A Romanian chef has been convicted of the murder of homeless man Francis ‘Frankie’ Dunne (64) whose decapitated and dismembered body was discovered in the garden of a derelict house in Cork just days after Christmas in 2019.
onut Cosmin Nicolescu (30) was found guilty by unanimous verdict of a Central Criminal Court jury before Mr Justice Paul McDermott after a three-week trial. He now faces a mandatory life sentence.
Nicolescu had denied killing Mr Dunne, a father-of-three, and insisted the crime was committed by two other men armed with a machete and knife who had also threatened him.
However, the jury of eight women and four men rejected that version of events and convicted Nicolescu of Mr Dunne’s murder after deliberating for seven hours and 52 minutes over two days.
Mr Justice McDermott thanked the jury for their diligence and excused them from jury service for ten years.
Members of Mr Dunne’s family wept as the guilty verdict was returned.
Mr Justice McDermott adjourned proceedings to decide on a sentencing date and to allow victim impact statements to be delivered.
The body of Mr Dunne was discovered on December 28 2019 in the garden of a derelict house, Castle Greine, by a neighbour who was out looking for his missing pet cat.
Nicolescu was charged two years ago with the murder of Mr Dunne at Boreenmanna Road, Cork at a time unknown between December 27 and 28 2019 contrary to Common Law.
Mr Dunne’s dismembered body was discovered under a tree in the back garden of the derelict property just off Boreenmanna Road – with his head and clothing later found nearby in plastic refuse sacks.
His severed arms were found dangling from the branches of a tree.
Mr Dunne, who suffered from a serious alcohol problem, had received support from Cork homeless services.
Support workers at Clanmornin House, a dry shelter for Cork homeless, said Mr Dunne (64) had been trying to reduce his drinking and was well liked by both staff and other residents.
One support worker said he believed Mr Dunne was not capable of violence.
Nicolescu, who has an address at Branista Village, Damovita County, Romania, insisted to gardaí in a voluntary statement he made at a Bucharest police station on January 16, 2020, that he did not kill Mr Dunne.
The Romanian chef said he was in fear of his life that night (December 27) after being confronted by two armed men with the lifeless body of Mr Dunne at their feet.
He told gardaí one man was armed with a large sword like a machete and the other had a knife.
Nicolescu insisted to gardaí that these two men were responsible for Mr Dunne’s death and dismemberment, and that he left Ireland days after the killing because he was afraid.
“I was afraid that I could go to jail for something that I did not do,” he said.
Nicolescu insisted that he found a lifeless body (Mr Dunne) on the ground at Castle Greine in front of two men he did not know.
He said both men were wearing gloves and one had a red beard. One also sounded Irish.
“There was a man with a sword or a machete – I was fearful. He told me to follow him.”
Nicolescu was adamant that the man with the red beard had decapitated Mr Dunne.
“I backed up a little. I was afraid. The second man who looked Irish dragged him (Mr Dunne) to the back of the house. There was no sign of life. The second man started to disrobe the man he had dragged.
“He appeared dead to me. They took off his shoes and pulled off his pants. I saw the second man was armed with a knife. The fat man with the machete pulled out a roll of trash bags from his pocket and threw them near the body.
“I grabbed the head and put it in the bag. I was trembling with fear.”
In a phone call with a senior garda as he was travelling between Ireland and Romania, Nicolescu insisted it was the two men who were responsible.
“There were two men – one guy was behind me with a big sword like a machete. He told me to shut the f*** up. I did not know how to react. I said: ‘I don’t want to die – don’t hit me with the sword.’ He (the large man) told me to come with him or he was going to burst my head with the sword.
“I did not do anything, I did not kill the guy. I did not do it. All I did was carry the body for them and put it in the bushes.
“I am scared. I do not want to go to prison because something bad could happen to me there. It is not me that did it. I do not want to go to jail for 100 years. I am innocent.”
However, the State argued that the two men were “phantoms” – and gardaí did not believe they existed.
Ray Boland SC, for the State, said it is the prosecution’s argument that Nicolescu had attempted to blame the killing on the mystery men.
“It is the State’s case that these two men were not there (that night). It is the State’s case that these men were phantoms. The Gardaí did not believe these people existed.”
Mr Boland said it is the State’s case that “a crucial bit of evidence” was obtained from Nicolescu’s interview with gardaí in Romania.
He said the defendant told police there was no connection between the plastic refuse sacks in which parts of Mr Dunne’s body was found in the garden and refuse sacks inside the derelict house that he had been using to clean the property which had been used by other squatters.
Nicolescu told gardaí one man was armed with a large sword like a machete and the other had a knife, and he insisted these two men were responsible for Mr Dunne’s death
“The blood of Frankie Dunne was found on that (refuse sack inside the property). I say that is significant,” he said.
A post-mortem examination conducted by State Pathologist Dr Heidi Okkers at Cork University Hospital (CUH) found that Mr Dunne died from neck compression and blunt trauma to the head.
Glass fragments were also found in Mr Dunne’s scalp and on his clothing, which indicated that a bottle or bottles were broken over his head.
The post-mortem confirmed that the dismemberment of Mr Dunne’s body occurred after his death.
Nicolescu spent the night of December 27 at the derelict Castle Greine property.
He spent the following evening in the attic over a staff room in the pub where he worked, The Silver Key in Ballinlough, without the knowledge of either staff or management.
The defendant worked the following day but then travelled to Dundalk, Belfast and Edinburgh before finally travelling back to his native Romania.