Wednesday 18 July 2018

Man found not guilty by reason of insanity of attempting to murder pregnant sister

Accused had developed what the prosecution described as ‘an unnatural and almost pathological dislike of Dublin and Dublin people’ as a child

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)

Andrew Phelan

A MENTALLY ill man who stabbed his pregnant sister in the back because she was “carrying a Dublin baby” has been found not guilty of attempted murder by reason of insanity.

A jury delivered its unanimous verdict in the case of Daniel O’Connell (33) at the Central Criminal Court this afternoon.

Mr O’Connell, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, had developed an “unnatural, almost pathological dislike” of Dublin and its people when he decided he had to kill his older sister Olivia (42).

He went to her home in the south of the city where he set upon her with a knife, stabbing her four times in the back before she managed to wrestle the knife off him and escape.

Ms O’Connell, who was being treated for cancer at the time, survived and her baby was born healthy.

Her brother, from Rosemount, Newpark, Co Kilkenny, pleaded not guilty to the attempted murder of Ms O’Connell (42) at Scholarstown Park, Scholarstown Road, Knocklyon on April 25, 2016.

The jury had heard Mr O’Connell did not want his sister’s unborn child to be brought up in the capital and his “profound and enduring resentment” towards Dublin people stemmed from a humiliating childhood incident in which he was teased by other boys on a trip to Mosney.

Consultant psychiatrists for both the prosecution and the defence had found that he did not properly understand what he was doing was wrong when he attacked his sister. After “ruminating” on his delusion he reached a “point of inevitability” and could not refrain from attacking her, the court heard.

The jury of six men and six women had been deliberating for just over two hours when they returned with their verdict this afternoon.

Mr O’Connell, wearing an open-necked grey shirt, and navy jeans did not react when the verdict was read out by the court registrar. His sister Olivia, who was present with her partner throughout the two-day trial also showed no reaction.

Mr Justice Paul Butler made an order committing Mr O’Connell to the Central Mental Hospital for ongoing treatment.

Vincent Heneghan SC, for the defence, said a report would be available for the court on October 23 as to the future plan for Mr O’Connell.

Judge Butler thanked the jury and exempted them from further jury service for 10 years. He commended lead investigator Garda Niall Russell and added: “my sympathy to the victim of a horrendous attack.”

Ms O’Connell did not give evidence during the trial. In her garda statement, she said she had been watching TV on her sofa at around 3.30pm when she saw a man walk into her driveway wearing a red jacket with a baseball cap and dark glasses.

She did not initially recognise her brother but when she did, she let him in the back door.

He had driven from the family home to Portlaoise, got the train from there and buses to her house.

He went upstairs to the toilet and she heard a “cracking” noise, like a metal bar falling on the floor.

Unexpectedly, he came in via the kitchen and “came at me at a faster than normal pace,” her statement said. He was wearing surgical latex gloves and had a knife.

“I was lying on the sofa, the first things I saw were the gloves and the knife,” she said.

She said she jumped up and and tried to take the knife from him and talk him down.

“He reached over my shoulder and stabbed me in the back three to four times,” she told gardai.

“I said don’t do this Daniel, you are going to be really sorry when you calm down,” she said.

Ms O’Connell wrestled the knife from his grip and ran to the back door but it was locked and the key was not there.

He pushed her and she ran to the front door. He grabbed her dressing gown, trying to pull her back, then stamped on her calves to try to bring her down.

Her dressing gown ripped and she got free, running to a neighbour’s house, where she raised the alarm.

When asked what happened, the accused told Garda Niall Russell he “had tried to kill his sister by stabbing her and he wanted to kill her because she was carrying a Dublin baby.”

He also told the garda he intended to kill himself so he “wouldn’t be alone in heaven.”

Mr O’Connell had a black bag over his shoulder with a hammer and a roll of duct tape in it. When asked why he was wearing latex gloves, he said “to hide fingerprints.”

Mr O’Connell told the garda he had brought the hammer to “stun” his sister and the duct tape to “stop her screaming as he cut her with the knife.”

“I lost control of my mind,” the accused said to gardai in interview.

“I just wanted to end my own life and end hers as well as my own, it was a failed murder-suicide,” he then said.

He said in interview that he had been first decided to kill his sister on December 27, 2015.

“I heard that she was pregnant and I didn’t like the idea of her bringing up a baby in Dublin so I decided to do away with her,” he said.

He told gardai he had planned to kill himself by taking tablets in a hotel room in London 12 days later.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Paul O’Connell, on behalf of the defence, concluded that while the Mr O’Connell knew the nature and quality of his actions and knew what he was doing was legally wrong “his capacity to appreciate the moral significance of his actions was impaired.”

Mr O’Connell reached some “point of inevitability” after which he there was no other course of action he could weigh up and consider as an alternative and in that he would have been unable to refrain from doing what he did.”

“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 Anthony Kearns, on behalf of the prosecution, said.

"He did not properly understand that what he was doing was wrong."

“It must indeed have been an absolutely horrendous experience for the victim in this case, she was vulnerable, she was pregnant, she was suffering from an illness. It was a horrendous attack and she has my greatest sympathy in that,” Judge Butler said.

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