Sunday 18 March 2018

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

Eric Locke, inset, who murdered Sonia Blount
Eric Locke, inset, who murdered Sonia Blount

Eimear Cotter

A MURDER accused who strangled his ex-girlfriend to death was only diagnosed with a mental disorder on the eve of his trial, a jury has been told.

Prosecution counsel Remy Farrell SC described this as the “elephant” in the room.

“How is it that a man reaches his mid 30s and the eve of his murder trial before anyone diagnoses him, and that diagnosis is now being relied upon”, he said.

Mr Farrell was giving his closing speech to the jury in the trial of Eric Locke (35) for the murder of Sonia Blount.

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

Mr Locke (35), of St John’s Park East in Clondalkin, has admitted he caused her death but says he did not mean to kill her and is pleading the defence of diminished responsibility.

Victim: Sonia Blount
Victim: Sonia Blount

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

Mr Farrell said that Mr Locke’s pervasive development disorder (PDD) was only diagnosed a couple of days before the trial, and he noted what prosecution psychiatrist Dr Frank Felly told the court – that a diagnosis of PDD is rarely made after three years of age, and incredibly rarely after six years old.

Mr Farrell told the jury that only one account – Mr Locke’s – has emerged of what happened in Room 346 of the Plaza hotel, and the psychiatrists had given their views based on Mr Locke’s narrative of the events.

“You have to decide if you accept the account Eric Locke has given. If you do think, yeah, it probably happened that way, it is of vital importance.

“If you think something else happened, your deliberations may be very swift”, Mr Farrell told the jury.

He suggested that Mr Locke appears to be an “inveterate liar”.

Sonia Blount
Sonia Blount

Read More: Eric Locke was 'angry ex-girlfriend was meeting stranger for sex and wanted revenge' - court hears

Mr Farrell asked the jury to look at the “elaborate lies” Mr Locke told his sister, when he asked her to get in touch with a friend to see if he could hack Mr Blount’s Facebook page, as he claimed she’d been “ripping him off”.

He pointed out the texts Mr Locke sent to Ms Blount where he “keeps needling her” so a key card is left at the hotel reception, and the CCTV footage which shows him put on a hat in the lift as he heads up to the bedroom.

“Mr Locke thought through every step of this. He did not want to knock the door, because if Sonia Blount spotted him she would not have opened the door”, he said.

The funeral cortage of Sonia Blount (inset) pictured leaving the Holy Rosary Church, Ballycragh
The funeral cortage of Sonia Blount (inset) pictured leaving the Holy Rosary Church, Ballycragh

“Ms Blount had understandable contempt for Eric Locke. This “whackjob”, she said. There’s no way she would have opened the door.”

Mr Farrell described as “distasteful” an argument by defence psychiatrist Dr Sean O Domhnaill that Ms Blount knew on a subconscious level that “Shane Cully” was in fact Mr Locke.

“It’s utter nonsense. It’s quackology”, he said, “There’s no evidence of this. In fact, it flies in the face of the evidence”.

The evidence, Mr Farrell said, is that Ms Blount told friends she’d wondered but had discounted the idea after “Shane Cully” sent her an intimate selfie.

Read More: Sonia accused 'killed out of anger, not mental illness'

Mr Farrell also asked the jury to look at the garda interviews with Mr Locke, saying he initially told them Ms Blount was expecting him.

“That’s a flat out lie. His story emerged by a drip feed basis over 24 hours”, he said.

Mr Farrell said Mr Locke explained to gardai all the injuries Ms Blount gave to him, but claimed his memory of what he did to her was hazy.

“You either remember it or you don’t”, he told the jury.

He also said it was only in the fifth garda interview that Mr Locke admitted the pair had sex, which Mr Locke claimed was initiated by Ms Blount.

“It most have been an amazing and unexpected reconciliation”, he said, “Most guys turn up with flowers but Mr Locke has cable ties and an airgun. Maybe Mr Locke is charming, or very lucky, but within a short period they’re engaging in kissing and heavy petting”.

Mr Farrell said the jury must decide if this is “utter nonsense”.

He said Mr Locke cannot give any account of why he reached for the cable ties and duct tape.

“He gets back with his ex, has consensual sex and for some reasons he reaches for items of domination and restraint”, he said.

Mr Farrell said Mr Locke explanation to another defence psychiatrist Dr Richard Bunn was that he couldn’t ejaculate so he reached for the comfort of his suicide kit.

“If you can figure that out, best of luck to you”, he told the jury.

Read More: Accused 'lied to save his skin' over Sonia death

The court heard that Mr Locke had also downplayed the level of violence he used. This was clear from the pathology report from Prof Marie Cassidy, the jury was told.

“Eric Locke clearly gave Ms Blount a beating. She clearly fought for her life”, he said.

He added: “His first attempt [at strangulation] was with the mobile phone cable. When that wasn’t enough he literally rolled up his sleeves and did it with his hands”, said Mr Farrell, adding the force was such that the small bones in Ms Blount’s neck were broken.

Mr Farrell said the cornerstone of the defence case was the evidence of psychiatrist Dr Sean O Domhnaill, who diagnosed Mr Locke with PDD.

However, Mr Farrell said Dr O Domhnaill’s lack of familiarity with the evidence was stunning.

“This suggests a basic concern about his competence as a witness in a case like this,“ he said.

Mr Farrell said Dr O Domhnaill claims there’s no obvious evidence of planning and the meeting with Ms Blount is “chaotic”.

“I suggest it’s anything but”, he said.

Mr Farrell said Mr Locke told psychiatrists he dressed Ms Blount’s body to give her “dignity in death”.

Mr Farrell asked the jury to look at the pictures of Ms Blount’s body on the floor of Room 346.

“Ms Blount was lying on the ground on her side, she was dressed with a top shoved in her mouth. Consider that scene, how consistent is that with dignity in death”, he asked.

Mr Farrell said Mr Locke had only one reason to dress Ms Blount and that was to “cover up his act”.

Defence counsel, Patrick Gageby SC, will give his closing address to the jury this afternoon.

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