Tuesday 17 September 2019

Man who stabbed pregnant sister 'wanted to kill her because she was carrying a Dublin baby' - court hears

'I had a few bad experiences with Dublin people and I didn’t want the baby to be brought up in Dublin' - court hears accused told gardaí

Central Criminal Court (stock photo)
Central Criminal Court (stock photo)
Andrew Phelan

Andrew Phelan

A MENTALLY ill man who stabbed his pregnant sister four times told gardai he had wanted to kill her because she was "carrying a Dublin baby," a court has heard.

Daniel O’Connell (33), described as having an "unnatural, almost pathological dislike" of people from Dublin, set upon his sister with a 12-inch knife, stabbing her in the back before she managed to escape.

As well as being 26-weeks pregnant, Olivia O'Connell (42) was undergoing treatment for cancer at the time.

The Central Criminal Court heard she later told gardai she felt the attack was premeditated and he had come "fully prepared."

Mr O’Connell, from Rosemount, Newpark, Co Kilkenny, is pleading not guilty to the attempted murder of his sister at Scholarstown Park, Scholarstown Road, Knocklyon in Dublin on April 25, 2016.

Vincent Heneghan SC, for the defence, said the facts of the case were accepted.

Prosecutor Michael Bowman SC told the jury they would be asked to consider three verdicts: guilty of attempted murder, not guilty, or a special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.

Evidence from consultant forensic psychiatrists on behalf of both the prosecution and the defence would be heard later, he said.

In his opening speech, Mr Bowman told the jury the accused was "troubled" and suffered from a mental illness.

He said the special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity could be reached if an accused did not know the nature and quality of their actions, did not know what they were doing was wrong or were unable to refrain from committing an act.

Garda Niall Russell, led through his evidence by Mr Bowman, said he was called to the house after receiving information that a man had stabbed his pregnant sister four times.

She had made her way to a neighbour’s house and Garda Russell saw she was bleeding from four puncture wounds to her lower back.

She told him her brother had stabbed her and she had struggled with him and taken the knife, which she showed the garda.

When asked what happened, the accused told Garda 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."

The accused also had the key from the back door of his sister’s house in his pocket.

Later that night, he was released from Rathfarnham Garda Station and taken to St Luke’s psychiatric hospital in Kilkenny. It was not until May 16 that he was interviewed.

In her statement, Olivia O’Connell said she had been watching TV on her sofa when she saw a man walk into her driveway wearing a red jacket with a baseball cap and dark glasses.

She heard a loud knock and did not answer it immediately, then heard shaking at the letterbox. She did not know it was her brother until he moved to the kitchen window, and let him in through the back door.

They sat on the couch and he asked about her cancer and the pregnancy. He seemed "pale, upset and awkward" and had tears in his eyes, she said in her statement.

When she asked what he was doing there, he told her he had driven from the family home to Portlaoise, got the train from there and buses to her house.

They discussed him getting a bus to leave and he said he was going up to the toilet. While he was upstairs, she heard a "cracking" noise, like a metal bar falling on the floor.

Her brother came back down and was out in the hall when she asked him to come back in and close the door.

Unexpectedly, he came in via the kitchen and "came at me at a faster than normal pace," her statement said.

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

They were surgical gloves and the knife was a black handled, silver bladed knife with a smooth edge, 12 inches long.

She said she jumped up and moved forwards towards him, to try 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.

She was holding the knife, trying to wrestle it from his grip and managed to do so. Ms O’Connell said she 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 nightdress, trying to pull her back, then stamped on her calves to try to bring her down.

She saw a hammer protruding from his bag, she said. He held her for about 30 seconds at the porch door before her dressing gown ripped and she got free.

She ran out screaming to a neighbour’s house, she said, and banged on the window.

"I think if I hadn’t got to the front door, he would have killed me," she said in her statement.

She told gardai she had been terrified. She felt it was premeditated and he was "fully prepared."

Her brother had had a "negative obsession" about Dublin and had been upset when she got married to a Dublin person.

Ms O’Connell was treated for her wounds in hospital and her baby was later born healthy.

The accused’s garda interviews were then read out to the court.

"I lost control of my mind," he initially said to gardai of his attack on his sister.

"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 told gardai he wanted to bring his sister to heaven and that he was going to strike her across the head and cut his own wrists.

He then said he was going to go to England 12 days  later with his father and end his life by taking tablets in a hotel room.

Mr O’Connell said his relationship with his sister had been "on and off" for 16 to 17 years.

He said when he started going for his sister, she said "don’t, chicken, you will be sorry."

“I got her in the back twice,” he said.

The gloves had been to "cover up fingerprints" and he told gardai he was going to leave the body there, maybe put it in her bedroom "so it might look life natural causes or something."

"I’d be very weak in jail," he said. "I’d rather get a healthy fine."

He told gardai he had first thought about killing his sister the previous December 27.

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

"I had a few bad experiences with Dublin people and I didn’t want the baby to be brought up in Dublin," he said.

Asked what experiences, he told gardai: "Just that I thought some of them were not overly nice to me."

Later in interview, he told how he had worked as a retail assistant in the past. He said he had a travel pass but did not use it on the day and paid cash.

"I was afraid my pass would be traced," he said.

He knew what he was going to do was terrible and asked how he could justify it, he told gardai, "I wasn’t thinking straight."

He said he had Aspergers syndrome and people were telling him he was on disability.

Gardai put it to him that he had not planned a murder-suicide, but just a murder.

"I was going to do away with myself 12 days later," he said.

The accused agreed with gardai he had locked his sister’s back door "so she couldn’t escape."

Gardai said he had taken "precautions" not to be caught and asked him if that sat with him not thinking straight.

"I don’t know," he said. "I’m not being smart."

He was asked why he did not kill his sister.

"Because she escaped," he said. "She is my sister and I love her now."

"You do know I am deeply remorseful for what I did," he told gardai. "I did the decent thing and handed myself over to the gardai."

He said he was "not going to kill" his sister and asked if he still wanted to kill himself, he told gardai "those feelings have passed."

In his opening, speech, Mr Bowman had said the accused’s "almost pathological dislike" of Dublin and Dublin people was deep-rooted, stemming from a school trip he had gone on.

"The facts of the case are disturbing, and that cannot be gainsaid," Mr Bowman said.

The trial continues before Mr Justice Paul Butler a jury of six women and six men.

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