Saturday 20 January 2018

Man accused of murdering ex-partner was not mentally ill, court hears

Nicola Donnelly

A FORENSIC psychiatrist has said a Kildare man accused of murdering his ex-partner by stabbing her six times in the chest that the man was not suffering any mental illness at around the time of the stabbing.

Dr Stephen Monks told prosecuting counsel Mr John Alymer he was requested by the Director of Public Prosecutions to examine and carry out a full psychiatric assessment of Michael McDonald and to provide an opinion as to whether under the Insanity Act if there was any relevance to a defence of diminished responsibility.

Mr McDonald (51) of Barnhill, Castledermot has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Ms Cummins on May 13, 2010 at Michael Dooley Terrace, Athy. He has further pleaded not guilty to assault causing harm to John Lawlor (44) of Pearse Terrace, Castledermot at Michael Dooley Terrace on the same date.

McDonald has admitted to the manslaughter of the mother-of-one but this plea has not been accepted by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Dr Monks told counsel on day eight of the trial that after examining McDonald's psychiatric records from St James' Hospital, Naas General Hospital, Cloverhill Prison and garda interviews with the accused, he said McDonald's mental state around the time of the offences is consistent with the consumption of a large amount of alcohol prior to and up to the event and the consumption of diazepan tablets.

“His behaviour after he incident is consistent with that of a man psychology aroused following a violent altercation and intoxicated,” said Dr Monks.

He said upon examining the hospital records and interviewing McDonald for three hours it is his opinion that McDonald did not qualify for a defence of diminished responsibility and that he had formulated the opinion McDonald fulfilled the criteria for the diagnosis of Alcohol Dependence Syndrome (Alcoholic)

He said having reviewed all the records McDonald had commenced drinking heavily at 16 but was academically able as he passed his Leaving Certificate. He said there was evidence of psychiatric admissions to hospitals from the age of 19 and he had lost jobs through his dependence on alcohol.

He said during interviews with McDonald, he informed him his childhood he was forced to live with an uncle in Enfield during the summer months and that his parents had a disharmonious marriage. He also said he was the subject of sex abuse in his childhood but did not go into details.

McDonald told Dr Monks he was estranged from his family and was regarded as the 'black sheep' and because of his drinking problems he was cast the role of an alcohol by his family. He told Dr Monks he thought it suited his family for him to be an alcoholic because he said "every family needed an alcoholic."

Despite moving to London in the 1980s gaining work on building sites and studying poetry, drama and theatre, his dependence on alcohol increased. He moved back to Ireland in the early 1990s and told Dr Monks he met Ms Cummins in 2004 outside a pub in Athy. He said they hit it off straight away and went drinking together and very soon she moved in with him. "We were drinking buddies and enjoyed each other's company but it was a co-dependence and alcoholic and crazy relationship."

He said when he stopped drinking Ms Cummins would leave him and find other men.

He told Dr Monks the weekend prior to the stabbing he tried to get admitted into an alcohol treatment centre in Athy and that he advised Ms Cummins to do the same.

He said McDonald had reported psychotic symptoms such as the devil leaving him voice messages on his mobile phone telling him to kill people which Dr Monks said can happen when using a large amount of drugs and alcohol.

He said there was no signs of psychotic symptoms outside of alcohol use and that despite a doctor reporting McDonald had Bi-Polar disorder he could not find any other notes diagnosing this nor treatment for it on McDonald's records.

He said for the diagnosis of mental illness, a doctor cannot diagnose if the symptoms presented are better accounted for by the use of alcohol and drugs.

He said he examined and assessed McDonald after a four-month absence from alcohol and said it appeared there was no evidence of mood disturbances nor mental illness with McDonald.

He also said there was no period or documented evidence of an altered mood state in McDonald when he was not drinking.

The trial continues before Ms Justice Iseult O'Malley and a jury of eight men and four women.

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