Man pleads guilty to murdering grandmother whose body was found in burning car

Man pleads guilty to murdering grandmother whose body was found in burning car

Eoin Reynolds

A man has pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to murdering a 72-year-old grandmother whose body was found in a burning car.

Michael Leonard (63), of Hillcrest, Glenosheen, Kilmallock, Co Limerick, appeared in court for a brief arraignment on Monday morning at which he responded "guilty" to the charge that he murdered Mary O'Keeffe at Doneraile, Co Cork on February 4th last year.

The court did not hear any evidence regarding the murder as Mr Justice Paul McDermott adjourned sentencing until December 14th when Ms O'Keefe's family will have an opportunity to make an impact statement.


At a bail hearing last year Detective Sergeant James O'Shea said that gardaรญ and fire services were called to the scene of a burning vehicle in which was Ms O'Keeffe's body at 2.20pm on February 4th, 2021. Mr Justice Robert Eager refused bail and Leonard remains in custody.

During the bail hearing last year, Leonard's defence counsel Marc Thompson Grolimund BL said his client had a good work record and that he had worked for 41 years for Coillte before becoming a consultant and retiring 12 months earlier.

Taking the stand, Leonard told Mr Grolimund that he would "absolutely" not approach any witness in the case and would "not speak to anyone in the case, bar my solicitor".

Mr Justice Eagar said Ms O'Keeffe had suffered an "appalling" death and that he had taken into account the "degree and seriousness" of the charge of murder when denying bail, after hearing evidence from Detective Sergeant O'Shea and Mr Leonard.


The late Ms Oโ€™Keeffe lived in Dromahane, near Mallow, in Co Cork and worked as a cook. She is survived by her three sons.

A postmortem was carried out on her body at Cork University Hospital on February 5th.

The results of the postmortem, which was carried out by Assistant State Pathologist Margaret Bolster, were not released.

The alarm was raised on February 4th when a passer-by spotted a car on fire near the Coillte forest in Doneraile.


Ms Oโ€™Keeffe was pronounced dead at the scene.