Wednesday 21 March 2018

Shane Smyth found not guilty of murdering Mairead Moran by reason of insanity

Mairead Moran and, inset, Shane Smyth
Mairead Moran and, inset, Shane Smyth

Andrew Phelan

A MENTALLY ill man who stabbed a young shop assistant to death in a frenzied attack at her workplace has been found not guilty of her murder by reason of insanity.

Shane Smyth (29), a paranoid schizophrenic, was suffering from psychotic delusions when he attacked and killed Mairead Moran (26) as she finished her day’s work.

He admitted stabbing her but psychiatrists for both the prosecution and defence concluded he could not have formed intent to kill due to his psychotic state at the time.

A jury this afternoon unanimously delivered the special verdict after a five-day trial before Ms Justice Margaret Heneghan at the Central Criminal Court.

The jury of nine women and three men delivered their verdict just before 4pm after 55 minutes of deliberations.

The accused, wearing a black suit, white shirt and black and white stirped tie, blinked once but gave no other reaction to the verdict when it was read out by the court registrar.

Mairead Moran
Mairead Moran

There was silence in the public gallery, where members of both the Moran and Smyth families were seated.

At the request of John O’Kelly SC, for the prosecution, Judge Heneghan ordered that Mr Smyth be detained at the Central Mental Hospital and consultant psychiatrist Dr Paul O’Connell confirmed that a place was available there.

The judge adjourned proceedings for a week for the production of medical reports.

She thanked the jury and exempted them from service for the rest of their lives.

She said it had been a “very difficult trial” and “some of the evidence was extremely upsetting.”

The judge thanked members of both families who were present. She had asked for the “co-operation” of everyone at the beginning to the trial and said she had received this.

“I can only extend my sympathies to Mairead Moran’s family… it has been a very difficult trial, the circumstances and details that had to be opened (to the court) by necessity were very difficult,” she said.

The judge said it had been a difficult trial for the Smyth family.

Mr Smyth will be be returned to the Central Mental Hospital for ongoing psychiatric treatment.

He stabbed Ms Moran with a dagger after dragging her out of Holland and Barrett health food store at Market Cross Shopping Centre, Kilkenny, on May 8, 2014.

Mr Smyth, with an address at McGuinness House, Evans Lane, Kilkenny had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and had what the defence described as a “deep-seated and firmly held view and belief that Mairead Moran was trying to steal his blood.”

He had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

During the trial, the jury heard Mr Smyth went to the shop to confront her over a delusion that she wanted a “vial of his blood.”

They had had a brief, six-month relationship when he was 19 years old but had since gone their separate ways. Months before the stabbing, however, she complained that he had been hanging around the shop and this “freaked her out.”

She called security who asked him to leave but within minutes, he got back in and attacked her.

Eyewitness Emer Lawlor told the court she heard a scream and saw Mr Smyth pulling Ms Moran out of the shop by the hair stabbing her with a knife into the chest at least three times.

Security staff told him to drop the knife and kicked it away. He was put sitting down while people tended to Ms Moran.

People used clothes to try to slow the flow of blood from her wounds.

Mr Smyth then “hopped up” and ran. Security tried to follow him but he got away, and got a taxi to his cousin Rosemary Grogan’s house.

He had a “wild look in his eyes”, seemed like he was “on another planet” and told her that he had stabbed “his ex-girlfriend”, Ms Grogan said.

He said he thought she had put secret cameras in his house, and black widow spiders which had bitten and paralysed him.

Ms Grogan called his brother Neil, who contacted gardai. Officers later burst into the house to arrest Mr Smyth.

By this time, efforts to resuscitate Ms Moran at St Luke’s Hospital, Kilkenny had been unsuccessful and she was pronounced dead.

When arrested, Mr Smyth told garda: “I stabbed her, Mairead Moran, she tried to nick my blood.”

A post mortem examination by State Pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy concluded that Ms Moran had died from two stab wounds - one that penetrated her heart and left lung, and a second that entered her right kidney and liver.

