10 Aug 2022

Medication of schizophrenic man reduced prior to fatal Kilkenny crash

THE medication of a schizophrenic in-patient at St Luke’s Hospital, Kilkenny was reduced in the weeks prior to a horrific road crash that claimed the lives of a married couple and left their daughter seriously injured.

THE medication of a schizophrenic in-patient at St Luke’s Hospital, Kilkenny was reduced in the weeks prior to a horrific road crash that claimed the lives of a married couple and left their daughter seriously injured.

Expert witnesses from the Central Mental Hospital told a trial at Kilkenny Circuit Criminal Court that Sean Dillon’s medication, including his dosage of diazepam had been reduced from 5mg to 3mg.

The medical evidence of the defence and prosecution was consistent.

Dillon of Killerig, Co Carlow was found not guilty of the double manslaughter of Tommy and Angela Kenneally, Templemore and causing serious harm to their daughter Angela by reason of insanity. The jury of eight women and four men took twenty-five minutes to reach their verdict.

Grabbed steering wheel

After the crash on August 24, 2011 at Troyswood, Freshford Road, Kilkenny where Dillon grabbed the steering wheel of the car driven by his sister and forced it across the road, he told Dr Paul O’Connell (Consultant Psychiatrist for the defence) that it was a suicide attempt and he wanted to die.

His sister is still recovering from the serious back injuries she suffered and Sergeant Con Dooley indicated that Elizabeth Dillon informed emergency personnel at the scene what happened. “She was given permission to take him out of St Luke’s psychiatry department and they were driving back after going to a shop for sweets when this tragic incident occurred. Sean Dillon has no criminal history.”

Prosecution barrister Brian O’Shea asked why Dillon initially gave a false statement to Gardai, telling them he suffered blurred vision to avoid arrest.

Dr O’Connell said while the defendant was being evasive his primary motive was to commit suicide and he didn’t want to admit that fact to Gardai.

On July 28, 2011 – four weeks prior to the crash - Dillon thought he didn’t need medication and stopped taking it. He found it difficult to concentrate and considered suicide.

Stabbed himself fifteen times

Dr O’Connell explained Dillon got an impulse to stab himself and he did so fifteen times with a kitchen knife – he suffered thirteen stab wounds to his chest and two to his abdomen. He was found by his sister, had life-saving surgery and spent four days in an Intensive Care Unit.

Dr O’Connell said the defendant was in terrible form the day his sister collected him from St Luke’s.

Dillon told him: “I was worried about having to be in here for months or years. Why did I give up the tablets? My life will never be the same again. My father loved me so much and I was so worried he could die. I wasn’t there and I couldn’t help him. I blame myself for my father’s accident. I wanted to die and I grabbed the steering wheel. I hadn’t thought of the consequences.”

Dr O’Connell outlined Dillon was the second youngest of a family of eight. An uncle had committed suicide and his father was knocked down fourteen years earlier by an intoxicated driver. He suffered low self-esteem and a depressed style of thinking. He had an abnormal belief of being heavily in debt and asked if it was true he owed millions of euro? He had long standing paranoia psychosis and was treated with anti-depressants and anti-psychotic drugs.

Consultant Psychiatrist for the prosecution, Dr Brenda Wright said Dillon was aged 21 when he was first admitted to hospital in 1998. He was having difficulty coping with the serious injuries sustained by his father. He hadn’t harmed him-self prior to the July 2011 incident. He had delusional beliefs. He was an in-patient at St Luke’s Kilkenny and his diazepam – an anti-anxiety medication that is used short term as it has strong addictive characteristics - had been reduced.

Heard voices in his head

Dr Wright said Dillon developed a belief that staff at the hospital regarded him as a sex offender which was completely untrue. He heard voices in his head referring to him as a sex offender. She said the defendant had schizophrenic symptoms that persisted over a long period of time.

It was her opinion that Mr Dillon had schizophrenia at the time of the alleged offence. “His thinking, perception and emotions were impaired because of his mental disorder. He was unable to refrain from committing the act. He failed to take account of what his actions held for others. His reason to pull the steering wheel from his sister was to put an end to it.”

Responding to Aileen Donnelly SC, Dr Wright said Dillon still required treatment and was in need of hospitalisation within the Central Mental Hospital.

Dillon, in his statement, said he was in the front seat of his sister’s car and on the way back to St Luke’s he got a bit of a panic attack and he grabbed the steering wheel. He didn’t tell Liz. She screamed with pain. There was glass everywhere. Liz thought her car would go on fire. I just had bruises to my leg and back. I didn’t know what overcame me at the time.”

Sgt Dooley said Angela Kenneally and her parents had left Kilkenny in her 01-Nissan Almera and were heading home to Templemore. For some unknown reason, as one witness said, an 05-Peugeot 307 travelling in to the city, came across to the wrong side of the road and a collision occurred.

Ms Kenneally’s car spun a number of times and collided with a wall. A local GP, Dr Lynch was in the 4th car back and he pronounced front seat passenger Tommy Kenneally dead at the scene. His wife Angela was later pronounced dead at St Luke’s Hospital. Both drivers were seriously injured and hospitalised. Ms Kenneally was subsequently moved to Waterford Regional Hospital.

Tragedy for Kenneally family

Barrister Ms Donnelly entered admissions to the facts of the case on behalf of her client. “This is a complete tragedy for the Kenneally family and it occurred not because of a criminal action but because Sean Dillon was legally insane.”

After the jury delivered its verdict, Judge Alice Doyle ordered that Dillon be committed to the Central Mental Hospital until May 7 for the preparation of a psychiatry report before appearing in court again.

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