Northern Ireland

Paedar Phair family devastated by Concepta Leonard killing, inquest hears

The inquest is being held at Laganside Courts in Belfast (PA)
The inquest is being held at Laganside Courts in Belfast (PA) The inquest is being held at Laganside Courts in Belfast (PA)

The family of Paedar Phair have said they are devastated that he killed his former partner Concepta Leonard.

Ms Leonard, 51, was stabbed by Mr Phair, 55, at her home in Co Fermanagh on May 15 2017.

Her son, Conor Gallagher, who has Down’s syndrome and was 30 at the time, was also injured in the attack at the house in Maguiresbridge.

Mr Phair later took his own life in an apparent murder-suicide.

A separate inquest into Ms Leonard’s death has heard he harassed her after she ended their relationship, and she secured a court order to try to prevent him from contacting her.

An inquest into Mr Phair’s death heard a statement from his sister, Ms Wheeler, who said he did not have a close relationship with any of his family.

She said she was aware of his relationship with Ms Leonard and did not see her brother often, but saw him about five weeks before, after telling him that a friend had died.

She said he turned up unexpectedly at her house on April 29, and when she asked why he had not responded by phone, he said he had been arrested for harassing Ms Leonard,

“I asked him what he had done, but Paedar just kept telling me he wanted Connie back. I just told him to leave her alone,” she said in her statement.

In the statement, she went on to describe how she heard of what happened to Ms Leonard.

“I know my brother had been in trouble seven or eight years ago for hitting his then girlfriend. Paedar was then sent to Maghaberry (jail) over this,” she said.

“My family and I are devastated about what has happened. My condolences go to the Leonard family and I am praying for them.”

The inquest at Belfast Coroner’s Court also heard evidence of Mr Phair’s movements on the day before.

Detective Sergeant Zara Lewis was the only witness to give evidence in person to the inquest.

She read a statement, which included an account that he had spent the night before the killing with a female friend at his home in Lisnaskea, where he was described as being very upset and “spent a considerable part of the night crying about Concepta”.

The next day he told his friend he was going to work, but did not turn up at a scrapyard where he had been due to start work.

Instead he was seen, via CCTV and witnesses, visiting a local garage, a fishing shop where he bought a knife, and a bar in Lisnaskea.

The inquest heard he was seen in the bar dressed smartly in a suit, and drank four measures of vodka and two cans of an energy drink.

He bought another bar customer a drink, saying he “would not be around to buy him another one again”.

Mr Phair was described in a witness statement as “having been in good spirits whilst in the bar” and left “unfit and unaccompanied”.

Ms Lewis’s statement also described how police found Mr Phair during a search of the property when they checked the garage.

He was found having attempted to take his own life and was identified by a driving licence found in a wallet in his pocket.

No suicide note has been found.

Police and paramedics attempted to resuscitate Mr Phair and took him to the South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen where he was declared dead that evening.

A statement from Mr Gallagher, which was read to the inquest, heard that he saw Mr Phair enter the house by the front door.

He found them in the kitchen, where Mr Phair took Ms Leonard’s and Mr Gallagher’s mobile phones, as well as a handset for the house phone, before pulling out a knife, putting it to Ms Leonard’s stomach and ordering them upstairs to her bedroom.

In the bedroom, Mr Gallagher said, Mr Phair stabbed Ms Leonard in the stomach on the bed.

He said he threw a house phone handset at Mr Phair’s head and shouted at him: “Leave the knife away, put the knife away and go back to jail,” before grabbing Mr Phair by the shoulder and pulling the mobile phones from his pocket.

Mr Phair stabbed Mr Gallagher in the stomach before leaving the house, after which Mr Gallagher called the police.

The inquest heard there was evidence of alcohol in Mr Phair’s blood and urine, consistent with the eye witness reports that he had been drinking in a bar that afternoon.

Coroner Anne-Louise Toal said she will deliver findings in both inquests on Friday.