Monday 18 June 2018

Man with paranoid schizophrenia charged with attempted murder was previously accused of harassing his former partner

Witness Simon Burke and his partner Margaret O’Brien pictured outside the Central Criminal Court in Dublin today, where both gave evidence in the trial of Gerard Dowling. Dowling is accused of the attempted murder of Burke at Market Cross Shopping Cnetre in Kilkenny in July, 2016. Photo: Collins Courts.
Witness Simon Burke and his partner Margaret O’Brien pictured outside the Central Criminal Court in Dublin today, where both gave evidence in the trial of Gerard Dowling. Dowling is accused of the attempted murder of Burke at Market Cross Shopping Cnetre in Kilkenny in July, 2016. Photo: Collins Courts.

Eoin Reynolds

A man with paranoid schizophrenia who is charged with attempted murder had previously been accused of harassing and threatening his former partner.

He was found not guilty of that charge by reason of insanity.

Gerard Dowling (40) of The Sycamores, Freshford Road, Kilkenny this week pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to the attempted murder of 60-year-old Simon Burke at Market Cross Shopping Centre in Kilkenny City on July 13, 2016. He also pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to assaulting Mr Burke causing him harm and to producing a knife during the same incident.

Consultant psychiatrist at the Central Mental Hosptial (CMH) Dr Brenda Wright today told defence counsel Colman Cody SC that having examined Mr Dowling's history and through interviews with the accused, she found that he was admitted to hospital on multiple occasions since 1998 due to a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia. She said he showed symptoms of paranoia and delusion including grandiose beliefs that he was a billionaire who designed airplane engines and had created an algorithm for the stock exchange. He believed that he worked for Goldman Sachs and BMW and told people he earned billions every week.

He also had paranoid beliefs about members of his family, especially his brother and former partner. He sent his former partner multiple threatening text messages in 2015 and was tried at Kilkenny Circuit Court earlier this year. The jury returned the special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity and he has been at the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum since.

During interviews with Dr Wright, Mr Dowling revealed that the voices in his head told him that someone named Tiny Harrington was going to drive him to suicide. When he assaulted Mr Burke he believed Mr Burke was Tiny Harrington. When told Mr Burke's real name he suggested that he may have changed his name by deed poll.

The court has previously heard that the accused approached Mr Burke in the afternoon at Market Cross shopping centre and stabbed him multiple times in the shoulder and head. Mr Burke recovered from his injuries but part of the blade remains lodged in his head as doctors feared it would be dangerous to remove it.

Dr Wright said that in her opinion Mr Dowling suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and as a result of his illness he did not know that assaulting Mr Burke was morally wrong. His illness also meant that he was unable to refrain from the assault.

She said that throughout his illness Mr Dowling has had difficulty complying with his medical prescriptions. She said he had "poor insight" into his condition and therefore did not understand the importance of taking his medication. At the time of the assault he had not taken his medication for many months.

If the jury returns the special verdict Dr Wright said he would be assessed at the CMH. The psychiatrist said she did not want to preempt that assessment but In her opinion, his condition is such that he would require ongoing treatment at the CMH.

Dr Wright said that her conclusion agrees with that of Dr Sally Linehan who was called by prosecution counsel Denis Vaughan Buckley SC. Dr Linehan told the court that she interviewed the accused and reviewed his history with mental health services in Kilkenny. She will continue her evidence at the Central Criminal Court tomorrow.

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