Monday 24 July 2017

Man accused of killing ex-girlfriend 'couldn't process end of relationship' - jury hears

  • Pair briefly dated but relationship ended in January 2015
  • Locke 'became extremely frustrated' - court hears
  • 'He was massively over-invested in the relationship on an emotional level' - consultant psychiatrist
Sonia Blount: murder accused Eric Locke (inset) said he wanted to ‘frighten her and talk to her’. He denied he wanted to murder her
Sonia Blount: murder accused Eric Locke (inset) said he wanted to ‘frighten her and talk to her’. He denied he wanted to murder her

Eimear Cotter

A MAN accused of strangling his ex-girlfriend to death wasn’t able to process the ending of their relationship, a jury has been told.

Eric Locke (35) became “extremely frustrated” as he was massively over-invested emotionally in the relationship, which had lasted six weeks and he was “obsessed” with Sonia Blount knowing how he was feeling.

A consultant psychiatrist told the Central Criminal Court that Mr Locke was socially awkward and there were notebooks in his family home where he planned out everything he did.

The murder accused has also suffered from generalised anxiety and has had quite severe depressive episodes for most of his life.

When he had thoughts of being inferior and worthless, he would write out a list of items he’d need to commit suicide and go to a hardware shop and pick them out.

Mr Locke was also left with surgical scars and a deformity after unsuccessful surgery on his penis, was taunted about this abnormality by several people and was somewhat obsessed about it.

Eric Locke
Eric Locke

Eric Locke has admitted he caused the death of Ms Blount but says he did not mean to kill her and will be pleading the defence of diminished responsibility.

It is the prosecution case that Locke, of St John’s Park East in Clondalkin, posed as another man on Facebook and arranged a meeting in the Plaza Hotel in Tallaght, where he strangled her to death.

Her body was found in a room in the hotel on February 16, 2014.

The pair had briefly dated but the relationship ended on January 11, 2014 after he called her a “slut” in a row after a night out.

Fateful decision: Sonia Blount had briefly dated the accused but their relationship ended in
January 2014 - five weeks before her death - after he called her a 'slut' and 'mad' in a row
Fateful decision: Sonia Blount had briefly dated the accused but their relationship ended in January 2014 - five weeks before her death - after he called her a 'slut' and 'mad' in a row

He later told gardai, during interview, that he became “severely hurt and depressed” when Ms Blount blocked him on Facebook, blanked him at work and told him to stop texting her.

The State case closed on Friday and the defence has now called its first witness.

Dr Sean O'Domhnaill, consultant psychiatrist, said he met the accused man as well as his family, and that it was obvious from Mr Locke’s family that from an early age he showed clear manifestations of autistic behaviour.

Dr O’Domhnaill said these manifestations were hand flapping and a high-pitched scream or screech.

Sonia Blount’s friend had expressed her concern
Sonia Blount’s friend had expressed her concern

He said the accused’s school copybooks were in court and he was an obvious perfectionist in his homework, but that frustrations would arise if he felt his work was less than perfect, and he would burst out in a screech.

Dr O’Domhnaill said Mr Locke showed a hyper sensitivity to light as a youngster, wanted his bedroom walls painted black and had black out curtains taped together.

The jury was told that if light did break into the room, Mr Locke would have a tantrum and would hit or kick the wall.

As a child, Mr Locke was hyperactive, and couldn’t sit still. Dr O’Domhnaill said Mr Locke was also clumsy and suffered more falls and injuries than other people, which often occurs with people on the autistic spectrum.

His school reports highlighted Mr Locke’s difficulties concentrating in class, again a classic sign of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), the psychiatrist said.

Dr O’Domhnaill said Mr Locke has suffered generalised anxiety and quite severe depressive episodes throughout his life.

One of these lasted for two years in his mid teens and he “retreated into his dark cave” – his bedroom – and disengaged from social activities.

The jury was told that Mr Locke was born with hypospadias, when the urethra opens on the underside of the penis instead of at the end.

Dr O’Domhnaill said the accused was left with surgical scars and a deformity of the penis, after unsuccessful surgery, and as a result had an “awful fear of being different to others”.

“He had a physical manifestation of being different, of being inferior, less of a man and this deformity was noted in changing rooms and he was taunted about it”, he said.

As a result, most of Mr Locke’s relationships were “drink fuelled one night stands”.

He had two relationships prior to meeting Ms Blount, but his girlfriends were “like himself”.

His longest relationship was four years and it fizzled out. Dr O’Domhnaill noted that its ending did not cause Mr Locke any “great sense of loss”.

The psychiatrist said it appears Mr Locke wooed Mr Blount over social media, but he was awkward in social situations, and was not the same person as he was online.

Dr O’Domhnaill said Mr Locke had to plan out everything he did, and there were notebooks in his home where, if he was going out, for example, he would write out the details in advance, “down to him wearing a black shirt with the sleeves rolled up and not shaving the day before”.

He also said Mr Locke wasn’t able to process the breakdown of his relationship with Ms Blount.

There were a lot of texts between the pair at the start of their relationship.

“For Eric, there was this intense back and forth communication and all of a sudden it had ended. He wasn’t able to process this.

“One day he was in a serious relationship and the next day he was being blanked. He didn’t get it and became extremely frustrated”, said Dr O’Domhnaill, "He was massively over-invested in the relationship on an emotional level."

He will continue to give his evidence this afternoon.

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