Monday 23 October 2017

Sister of murder accused said she was 'always worried' about his mental health

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

Eimear Cotter

The sister of a man accused of strangling his ex-girlfriend to death had “always worried” that he was mentally unwell, but was unsure what condition he had, a jury has heard.

Consultant psychiatrist, Dr Sean O’Domhnaill, also said he found it “difficult to discount” that mum of one Sonia Blount had a “suspicion” she was going to meet Eric Locke, rather than Shane Cully, on the night she died.

Dr O’Domhnaill accepted Ms Blount told her friends that Mr Locke was “a psycho” but he wondered if there was “a residual part of her that liked Mr Locke”.

Prosecutor Remy Farrell put it to Dr O’Domhnaill that he had “swallowed hook, line and sinker” everything Mr Locke had told him.

He denied this, saying he had been around a long time.

Eric Locke (35) 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.

It is the prosecution case that Mr Locke, of St John’s Park East in Clondalkin, posed as another man on Facebook and arranged a meeting in the Plaza Hotel in Tallaght, where he strangled her to death.

Her body was found in a room in the hotel on February 16, 2014.

The pair had briefly dated but the relationship ended on January 11, 2014 after he called her a “slut” in a row after a night out.

He later told gardai, during interview, that he became “severely hurt and depressed” when Ms Blount blocked him on Facebook, blanked him at work and told him to stop texting her.

Prosecutor Remy Farrell SC continued his cross examination of consultant psychiatrist Dr Sean O’Domhnaill this morning.

Dr O’Domhnaill said that in the weeks leading up to Ms Blount’s death Mr Locke told him he had made several suicide attempts.

“Four or five, I believe”.

He clarified they were para suicide attempts, where he had everything in place, and said that Mr Locke, “never put a rope around his neck”.

He accepted Mr Locke had told him about these attempts, and apart from an attempt in January 2014 when gardai were contacted, he had no clear evidence of any other attempts.

Dr O’Domhnaill said Mr Locke’s sister, Suzanne O’Neill, told him she believed her brother had “some serious psychiatric condition which had been missed”.

He said Ms O’Neill told him she often tried to get Eric to open up about what was going on in his head, but it was only once after a few drinks, that he revealed he had suffered depression for 10 years, and had made a number of suicide attempts in his teens.

The jury heard Mr Locke’s sister had “always worried about him”, and had been concerned he was mentally unwell.

Dr O’Domhnaill also said Mr Locke suffers from alexithymia, an inability to describe or express his own emotions.

Mr Farrell questioned Dr O’Domhnaill about the texts Mr Locke sent to Ms Blount where he expressed his love and sadness to her.

He said Mr Locke barely knew Ms Blount, and while he may have been infatuated with her, hyperkinetic stress or anxiety was really the mental state he was experiencing.

“What he should have said was ‘I’m extremely agitated, my head is wrecked, I can’t come to terms with this”, said Dr O’Domhnaill.

Mr Farrell put it to Dr O’Domhnaill said Mr Locke had expressed this, telling Ms Blount his “head was minced”.

Dr O’Domhnaill said the overwhelming impression he had of Mr Locke was of someone who was trying to meet Ms Blount to explain what he was going through.

Mr Farrell put it to him that Dr O’Domhnaill was “making it up as you go along”.

The doctor denied this, saying Mr Locke’s entire life showed he was alexithymic.

“He never clearly identified what his emotional states where, he couldn’t describe them and therefore he couldn’t get help for them”, he said.

Dr O’Domhnaill said Mr Locke’s way to deal with his anxiety, to “quieten his mind” had been to drink a bottle and a half of Jack Daniels every day.

“He couldn’t identify what he was suffering so he drank to deaden it”, said Dr O’Domhnaill.

The doctor said that when he spoke to Mr Locke, he told him that Ms Blount was “half surprised” but “half expected” he was the fictitious Shane Cully.

Mr Farrell put it to him she was sure Shane Cully wasn’t Mr Locke, as he had sent her a picture of a penis, which clearly wasn’t Mr Locke’s, which has surgical scaring.

“I found it difficult to discount that Ms Blount had a suspicion she was going to meet Mr Locke”, he said.

“Without knowing Ms Blount, it is difficult to know what situation she would put herself in”.

Mr Farrell continues his cross examination this afternoon.

Yesterday, Dr O’Domhnaill said it was his belief that Mr Locke went to the Plaza Hotel in Tallaght with the intention of “tying Ms Blount to a chair and forcing her to listen to him”.

He said Mr Locke wasn’t able to process the ending of his relationship with Ms Blount, became “extremely frustrated” when she cut off all communication and was “obsessed” with telling her how much he was suffering.

Dr O'Domhnaill told the court that, in his opinion, Mr Locke has a pervasive developmental disorder, and displays some, but not all the features, of autism spectrum disorder, as well as hyperkinetic disorder, or ADHD.

He also suffers from a very severe generalised anxiety disorder.

Dr O’Domhnaill said these conditions would have rendered Mr Locke incapable of being fully responsible for his actions, and his mental state was such that he would be described as having diminished responsibility at the time of Ms Blount’s death.

The trial continues before Mr Justice Michael Moriarty and a jury of eight men and four women.

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