Thursday 22 February 2018

Psychiatric patient on trial for strangling fellow patient had 'thoughts of hanging himself with his belt', court hears

Ian Harman
Ian Harman

A psychiatric patient who told gardai that he used a belt to strangle a fellow patient revealed to nursing staff that he had “thoughts of hanging himself with his belt” days before the alleged offence, a murder trial was told today.

Ian Harman (50), of Carrickallen, Mountain Lodge, Cootehill, Co Cavan, has pleaded not guilty at the Central Criminal Court to the murder of Michael Treanor at the Psychiatric Unit of Cavan General Hospital, Lisdarn, Co Cavan, on June 27, 2011.

Last week the court was told Mr Harman, who was had been admitted to the hospital on a voluntary basis after several suicide attempts, said to Nurse Kathleen Treanor that he had “done a bad thing” moments before Mr Treanor’s body was discovered in his bed.

Hours after his arrest Mr Harman told gardai he had strangled Mr Treanor with a belt and placed a pillow over his face to suffocate him.

Today, Ms Treanor confirmed to defence counsel Caroline Biggs SC that clinical notes of Mr Harman’s care recorded that on June 21, 2011, the accused revealed “thoughts of killing himself with the belt of his trousers” to a member of the nursing staff of the secure unit.

Ms Biggs added that a belt was taken away from Mr Harman shortly after his arrest for the murder of Mr Treanor.

Ms Treanor also confirmed that Mr Harman said he needed to sleep “desperately”, was “strongly agitated”, and had been “frantically pacing the corridor” on the morning before the alleged killing.

The trial before Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and a jury of six men and six women continues.

Last week, the court was told how Mr Harman informed gardai after his arrest that he had  “fantasising about ways of getting into prison” and considered killing “a couple of his neighbours” prior to his admission to hospital. 

He said during his garda interview that he had been “thinking of killing Michael Treanor for a couple mornings now”.

He said: “I knew exactly what I was doing when I killed Michael Treanor. He was an easy target. He was an old man who had dementia. He did not seem to have any life but that did not give me the right to kill him.”

Opening the trial, Mr McCarthy said Mr Harman, who was originally from England, was a voluntary patient at the unit; while Mr Treanor, who was from Co Monaghan, had been admitted on an involuntary basis.

He said Mr Harman had been admitted to the unit following a suicide attempt.

Ms Biggs told the jury earlier this week that she was instructed “to make certain submissions on behalf of her client”, which included that her client accepted he caused the death of Mr Treanor and that he had no issue or challenge with the identity of the deceased, the preservation of the scene or Mr Harman’s arrest and subsequent charge.

The defence counsel said she hoped such admissions would help the jury “focus on the state of mind of the accused”.

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