Saturday 3 December 2016

Mairead Moran murder-accused 'did not have capacity to form intent', psychiatrist tells court

Andrew Phelan

Published 04/02/2016 | 13:59

Mairead Moran and, inset, Shane Smyth
Mairead Moran and, inset, Shane Smyth
Mairead Moran
Shane Smyth

SHANE Smyth did not have the capacity to form intent in the killing of Mairead Moran because of his mental illness, a psychiatrist has told the Central Criminal Court.

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Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist, Dr Brenda Wright said in her opinion, the accused (29) understood what he was doing was legally wrong but harboured a “psychotic moral justification for his behaviour.”

Shane Smyth
Shane Smyth

Dr Wright said Mr Smyth’s actions resulted directly from his “delusional beliefs” arising from his paranoid schizophrenia - that he was being persecuted and Ms Moran was part of the conspiracy against him.

Mr Smyth fatally stabbed Ms Moran (26) with a dagger after dragging her out of the store where she worked at Market Cross Shopping Centre, Kilkenny, on May 8, 2014.

The accused, with an address at McGuinness House, Evans Lane, Kilkenny is pleading not guilty by reason of insanity.

This afternoon, Dr Wright was reading from a report she had prepared based on interviews with the accused, as well as his medical and psychiatric records.

The report was prepared at the request of the DPP. She was asked to assess the accused’s present condition and fitness to be tried, his mental state at the time of the alleged offence, and whether at that time, he would have been aware of the nature and quality of his actions and would have known what he was doing was wrong or would have been able to stop himself.

The court heard the accused was transferred from Cloverhill Prison to the Central Mental Hospital and had been there since.

“It is my opinion that Mr Smyth has a mental disorder, specifically his mental illness - that is paranoid schizophrenia,” Dr Wright said.

“I note that Mr Smyth was using cannabis at the time of the alleged offence but I am not of the opinion that his actions at the time were a result of his drug use, they are a direct result of his delusional beliefs.”

She said this arose from his paranoid schizophrenia.

“At the time, Mr Smyth did not have the capacity to form intent because of his mental disorder,” she said.

Dr Wright said in her opinion, the accused did not understand the nature and quality of his actions at the time of the alleged offence. He had believed that he was being persecuted by a number of people who were conspiring to harm him and that Ms Moran was part of that conspiracy, she said.

“I believe that he understood that what he was doing was legally wrong… but it is my belief that he harboured a psychotic moral justification for his behaviour,” she said.

It was her opinion that the accused had believed his life was in danger and that Ms Moran was part of the plot against him.

“It is my belief that he was unable to refrain from what he did,” she said, noting periods of intense anger in the months leading up to the alleged offence and the delusional beliefs he harboured.

The jury heard Mr Smyth had said in interview with Dr Wright his relationship with his parents broke down when his mother accused him of lighting fires in the house.

He said he liked lighting small fires but didn’t cause any damage. He left the family home.

According to reports, he had believed his mother was “evil” and a “witch” and that she was taking his powers. He would shout at her on the street.

In school, he had been diagnosed with dyslexia and attended resource teaching as well as speech and language therapy. He no longer had any literacy difficulties.

He truanted in fourth year “because of his drug use” and left school after his Junior Certificate.

At 18 he began seeing a psychologist as suggested by his mother.

He said he saw God, had looked at the Sun and had a revelation. He said God “had explained everything to me.”

He had hidden all the cutlery in his parents home and poured bleach all over the couch.

Mr Smyth was admitted to the Department of Psychiatry in Kilkenny at 19, where he was put on anti-psychotic medication.

His parents said he had attempted to set the house on fire and described a note that read “People to kill. Mother.”

It was also reported he carried a carving knife at home, threatening his mother.

He later stopped attending for medication because he did “not like needles.” He reported suicidal thoughts and once went to the top of a building but decided not to jump because “the fear of heights kicked in.”

He asked his GP to have blood tests done because he thought someone was putting something toxic into his shampoo.

The accused was described as having auditory hallucinations - hearing voices - and there was evidence he was experiencing "thought withdrawal and insertion."

This was the delusion that thoughts were being put into or taken out of his head out of his control.

In the months before the alleged offence, he described “thought broadcasting” - people saying things he had been thinking.

The report also described “religious grandiosity.”

The court heard when the accused refused to continue with medication he was warned of the risk of relapse.

The report noted poly-drug use, including heavy cannabis use. He had been arrested six times for being drunk and disorderly.

In interview, Mr Smyth described his relationship with Ms Moran, saying they met when he was 19 and she was 17.

He said the relationship ended well except for “my paranioa.” He was paranoid that she was cheating on him and said “anything and everything made me think she was unfaithful.”

When he confronted her, it would end in a fight and they broke up after an argument in which he grabbed her arm.

In the months before the alleged offence, he became concerned Ms Moran had “cast a magic spell” on him.

He had believed he could control the weather since childhood and one day when Ms Moran walked past he could not control it.

He believed his launderette was involved in trying to harm him and someone had stolen his clothes and made a voodoo doll of him.

Once, he opened his apartment window and said he smelled nerve gas- described as an example of an “olfactory hallucination.”

He believed he could smell people in his apartment and believed they had come to blunt his knives.

Another delusion was that he had been ionised by radiation from a U-Boat in Dublin Port.

He believed microchips had been put in his hips to control his actions. The court heard he thought spiders were put in his apartment to harm him and he had been bitten and poisoned.

The accused believed people were hacking into his computer games and that Ms Moran was involved in that.

He said in interview he carried a knife with him for his protection. He had been prone to “fits of rage, which had become more regular  and he would shout “die” a lot.

The morning before the stabbing, he had met a friend and told him he had been “press-ganged into the army.”

Describing the stabbing, he said in interview he went out to get chicken and saw Ms Moran in the shop, He went to ask her “why she wanted my blood”. He said she had asked him for a vial of his blood before and he “saw his blood on television, being paraded around while John Paul was made a saint.”

When he went into the shop, she shouted for security. He left and “didn’t know why” he returned, he said. He said he was angry and repeated that he had been prone to fits of rage.

“He said Ms Moran came from behind the counter, he said he pulled out his knife and stabbed her. He said he did not recall Ms Moran saying anything,” Dr Wright said.

The accused had been on anti-psychotic medication in the Central Mental Hospital for 18 months and he continued to harbour many of his delusional beliefs at the time of interview last month, Dr Wright said.

During his time in the CMH, he continued to believe that Ms Moran had not died in the assault and "he believed she may have changed her identity."

"He reported he had seen the (Ms Moran) in the hospital, that she survived the attack and the gardai covered it up and charged Mr Smyth with the killing."

Cross-examined by Colman Cody SC, for the defence, Dr Wright agreed she would be well placed to know if someone were “fabricating” a defence of insanity.

She was not of the opinion that the psychosis was drug-induced.

Dr Wright said it was a characteristic of severe schizophrenia that the person does not believe that they have an illness and this can result in them not taking prescribed treatment.

This was a function of their illness she said.

“Would I be correct in thinking that he didn’t have the capacity to understand what he was suffering from?” Mr Cody asked.

“That is correct,” Dr Wright replied.

“It is my opinion that given the severity of his illness (the accused) is somebody who will require long-term treatment in a secure setting,” she said.

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