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Mentally ill man believed killing his landlord and eating his heart would end evil in the world, inquest hears

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Saverio

Saverio

Tom O'Gorman

Tom O'Gorman

Paul O'Gorman at the Coroner's Court inquest into the death of his brother Tom O'Gorman. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins Photos

Paul O'Gorman at the Coroner's Court inquest into the death of his brother Tom O'Gorman. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins Photos

Maria Steen at the Coroner's Court inquest into the death of Tom O'Gorman. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins Photos

Maria Steen at the Coroner's Court inquest into the death of Tom O'Gorman. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins Photos

Journalist Tom O'Gorman who died in the early hours of January 12, 2014.

Journalist Tom O'Gorman who died in the early hours of January 12, 2014.

Saverio Bellante was found not guilty of murder by reason of insanity

Saverio Bellante was found not guilty of murder by reason of insanity

Paul o Gorman at the Coroners Court inquest into the death of Tom O Gorman on Store Street, Dublin. Gareth Chaney/ Collins Photos

Paul o Gorman at the Coroners Court inquest into the death of Tom O Gorman on Store Street, Dublin. Gareth Chaney/ Collins Photos

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Saverio

An Italian national who was diagnosed with schizophrenia believed killing his landlord and eating his victim’s heart would put an end to evil in the world, an inquest has heard.

The inquest into the death of Tom O’Gorman, who died at his family home in Dublin eight years ago, heard evidence that his killer, Saverio Bellante, was suffering delusions at the time, believing he was God and on “a special mission against the forces of evil in the world”.

Mr O’Gorman (39), a journalist and researcher with the Iona Institute, was killed by Bellante at his home on Beechpark Avenue, Castleknock, in the early hours of January 12, 2014, after a row developed between the pair over a game of chess.

Bellante (43), who was only identified as Mr B during the inquest, was found not guilty of Mr O’Gorman’s murder by reason of insanity by a jury at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin in July 2015.

The native of Palermo in Sicily, who worked with a pharmaceutical company in Dublin, has been detained at the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum since being committed there following his trial.

Forensic psychiatrist, Stephen Monks, told the inquest at Dublin Coroner’s Court that Bellante’s condition led him to believe that Mr O’Gorman was “a fake” in the days before his death.

The inquest heard Bellante had been receiving treatment for his schizophrenia in Ireland since arriving here in 2011. His anti-psychotic medication was being reduced over a period of 18 months and finally stopped on January 9, 2014 – just over 48 hours before Mr O’Gorman’s killing.

Dr Monks said Bellante’s delusional mood led him to sense some inexplicable change in his environment at the time where he felt there was “a battle between forces of good and evil”.

He said Bellante became “profoundly paranoid” and would take serious meanings out of mundane events.

He said the lodger’s acute psychosis led him to believe that Mr O’Gorman was trying to end his freedom and enslave him.

While Bellante knew that killing someone was morally wrong, Dr Monks said he became convinced that Mr O’Gorman’s killing was right and entirely justified.

Questioned by the Coroner Myra Cullinane, Dr Monks said most relapses would occur within six months of stopping medication in someone with Bellante’s condition, but he accepted that “rapid rebounds can occur”.

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Dr Monks said Bellante’s siblings had told him their brother’s mental illness, which was first diagnosed in 2005, had led him at one stage to adopting the posture of a crucifixion as well as becoming obsessed with religious matters.

The psychiatrist, who was asked by the DPP to assess Bellante for the criminal trial for Mr O’Gorman’s murder, said he found the accused fit to enter a plea but his case met the criteria for a finding of not guilty due to reason of insanity.

Asked by counsel for the O’Gorman family, Ciaran Craven SC, if he was aware that Bellante had been hospitalised on three occasions in Italy because of psychotic episodes, Dr Monks said he only knew that the patient had been admitted twice “in close succession”.

He acknowledged that previous patterns of a relapse could be an indicator of future reactions in a patient.

Former State pathologist Marie Cassidy, who carried out a post-mortem on Mr O’Gorman’s body, said he died as a result of blunt force trauma to the head and stab wounds to the neck and chest.

The inquest heard DNA evidence was needed to formally identify the deceased.

She said most of Mr O’Gorman’s right lung had been removed from his body, while there was also extensive damage to his liver.

The pathologist said Mr O’Gorman had suffered three stab wounds to the face and one stab wound to the neck which had pierced his carotid artery and jugular vein.

Dr Cassidy said a series of blunt force injuries to the victim’s skull were consistent with him being struck with a dumbbell that was found near the scene.

“Any one of the blows could have rendered him unconscious almost immediately. Death would have been fairly swift,” Dr Cassidy said.