In all, she had suffered eight stab wounds and another six incised wounds or cuts.

In interview, Mr Smyth admitted to gardai he stabbed Moran but repeatedly told them he did not think he had killed her.

He said he accepted he had inflicted “countless wounds” on her but throughout the interviews, he said he still “had difficulty believing” he had killed Ms Moran.

Mr Smyth had stopped taking medication after his discharge from psychiatric services at the age of 19, the same year that he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

Witnesses who met him in the hours before the stabbing told the court of the “strange” things he told them.

Early that morning, he met Kevin Dollard at McDonald’s.

“He was talking about microchips in his body and being forced into a gang war,” Mr Dollard said.

Ellen Cruise had known Mr Smyth for years and met him as she was bringing her children to school that morning.

Over tea, he told her he had “demonic tendencies. He also had a crystal which he said “shouts at me sometimes.”

Ken O’Reilly, in charge of management at the flats where Mr Smyth had lived, told the court Mr Smyth appeared agitated that day and said he had been “bitten by spiders on his face.”

Mr Smyth’s schizophrenia began to manifest itself in late adolescence.

He told doctors his relationship with his parents broke down when his mother accused him of lighting fires in the house, after which he left the family home.

He had also pinned a note about death to a door on one occasion.

He had believed his mother was “evil” and his brother reported he had once tried to push her down the stairs. He had also assaulted his father, punching him in the face.

Forensic psychiatrist, Dr Brenda Wright, for the prosecution, and Dr Paul O’Connell, for the defence, both said Mr Smyth did not have the capacity to form intent in the killing because of his mental illness.

Dr Wright said Mr Smyth understood what he was doing was legally wrong but harboured a “psychotic moral justification for his behaviour.”

Dr Wright said Mr Smyth’s actions resulted directly from his “delusional beliefs."

Among the delusions he suffered was that someone was putting something toxic into his shampoo which was getting into his brain.

He was described as having auditory hallucinations - hearing voices - and there was evidence he was experiencing "thought withdrawal and insertion."

This was the delusion that thoughts were being put into or taken out of his head out of his control.

In the months before the attack, he described “thought broadcasting” - people saying things he had been thinking.

The report also described “religious grandiosity” - he believed God spoke to him, and that he could control the weather.

He thought his launderette was involved in trying to harm him and someone had stolen his clothes and made a voodoo doll of him.

Once, he opened his apartment window and said he smelled nerve gas- described as an example of an “olfactory hallucination.”

He believed he could smell people in his apartment and believed they had come to blunt his knives.

Another delusion was that he had been ionised by radiation from a U-Boat in Dublin Port.

He believed microchips had been put in his hips to control his actions.

Mr Smyth thought spiders were put in his apartment to harm him and he had been bitten and poisoned by their venom.

He believed people were hacking into his computer games and that Ms Moran was also involved in that.

He believed that she had asked him for a vial of his blood while they were in a relationship and on the day of the attack, he said, he went to ask her why she wanted his blood because he was “curious” about this.

He was also prone to fits of rage at this time and was carrying the knife for his own protection because he believed someone had threatened him with a sword.

Even while being treated after his arrest, he believed Ms Moran was still alive, claiming to have seen her while at St Vincent’s Hospital.

He reported thinking she survived the attack and that the gardai covered it up and charged Mr Smyth with the killing.

Dr Wright and Dr O’Connell both concluded that the accused met all three elements in the defence of insanity.

They said he would require ongoing treatment for his mental disorder in a secure setting - the Central Mental Hospital.

In his closing speech, Colman Cody SC, for the defence said: “It is inexplicable that a young, vibrant girl with her whole life ahead of her had that life ended so abruptly and violently in a short space of time on the eighth of May, 2014.”

Telling the jury not guilty by reason of insanity was the correct verdict, he said: “Not only is it the correct verdict on the evidence but the correct verdict in ensuring that Mr Smyth is properly treated and for the protection of society in general so a shocking tragedy like this may be prevented into the future.”

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