Tuesday 21 November 2017

Man told doctors he suffered out-of-body experience when he strangled ex Sonia Blount

Eric Locke, inset, Sonia Blount
Eric Locke, inset, Sonia Blount

Eimear Cotter

A MURDER accused told doctors that he suffered an out of body experience when he strangled his ex-girlfriend to death, a jury had heard.

Eric Locke (35) wasn’t able to process the ending of his relationship with mum-of-one Sonia Blount, became “extremely frustrated” when she cut off all communication and needed her to see how much he was suffering.

A consultant 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 that 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.

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

The doctor said Mr Locke repeatedly told him, “I can’t believe I did this”, saying it “wasn’t fair” that Ms Blount’s young son would grow up without a mother.

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 watching someone else do it”.

Dr O’Domhnaill also 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 gardai conducted with the accused after his arrest.

Eric Locke 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.

It is the prosecution case that Mr Locke, of St John’s Park East in Clondalkin, posed as another man on Facebook and arranged a meeting in the Plaza Hotel in Tallaght, 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” in a row after a night out.

Sonia Blount
Sonia Blount

He later told gardai, during interview, that he became “severely hurt and depressed” when Ms Blount blocked him on Facebook, blanked him at work and told him to stop texting her.

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

Dr O'Domhnaill told the court that, in his opinion, Mr Locke has a pervasive developmental disorder, and displays some, but not all the features, of autism spectrum disorder, as well as hyperkinetic disorder, or 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 the accused man as well as his family, and he said it was obvious from Mr Locke’s family that from an early age he showed clear manifestations of autistic behaviour.

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

He said the accused’s school copybooks were in court and he was an obvious perfectionist in his homework, but that frustrations would arise if he felt his work was less than perfect, and he would burst out in a screech.

Dr O’Domhnaill said Mr Locke also 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.

As a child, Mr Locke was hyperactive, and couldn’t sit still. Dr O’Domhnaill said Mr Locke was also clumsy and suffered more falls and injuries than other people, which often occurs with people on the autistic spectrum.

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 doctor said that when Mr Locke had thoughts of feeling inferior and worthless, he would write out a list of items he’d need to commit suicide and go to a hardware shop and pick them out.

He said Mr Locke was socially awkward and there were notebooks in his family home where he planned out everything he did.

If he was going out socialising, for example, Dr O’Domhnaill said Mr Locke would write out the details in advance, “down to him wearing a black shirt with the sleeves rolled up and not shaving the day before”.

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”. He had two relationships prior to meeting Ms Blount, but his girlfriends were “like himself”.

His longest relationship was four years and it fizzled out. Dr O’Domhnaill noted that its ending did not cause Mr Locke any “great sense of loss”.

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 also 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 had 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.

He said Mr Locke was “obsessed” with explaining his feelings to Ms Blount, and with sitting in front of her and communicating with her.

“He needed her to see how much he was suffering”, said Dr O’Domhnaill.

He said it was likely Mr Locke’s baseline anxiety level was “quite high” around the time Ms Blount died.

He also said Mr Locke was “quite obviously obsessed with ending his own life” and he carried around his “comfort blanket” – the suicide bag with cable ties and duct tape.

Cross examined by prosecutor Remy Farrell SC, Dr O’Domhnaill said he was “not a hired gun”.

He accepted that Mr Locke gave a clear account to gardai of the scrapes he received when he strangled Ms Blount. “It suggests he had a clearer recollection [of what happened] than having an out-of-body experience”, the doctor said.

Dr O’Domhnaill also said he has never watched the interviews which gardai conducted with Mr Locke.

Mr Farrell will continue to cross examine Dr O’Domhnaill tomorrow.

The trial continues before Mr Justice Michael Moriarty and a jury of eight men and four women. ENDS

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