She said the evidence suggested that Mr O’Gorman had tried to defend himself against the stab wounds which would indicate those injuries preceded the injuries to his head.

While Prof Cassidy said she could not be conclusive, she said it was likely that the injuries to Mr O’Gorman’s chest areas occurred after he was dead.

The inquest heard evidence that a paramedic who arrived at the house found a garden shears covered in blood under a piano in the room where Mr O’Gorman was found.

The paramedic, Philip Kelly, said a lot of the victim’s internal organs were visible.

He also described finding body matter on a plate in the kitchen which he said looked like “a piece of liver”.

Several pieces of body tissue were also found in a nearby rubbish bag.

David Owens, a telephone operator who took a 999 call about the incident at 1.50am on January 12, 2014, said Bellante had asked gardaí to be sent to the house as he had killed Mr O’Gorman within the previous 30 minutes.

Mr Owens said he was told that the deceased had been killed with a knife and dumbbell because he “didn’t play by the rules during a game of chess”.

The first garda on the scene, Detective Garda Sarah Smith, said Bellante appeared “very calm” when he opened the door to her at 1.56am.

Det Gda Smith said Bellante, who had blood on his jumper, jeans and boots, told her they were playing chess before adding: “We had a fight and I stabbed him.”

Another officer, Detective Garda Patrick Traynor, said the accused claimed Mr O’Gorman had become angry because he (Bellante) had “moved the king” during a game of chess.

Det Gda Traynor said he found a blood-stained knife, whose blade had been broken off two inches from the handle, near the victim.

In a statement, the deceased’s sister, Catherine O’Gorman, said there was something about Bellante which made her feel uncomfortable when she first met him after returning to Ireland for the Christmas holidays in 2013.

The inquest heard that Ms O’Gorman and her younger brother, Paul, were concerned that their brother, who had stayed on in the family home following the death of their parents, had wanted to take in a lodger to help pay the bills.

However, Ms O’Gorman said the siblings had agreed he could take in a lodger on a trial basis until Easter.

She said her brother had met Bellante through Focolare – an international organisation promoting universal brotherhood of which they were both members.

Her first impression of Bellante was that he was very intense and serious and someone who would get frustrated when engaging in conversation.

However, she acknowledged that her late brother had never raised any concerns about Bellante having an aggressive or violent nature.

Over the Christmas holidays when the family had tried to involve the lodger in the festive celebrations, she recalled one occasion when her brother and Bellante had a “heated discussion” about Cuba and Che Guevara.

She knew they played chess together as her brother had remarked that Bellante was “useless” at the game.

Her brother, Paul O’Gorman, admitted he was unhappy about their brother taking a lodger into the family home which they all owned but at the same time felt the company would be good for him.

The witness said his late brother was just very generous and very trusting and wanted to help someone out.

However, Mr O’Gorman said he had never met Bellante who had moved into the house in November 2013.

While his brother did not know much about his lodger’s background, he had described him as “an OK bloke”.

A friend and fellow member of Focolare, Brendan Gallagher, gave evidence that Bellante left a voice message on his mobile phone at around 10.50am on January 11, 2014, that he had a fight with Mr O’Gorman and wanted him (Gallagher) to referee the incident.

Mr Gallagher said he believed it was “a very minor issue” when he checked his voicemail some time later.

While he intended to call his two friends later that day, Mr Gallagher said he was subsequently contacted by gardaí about what had happened which left him “highly surprised and lost for words”.

A director of the Iona Institute, Maria Steen, told the inquest how she had met Mr O’Gorman near Grafton Street in Dublin just hours before his death.

She described her friend as being “in good spirits” and “upbeat and chatty” with nothing untoward in his demeanour.

The founder of the Iona Institute and newspaper columnist, David Quinn, described his former friend and colleague as “happy-go-lucky sociable fellow” who had never shown any sign of aggression or violence.

Another friend, Raymond Dillon, told gardaí how he had met Mr O’Gorman in a barber’s on Dame Lane at around 5pm where they spoke about politics and Christmas.

In July 2019, Mr O’Gorman’s siblings took a High Court challenge against a refusal of the coroner to conduct an “enhanced” inquest into their brother’s death.

Lawyers for the family claimed they were looking for such an inquiry because they believed Bellante’s trial was insufficient for the purpose of a proper investigation into his killing.

However, the legal proceedings were subsequently discontinued.

An objection by a legal representative of the HSE was raised during the inquest on Monday when questions were raised about Bellante’s past medical history.

A jury of four women and three men returned a narrative verdict in accordance with the evidence including the fact that Bellante had discontinued his medicine shortly before Mr O’Gorman’s death.

The foreperson of the jury said the jurors had been "deeply impacted" by the case.


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