Sunday 17 December 2017

Doctors dispute mental state of accused in beheading trial

Phyllis Dunleavy
Phyllis Dunleavy

Brian Horne

THREE senior psychiatrists have given evidence of trying to unravel the mind of an Irishman accused of beheading and dismembering his mother and burying her remains in a shallow grave in a Scottish nature reserve.

The accused, 40-year-old James Dunleavy, also known as Seamus, denies murdering his mother Philomena (66) from Marino in Dublin and attempting to cover up the alleged crime on a date between April 30 and May 7 last year.

Yesterday's proceedings -- the last day of the prosecution case -- were dominated by the evidence of three experienced psychiatrists who have assessed the accused since his arrest.

But there was disagreement between two of the mental health professionals over James Dunleavy's specific mental illness -- though both agreed he had "serious problems".

Dr John Crichton and Dr Khuram Khan both told how their job had been made more complicated by Dunleavy's refusal to discuss what he is alleged to have done.


Dr Khan, currently looking after Dunleavy in the British State Hospital, Carstairs, said Dunleavy could be suffering from paranoid schizophrenia -- but assessment was not yet complete. Meanwhile, Dr Crichton said his diagnosis was paranoid personality disorder.

Dr Crichton's opinion was that although Dunleavy had odd beliefs, he was someone who could still be reasoned with. However, a third psychiatrist Dr Isobel Campbell told the High Court in Edinburgh: "He has displayed poor anger management and problem-solving [skills] but this would not necessarily be indicative of mental illness."

Dunleavy complained that there was no one in the Carstairs hospital who could play chess at his level. While briefly in prison -- on remand -- he said he could find "worthy opponents". Dr Campbell said during their talk, Dunleavy had displayed "emotion entirely inappropriate to the subject under discussion".

Asked to explain, the psychiatrist added: "I mentioned to him his sister's death and he grinned."

Dunleavy also discussed his attraction to Islam -- which led him to demand a halal diet and a room in the hospital in which to pray.

The murder charge alleges he inflicted "blunt-force trauma" by means unknown at his flat in Edinburgh, compressed his mother's throat and cut off her head and legs with a blade and something like a saw.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News