Sunday 22 October 2017

Man searched web for 'murder-suicide' before knifing pregnant sister

'An analysis of Daniel O'Connell's computer showed some of the searches for 'jugular vein' had been carried out three days before he set upon his sister with a knife' (stock photo)
'An analysis of Daniel O'Connell's computer showed some of the searches for 'jugular vein' had been carried out three days before he set upon his sister with a knife' (stock photo)

Andrew Phelan

A mentally ill man who stabbed his pregnant sister four times in the back had carried out internet searches for killings and "murder-suicide" in the months before the attack, a court has heard.

An analysis of Daniel O'Connell's computer showed some of the searches for "jugular vein" had been carried out three days before he set upon his sister with a knife.

He also searched media coverage of a case in which a man was acquitted of killing his mother by reason of insanity.

As evidence in the trial concluded, consultant psychiatrists for both the prosecution and defence told the jury they found Mr O'Connell, who has Asperger's syndrome, was suffering from a mental disorder and did not properly understand that what he was doing was wrong.

They said a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity was open to the jury.

The accused (33), from Rosemount, Newpark, Co Kilkenny, is pleading not guilty to the attempted murder of his sister Olivia O'Connell (42), at Scholarstown Park, Scholarstown Road, Knocklyon in Dublin on April 25, 2016.

The Central Criminal Court has heard after he stabbed his sister he told gardaí he had wanted to kill her because she was "carrying a Dublin baby".

Both she and the baby survived the attack.

The court has heard Mr O'Connell had an "unnatural, almost pathological dislike" of Dublin and people from Dublin, arising from a humiliating childhood experience.

Garda Niall Russell confirmed an analysis of Mr O'Connell's computer showed he had carried out searches about murder cases reported in the media between January and March 2016.

One focused on a case in which a son had killed his mother, with a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity. There were 17 confirmed searches for "murder-suicide" between January and April, 2016, and 12 about general killings.

On April 22, 2016, three days before the attack, there were four searches in relation to "jugular vein" and "wrist".

Dr Paul O'Connell, a consultant forensic psychiatrist called by the defence, said the accused told him at the age of 13 he was on a trip to Mosney when he was bullied by a "group of lads" with Dublin accents who teased him on hearing a telephone conversation he had with his mother.

He described having thoughts about killing his sister for years before they became more definite in December 2015.

He continued to "ruminate" about killing her until the attack. Mr O'Connell's belief that he had to kill his sister was not understandable - and supported Dr O'Connell's opinion that the accused was delusional at the time.

Although Mr O'Connell knew what he was doing was legally wrong, he did not appreciate the moral significance.

His sister's pregnancy "preyed on his mind" to the extent that he was approaching a "point of inevitability" where no other course of action opened up as an alternative to him.

"In that, he would have been unable to refrain from doing what he did," Dr O'Connell said.

Consultant psychologist Dr Anthony Kearns, giving evidence for the prosecution, said he could not elicit any clear delusional ideas from the accused.

"At the time of the offence, he set out on a course of action which would have appeared irrational and dangerous to a person without his disorder but to him, it appeared necessary," Dr Kearns said. "He did not properly understand that what he was doing was wrong."

Closing speeches are due to be delivered today.

Irish Independent

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