Tuesday 12 December 2017

Accused had 'out-of-body experience' on night he killed his ex-girlfriend

Locke 'obsessed' with telling mum-of-one his suffering after breakup

Eric Locke, inset, who murdered Sonia Blount
Eric Locke, inset, who murdered Sonia Blount

Eimear Cotter

A murder accused told a doctor he suffered an "out-of-body experience" when he strangled his ex-girlfriend to death, a jury has heard.

Eric Locke (35) wasn't able to process the ending of his relationship with mum-of-one Sonia Blount, and was "obsessed" with telling her how he suffered after their breakup.

Eric Locke
Eric Locke

A psychiatrist told the Central Criminal Court it was his belief that Mr Locke went to the Plaza Hotel in Tallaght with the intention of "tying Ms Blount to a chair and forcing her to listen to him".

Dr Sean O'Domhnaill, consultant psychiatrist, said he believes Mr Locke "panicked when Ms Blount panicked and started to scream" when she saw the cable ties and duct tape fall out of the bag he was carrying.

The doctor said Mr Locke told him, "I can't believe I did that".

He said Mr Locke was in an "extremely high state of anxious arousal" at the time of the killing and later told him it was "almost like watch- ing someone else do it".

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

Dr O'Domhnaill said it was his opinion that Mr Locke was "mentally unwell" at the time.

In cross examination, he admitted he has never watched the DVDs of the five interviews which gardaí conducted with the accused.

Mr Locke has admitted he caused the death of Ms Blount, but said he did not mean to kill her and is pleading the defence of diminished responsibility.

It is the prosecution case that Mr Locke, of St John's Park East, Clondalkin, Dublin, posed as another man on Facebook and arranged a meeting in the Plaza Hotel 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" during a row.

The State case closed on Friday and the defence case has now opened.

It was his opinion, Dr O'Domhnaill said, that Mr Locke has a pervasive developmental disorder, and displays some, but not all, the features of autism spectrum disorder, as well as ADHD.

He also suffers from a very severe generalised anxiety disorder.

Dr O'Domhnaill said these conditions would have rendered Mr Locke incapable of being fully responsible for his actions, and his mental state was such that he would be described as having diminished responsibility at the time of Ms Blount's death.

He met Mr Locke and his family, and he said it was obvious from his family that from an early age he showed clear manifestations of autistic behaviour as well as ADHD.

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

Dr O'Domhnaill said that Mr Locke was socially awkward and there were notebooks in his family home where he planned out everything he did.

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

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.

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".

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. 

He 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 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.

The trial continues.

Irish Independent

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