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Family of murdered Joleen Corr hoping for lengthy sentence for killer


A grieving mum spent Mother's Day without her eldest daughter hoping she will finally see her killer get the punishment he deserves.

Carol Corr's daughter was murdered by Michael O'Connor in a brutal attack that left her with 52 injuries.

Joleen was killed in April 2018, but O'Connor only confessed his guilt at Downpatrick Crown Court this year.

Her family is praying for a lengthy minimum term when the murderer is sentenced next month.

On Mother's Day they remembered Joleen - who had a little boy with her killer - as a doting daughter, big sister and mum.

"She was the eldest of my five kids and almost a second mum to her younger siblings. She helped with bath times and changed nappies," said Carol (48), from Beechmount Grove in west Belfast.

"Even when she moved into a flat of her own, she was always popping in and asking what I needed done.

"She was a dab hand in the kitchen and Sunday dinners were her specialty - roast beef or chicken with all the trimmings."

Joleen adored siblings Cherie (26), Jim (23), Chloe (15) and Christine (12). She and Christine were particularly close.

Joleen Corr

"She studied beauty and she used Christine as her wee model, dip-dying her long brown hair and painting her nails lollypop pink," said Carol.

"She was a loving daughter too. She called our days together her 'me and Mam quality time'. We'd go out for an eyebrow tint and have lunch."

Carol took an immediate dislike to her daughter's boyfriend, who introduced himself to her as 'Micky Dope', when they met in 2013.

"As soon as I saw him, I knew that he was trouble," she explained.

"He strutted into my living room like he owned the place, in his tracksuit and fancy trainers. Too cocky by far.

"I hoped that he'd be just a phase for Joleen, but weeks passed and his appearances at my dinner table became more frequent. Soon he'd moved into her flat."

By September 2013 Joleen had told her mum that she was going to be a grandmother.

"A child is always a blessing, but they'd only been dating for a matter of months," said Carol.

"I was very worried and I begged her to be careful, not that I saw much of her on her own anymore since Micky was always with her and keeping an eye on her."

It wasn't until after Joleen's son was born that Carol discovered the real story behind her daughter's tired looks and heavy make-up.

Joleen (left) sought shelter at her mother's house and admitted that her partner had been violent towards her.

"She told me he'd been hitting her since the very first weeks of their relationship," Carol said.

"She'd used heavy concealer to cover her black eyes. He'd even kicked her when she was pregnant with his child."

Tragically, Joleen found it hard to distance herself from abusive O'Connor. Carol describes him as being "like a worm inside her head".

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Michael O'Connor is awaiting sentencing for the killing of Joleen Corr

Michael O'Connor is awaiting sentencing for the killing of Joleen Corr

Michael O'Connor is awaiting sentencing for the killing of Joleen Corr

Over the next couple of years she left him several times and sought refuge with her mum before going back to her abuser, saying she wanted to try and be a family for the sake of their son.

Finally, in September 2016, Joleen parted from him for good and even moved to Downpatrick to put some distance between them.

Carol's last memories of her daughter are positive. It was as though a weight had been lifted from her shoulders.

However, just days after her 26th birthday on December 2, 2016, O'Connor paid Joleen a visit, after which she was found unconscious, "beaten black and blue" and was admitted to the intensive care unit at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.

Carol was stunned when she went to visit her daughter.

"I couldn't believe it when I first saw her in hospital, surrounded by beeping machines and tubes," she said.

"She was almost unrecognisable and had 52 separate injuries from the top of her head to the tips of her toes.

"She had a fractured jaw and a serious head injury with swelling to the brain. Surgeons operated to release the pressure.

"Me and the kids kept a vigil at her bedside, willing her to wake up, but scans showed that the left side of her brain was completely dead."

Joleen was kept alive for the next 17 months. During that time she was transferred to Musgrave Park Hospital for rehabilitation, but repeated scans showed no brain activity.

"We tried everything. Christine sang to her and brushed her hair. We painted her nails and spritzed her favourite Ted Baker perfume onto her skin," Carol said.

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Joleen Corr at home with her family.  Mum Carol, Jim (brother), sisters Chloe (12) and Christine (10). Credit: Colm O'Reilly

Joleen Corr at home with her family. Mum Carol, Jim (brother), sisters Chloe (12) and Christine (10). Credit: Colm O'Reilly

Joleen Corr at home with her family. Mum Carol, Jim (brother), sisters Chloe (12) and Christine (10). Credit: Colm O'Reilly

"But Joleen's body was just a shell. My radiant girl had gone."

In March 2018 the family won the legal right to withdraw treatment and Joleen was moved to the Northern Ireland Hospice. She died in her mum's arms on April 26 as Carol sang Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

O'Connor continued to deny his involvement, so Carol decided she would go to court and see him face-to-face.

On February 3 she had a large number of family members, including Joleen's dad Joseph McNurney and her brother and sisters, show up at Downpatrick Crown Court. On the first day of his trial, O'Connor changed his plea to guilty.

"I couldn't help myself. I punched the air in jubilation as soon as we were outside the courtroom," said Carol.

"As we headed out down the steps and outside, a rainbow appeared. I knew Joleen was watching over us that day.

"We're waiting on his sentencing and hoping he gets a lengthy minimum term. Nothing can ever bring my Joleen back, but at least that scumbag won't be able to hurt anyone else.

"To anyone out there in an abusive relationship, please read my daughter's story and think twice. They never change. Get out, get yourself to a safe place and never let them back into your life.

"Don't let another family suffer the heartbreak of losing a daughter, sister and mummy."

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