Kilkenny man accused of attempted murder entitled to verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity, say psychiatrists

Gardai give evidence of words searched on computer prior to stabbing

Natasha Reid

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Natasha Reid

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news@kilkennypeople.ie

KILKENNY TRIAL

The Central Criminal Court.

Psychiatrists for both sides in the trial of a man, charged with attempting to murder his pregnant sister, have said he is entitled to verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.

The consultant psychiatrists were giving evidence to the Central Criminal Court yesterday (Wednesday) in the trial of an autistic Kilkenny man, who decided to ‘do away with’ his sister so that she wouldn’t raise her child in Dublin.

Daniel O’Connell (33) with an address at Rosemount, Newpark, Co Kilkenny has pleaded not guilty to the attempted murder of Olivia O’Connell (now 42) when she was 26 and a half weeks pregnant and recovering from cancer.

Mr O’Connell admitted during Garda interviews that he had tried to kill her by stabbing her a number of times on April 25, 2016 in her home at Scholarstown Park, Scholarstown Road, Knocklyon in Dublin. He told gardai he had travelled to Dublin with a knife, hammer and duct tape with a plan to kill his sister. He said he had planned to kill himself 12 days later.

The court heard yesterday that Mr O’Connell’s computer had been searched for the words, ‘murder suicide’ and ‘not guilty by reason of insanity’, before the stabbing.

Garda Niall Russell told Michael Bowman SC, prosecuting, that there were 17 searches for ‘murder suicide’ between January 2016 and April 13, 2016. He also testified that there was a search on February 29 2016 for a case where a man was found not guilty of killing his mother by reason of insanity.

Gda Russell said there were 12 searches in relation to general killings between Jan 9th 2016 and April 2016. There were also searches for ‘jugular vein’ and ‘wrist’ three days before the incident. Gda Russell was the only witness in the prosecution case, with the defence then calling a consultant psychiatrist from the Central Mental Hospital to give evidence.

Dr Paul O’Connell testified that he had met the accused in the hospital a number of times this year, when he was an inpatient there. He told the doctor that he first thought about killing his sister years earlier, after she had settled in Dublin. He had developed a negative obsession with Dublin and its people after being teased by Dubliners as a child.

“I was annoyed that she fought me off and survived,” the accused had said at one stage.

Dr O’Connell told Vincent Heneghan SC, defending, that this had illustrated a profound impairment of judgment. The doctor also noted that the accused man’s parents had said he showed little or any remorse for his sister.

“They were concerned about the long-term risk he might pose to his sister and her child,” he explained.

He was asked about the defence of not guilty by reason of insanity, which required a diagnosis of a mental disorder. His opinion was that the accused man’s autism was consistent with a diagnosis of mental disorder as set out in the Insanity Act.

“In my opinion, the alleged offence would not have occurred were it not for the mental disorder operating at the material time,” he said. “It was such that the accused’s capacity to form the necessary intent was negated.”

Mr Bowman then called consultant forensic psychiatrist Dr Anthony Kearns on behalf of the DPP. Dr Kearns, also of the Central Mental Hospital, said he could not elicit any clear delusional ideas in the accused during his meetings with him.

However, he said he still harboured views about Dubliners ‘on the basis of what appears to me to be quite tenuous reasoning’.

“He still shows extremely little understanding of the inappropriateness of his catastrophic actions or its effect on others,” he added.

He was also of the view that his autism disorder was a mental disorder under the Insanity Act.

“He has great difficulty in constructing appropriate strategies for dealing with threats and fears and, importantly, perceived threats,” he said, adding that his autism would have compromised his understanding of what constituted a threat.

“At the time of the offence, he had set out on a course of action, which would have appeared irrational and dangerous to a person without his disorder, but to him appeared necessary,” he added.

“He did not properly understand that what he was doing was wrong.”

He said he believed that the special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity was appropriate in the case.

The trial continues before Mr Justice Paul Butler and a jury of six men and six women.