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Co Armagh rapist and wife murderer refused bail on charges against current partner

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A convicted Co. Armagh murderer who stabbed his estranged wife in the neck and raped her as she lay dying in a field, has been remanded in custody following domestic violence allegations against his current partner.

Anthony Joseph Conlon (52) from Derryane Road, Dungannon murdered his wife Fiona (28) in 1997 after she left him over his violent rages.

The mother of his two children was reported missing in March 1997 and discovered shortly after, face-down in a stream with her head fully submerged.

Conlon was arrested, insisting while he was banned from contact, they had consensual sex in the field, after which he was knocked unconscious by a knife-wielding masked man.

He later admitted “losing it” but maintained he didn’t mean to kill her nor believed the knife wound was fatal. On realising she was dead, he claimed to redress and dragged her body to the stream.

Convicted of murder in 1998 Conlon jailed for 16 years, with the judge describing the crime as “most horrendous” and noting … the victim “was sexually degraded” as she was dying.

Released on licence in 2014, Conlon who found work with the Helping Hands charity, then met and married his current partner.

He appeared by video-link from police custody on Monday charged with engaging in abusive behaviour to cause physical or psychological harm between 21 February and 25 June.

He is also accused of harassment between June 25 to July 12 and damaging ornaments and a notebook in December 2021.

A detective constable told Enniskillen Magistrates’ Court the charges could be connected.

He explained police received a third-party referral in respect of Conlon’s wife who set out living in fear for a number of years due to Conlon’s alleged coercive control

She alleged being isolated from her family with Conlon telling her who she could talk to and what to say.

Last month she terminated the relationship and left their home.

The detective said: “[Conlan] constantly sent texts and left voicemails. She told him to stop but he continued. When she blocked him he texted other family members and a minister asking them to pass on messages. This left her feeling harassed and intimidated.”

Conlon was arrested, denying all allegations put to him and repeatedly referred to his wife’s mental health condition as “the main factor of strain in the relationship”.

Conlon said his wife “walked off” after an exchange of words, and he hasn’t seen her since.

He admitted trying to phone her and when she didn’t answer he sent texts because he was worried about her, although did not contact police.

Conlon also admitted leaving a voicemail saying, “don’t f***ing come back” but denied calling her, “a complete b*****d.”

He insisted he loved his wife, would never put her in fear and denied being controlling.

Opposing bail, the detective stated: “The defendant doesn’t know where the victim is residing, but police believe he is trying to locate her. He previously offended while on High Court bail for a serious domestic matter against his first wife, whom he arranged to meet her and went on to rape and murder. On release from prison, he commenced a relationship with this victim.”

A defence solicitor said his client accepts the relationship could be strained and tried to make contact as “he was worried about her, as any husband would be, given her issues”.

Urged bail to be granted he stressed the offences are “firmly denied”.

Deputy District Judge John Wray refused, commenting: “I’m not satisfied this is a suitable case for bail.”

Conlon will appear again by video-link at Dungannon Magistrates’ Court next month.

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