while O'Connor claimed he only struck once, Joleen had sustained a "multiplicity" of bruises and a fractured jaw in addition to the fatal skull fracture.

Defence QC Charles MacCreanor submitted the medical evidence in the case supported O'Connor's claims that it was one strike "rather than an assault over a sustained period".

He argued that while the court "could never be satisfied" that it was more than a single blow that caused Joleen to fall down the stairs, he conceded it was that fall which caused the fatal injury and O'Connor "is directly responsible for that".

"He is fully responsible... and he lives with the shame and disgust of his behaviour that never leaves him," said Mr MacCreanor.

O'Connor was handed a life sentence the day he admitted his guilt. The minimum life tariff will be fixed on July 2.

Belfast Telegraph