Northern Ireland

Woman killed by partner had been repeatedly harassed, inquest hears

Concepta Leonard had secured a court order banning her former killer from contacting her (Family handout/PA)
Concepta Leonard had secured a court order banning her former killer from contacting her (Family handout/PA) Concepta Leonard had secured a court order banning her former killer from contacting her (Family handout/PA)

Phone records show that a woman who was killed by her former partner was repeatedly contacted by him leading up to her death, despite a non-molestation order, an inquest has heard.

Concepta Leonard, 51, was killed by her former partner Paedar Phair, 55, at her home in Maguiresbridge, Co Fermanagh on May 15 2017.

Ms Leonard was stabbed to death by Mr Phair who took his own life afterwards.

On Monday PSNI Detective Sergeant Zara Lewis gave evidence to the inquest at Belfast Coroner’s Court on the police timeline on the day of Ms Leonard’s death, and details of the subsequent investigation.

Ms Lewis said police were alerted to the address in Maguiresbridge in the afternoon of May 15 after an alarm was triggered that was linked to domestic violence, making it a “priority response”.

Police called Ms Leonard, and despite her assuring them that she was “all right”, units were sent to her property due to her tone of voice.

Police then received a 999 call from Conor Gallagher, Ms Leonard’s son, then aged 30, who was also injured in the attack.

At the property police first attended to Mr Gallagher, who had two gashes to his stomach.

They then found Mr Phair, who had died by apparent suicide in the garage beside the house, and then found the body of Ms Leonard in an upstairs bedroom.

Ms Lewis told the inquest that Ms Leonard “portrayed no signs of life and was lying in a large pool of blood”.

Ms Lewis said that Mr Phair’s history of offences, including common assault, possession of an offensive weapon, further assault and threats to kill, had all been considered as part of the police investigation.

Previously the inquest had heard that Ms Leonard was in fear of potential harm at the hands of Mr Phair, with her friends devising a rota to ensure there was someone with her as often as possible.

Ms Lewis told the inquest that examination of phones belonging to Ms Leonard and Mr Phair contained evidence of Ms Leonard’s continued harassment by her former partner.

“The data on each of the phones that were examined, it would corroborate what Concepta had said in relation to being persistently contacted by Paedar Phair,” she said.

Questions were raised on whether call handlers or first responders would have had access to the previous reports of Mr Phair’s harassment of Ms Leonard, or of the non-molestation order issued against him.

Ms Lewis said information in such reports is filed manually and not automatically cross-checked, but that it is important for police to have such intelligence “readily available”.

“So I think I’m right in saying that if a non-molestation order is granted by the court, then obviously that gives us – police – powers in order to deal with incidents that arise after that,” she said.

“So that’s important that police have that information available and it’s readily available for them.”

Monday was the final day of the inquest, with the coroner’s findings in relation to Ms Leonard’s death expected to be delivered on Friday.