Thursday 23 November 2017

Mental state of murder accused at heart of trial

(Stock picture)
(Stock picture)

Eimear Cotter

The mental health of murder accused Eric Locke at the time he caused his ex-girlfriend's death has exercised the minds of everyone in a packed courtroom No 9 in the Criminal Courts of Justice this week.

Is Mr Locke (35) just a bit odd, with his love of making lists, reading bus timetables and his encyclopaedic knowledge of Manchester United - indeed someone who might do well on a pub quiz team?

Or does he suffer from a mental disorder, namely, pervasive developmental disorder (PDD)?

Was Mr Locke diagnosed with a mental disorder only on the eve of his trial, as prosecutor Remy Farrell SC claimed, or has he "always been different since his teens", as defence counsel Patrick Gageby SC claimed?

Did he kill Sonia Blount because he was angry she was meeting a stranger for sex in a hotel and this induced a rage in him for "revenge and retribution" or was he mentally unwell and suffer an "out of body" experience?

Or as Mr Locke put it: "It was almost like watching someone else do it."

The jury heard from three psychiatrists this week who gave "markedly different" evidence.

However, Mr Gageby told the jury it's not the psychiatrists' function to decide whether Eric Locke is truthful. "You're entitled to cherry-pick", he said.

Read More: Murder accused Eric Locke only diagnosed with mental disorder on 'eve of trial', court hears

Mr Locke (35), of St John's Park East in Clondalkin, Dublin, 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.

The mum-of-one was found dead in a room in the Plaza Hotel in Tallaght on February 16, 2014.

He used a fake Facebook profile to meet Ms Blount, whom he had briefly dated.

In his closing speech to the jury yesterday, Mr Gageby said the totality of the evidence supported Mr Locke having a mental disorder.

Prosecutor Mr Farrell disagreed, saying the evidence clearly showed Mr Locke "knew well" what he was doing was wrong, was able to control himself and there was no question of diminished responsibility due to a mental disorder.

Mr Farrell suggested Mr Locke is an "inveterate liar".

He also said Mr Locke "thought" through every step of meeting Ms Blount, including "needling" her to leave a keycard at hotel reception.

"Ms Blount had understandable contempt for Eric Locke. This 'whackjob', she said. There's no way she would have opened the door to him."

Mr Farrell also asked the jury whether there was one member who believed the sex was consensual, saying this was "integral to his story".

However, Mr Gageby said the diagnosis of PDD stood up, outlining Mr Locke's suicide attempt and treatment in hospital and his dealings with Pieta House.

These are the issues that the jury will have to consider when they begin their deliberations on Monday.

Irish Independent

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