Amy-Maria Dunne made the mistake of being nice to Eamon Byrne because she thought he was lonely and she felt sorry for him. But Byrne wasn’t interested in nice. Amy-Maria first came across Byrne, a fruit and vegetable delivery man, at her mother’s house. There he offered to come around to Amy-Maria’s neighbourhood, which she thought nothing of.
“He would call up an awful lot and he would offer to sell me the veg or washing powders and I actually had no interest in buying them… He would insist on leaving the stuff there and I could pay him whenever.”
Amy-Maria describes herself as a friendly person. She told Joe Duffy on Thursday’s Liveline that she saw Byrne as a harmless, older man who seemed a little lonely, so she spoke to him when he called. She even had in him for tea. But she never thought there was anything to worry about.
“He would come into my house in front of my boyfriend, he would be there around my mother, so I never ever suspected anything sinister.”
Byrne’s appearances became more frequent and he began turning up wherever Amy-Maria might be, always ready to offer her a lift:
“If I was walking to the school, or doing my shopping, he was always there to give me a lift every day.”
It took a while for Amy-Maria to realise that she might be in danger. When she started not answering her phone every single time he called, Byrne, when she did answer, would be angry:
“He would actually sometimes ring me and be abusive with alcohol on him.”
It gets worse. Amy-Maria told Joe that Byrne left a car in her garden, claiming that he had no space for it and she could borrow it any time she liked. The young Amy-Maria was impressed by this seemingly-extravagant gesture.
“He left a Mini Cooper in my garden. This is going to sound insane and silly of me, but at 26 and naive, after thinking this man had nothing but care and empathy for me, he left a car that I adored, in my garden, a convertible.”
This was Byrne’s excuse to call up to Amy-Maria’s house and wash and fuel the car on a daily basis. Family and friends told her that Byrne’s behaviour was not normal. So, Amy-Maria told him that she didn’t want the car. Byrne didn’t take that well. When Amy-Maria broke up with her boyfriend, Byrne began calling her, using a different phone number every week. At first, Amy-Maria didn’t know who was making the calls, as they stayed silent, but whoever it was, seemed to know when she was in the house on her own:
“Then I started getting told about my whereabouts and it was always conveniently when my son would be in his father’s house and I was alone in the house on my own, this person was able to tell me so. And that’s when the fear grew huge.”
Remarkably, it was his use of “burner phones” that led to Byrne being eventually caught by Gardaí because he bought the phones in Tesco and collected loyalty points every time:
“Through Tesco, they had to go to England, which is why the case apparently took four years – they had to get permission from Tesco in England to release the footage in Ireland – and he was caught using his Clubcard to buy the SIM cards.”
You can hear Amy-Maria’s full chilling conversation with Joe by going here.
Niall Ó Sioradáin
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