Tuesday 23 January 2018

Eric Locke was 'angry ex-girlfriend was meeting stranger for sex and wanted revenge' - court hears

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

Eimear Cotter

A MURDER accused was angry his ex-girlfriend was meeting a stranger in a hotel room for sex and was in a “rage” and looking for “revenge and retribution”, a psychiatrist has told a jury.

Eric Locke (35) has shown no signs of a serious mental illness and does not meet the criteria for a defence of diminished responsibility, said consultant forensic psychiatrist Dr Frank Kelly.

Dr Kelly was giving evidence on behalf of the prosecution in the trial of Mr Locke for the murder of Sonia Blount.

The mum-of-one was found strangled and suffocated in a room in the Plaza Hotel in Tallaght on February 16, 2014.

Mr Locke (35), of St John’s Park East in Clondalkin, has admitted he caused the death of Ms Blount but says he did not mean to kill her and is pleading the defence of diminished responsibility.

He used a fake Facebook profile to meet Ms Blount, whom he had briefly dated. The relationship ended on January 11, 2014 after he called her a “slut” in a row after a night out.

Dr Kelly said he concurred with the opinion of gardai that Mr Locke was "angry" that his girlfriend was meeting a stranger for sex in a hotel room and this "induced a rage" in him for "revenge and retribution".

The psychiatrist said he interviewed Mr Locke twice, in February and March 2017.

He concluded Mr Locke was able to his express his feelings, which mitigated against a diagnosis of pervasive development disorder and alexithymia.

Two defence psychiatrists have previously given evidence that Mr Locke suffered from PDD with one also diagnosing alexithymia, which is the inability to describe emotions.

Dr Kelly said he believed PDD was a “spurious diagnosis” and, in his view, Mr Locke has anankastic or obsessive personality disorder, which is not a mental illness.

In any case, PDD is more commonly diagnosed by children before the age of six, and while Mr Locke was “a boy with some oddities”, neither his family or teachers noticed any symptoms of PDD, the psychiatrist said.

Concerns about Mr Locke were not raised about Mr Locke until his mid-teens, he noted.

Dr Kelly said one of Mr Locke’s sisters told him her brother became socially isolated around 15 or 16 and his behaviour became repetitive and ritualistic, and this has continued into his adult life.

Dr Kelly said Mr Locke’s deformed penis, his experience of his peer group commenting on it in the showers after football and his alleged sexual abuse when he was aged between 10 and 12 was more likely the cause of his social anxiety and low mood than PDD.

Dr Kelly also said he watched the DVDs of the interviews which gardai conducted with Mr Locke.

He said he found “no evidence of a serious mental illness” as Mr Locke was able to describe in great detail to gardai the lead-up to Ms Blount’s death as well as what happened afterwards.

“Mr Locke was not suffering a serious mental illness or a cognitive impairment at the time”, he said.

He also said Mr Locke was assessed numerous times by consultant psychiatrists in Cloverhill Prison and “none of them found any evidence of a serious mental illness”.

Even if the court believed there was some evidence of PDD, Dr Kelly said he did not believe it was “relevant to the commission of this crime”.

The psychiatrist said he had “no doubt” that Mr Locke was in a highly distressed state in the weeks prior to Ms Blount’s death, which was supported by his texts to her and his suicide attempt.

However, his mood lifted once he made contact with Ms Blount under the fake “Shane Cully” profile and he “no longer satisfied the criteria for a major depressive episode”.

Dr Kelly said Mr Locke’s “elaborate preparation”, namely his ability to concentrate, his texts to Ms Blount, purchase of cable ties and masking tape and insistence a keycard was left at the hotel reception, was inconsistent with someone suffering a major depressive episode.

“His very persistent and dodged insistence that Ms Blount leave the keycard at reception signifies he had the capacity to form an intent”, he said.

Dr Kelly said Mr Locke told him he put a do not disturb sign on the bedroom door after he killed Ms Blount and then threw his mobile phone down a drain as it would “give him time to get away”.

The psychiatrist said this was significant as it showed Mr Locke “knew what he was doing” and there was a “quite deliberate attempt to conceal his responsibility”.

Dr Kelly said he read the pathology report prepared by the State Pathologist Prof Marie Cassidy. He noted she found damage to Ms Blount’s teeth, which signalled the top was placed in her mouth with significant force.

“My interpretation is that Mr Locke downplayed the amount of force he used in putting the t-shirt in her mouth”, he said.

After the killing, Dr Kelly said Mr Locke went to a hotel where he spent nearly an hour searching on the internet. Again, he found this interesting at it indicated Mr Locke’s state of mind at the time.

“He was not aroused. He was not in a distressed state of mind”, he said.

Dr Kelly also said he did not find that Mr Locke was alexithymic, or unable to read emotions.

He said Mr Locke’s self-esteem was low but he was able to express his emotions.

He said a letter Mr Locke wrote to Ms Blount, a suicide note for his family where he told them he loved them, his years of socialising and watching football matches in bars and his ability to speak to strangers “suggests very strongly Mr Locke does not have alexithymia most of the time”.

When he interviewed Mr Locke, Dr Kelly said the accused told him he “couldn’t understand the emotions on people’s faces and often didn’t get jobs”.

Dr Kelly said this struck him as “odd” and it appeared “almost lifted from a textbook”, as it’s a common description of autism and PDD.

He said Mr Locke denied he’d been reading psychiatric textbooks but he found this was “not credible”.

The trial continues with the closing speeches tomorrow.

Online Editors

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