Saturday 21 September 2019

Teenager who slashed woman's throat was watching porn from age 11

Boy deemed to pose ‘potentially fatal’ risk to others

Attempted murder: The scene where the teenager attacked the 25-year-old woman he had met online
Attempted murder: The scene where the teenager attacked the 25-year-old woman he had met online

Natasha Reid

A teenager who slashed the throat of a woman he met online had unsupervised access to extreme pornography from a young age, and posed a "potentially fatal" risk to others, a court has heard.

The Central Criminal Court also heard the boy's parents were of the view that the antidepressant the 15-year-old was then taking was relevant to why he committed the offence.

The teenager, who cannot be named because of his age, is now 16. He has pleaded guilty to attempting to murder Stephanie Ng on December 23, 2017, near the seafront at Queen's Road, Dún Laoghaire.

He had met his 25-year-old victim on the social media app Whisper, where he had pretended to be 19. The boy tried to kill her during their first face-to-face meeting, after suggesting they take a selfie by the water's edge.

There, he grabbed her from behind and choked her to unconsciousness before slashing her neck with a knife.

Gardaí later found a book of drawings in his bedroom, containing a sketch of someone being cut up with a knife. The words "serial killer", had been written on another page.

A consultant forensic psychiatrist testified at a sentencing hearing yesterday, after preparing a court-ordered report.

Dr Richard Church told Paul Burns SC, prosecuting, that he interviewed the boy and his parents earlier this month.

The teenager had attended a prestigious secondary school but had made no friends and later moved to another school. His parents said he was bullied by exclusion in school and had been very depressed.

He used to spend from midday to 6am playing video games, including military simulation games. His parents had tried to limit his time playing, even cutting off the internet connection at one stage.

The boy was asked about his use of the Whisper app.

"I was trying to improve my social skills," he said. "I wanted to reject someone like I was rejected."

He was asked about his sexual behaviour and if he had a girlfriend, boyfriend or sexual intercourse.

The boy said that he had watched pornography online since the age of 11 or 12 and that had increased as he got older, and listed several sorts of pornography he watched.

He also said that he had used Tor browsers, which can be used to access the 'Dark Web' and are difficult to trace, with the user's privacy protected.

The defendant had told him that he knew it was "very illegal and messed up".

Dr Church had asked if had watched violent pornography.

"Maybe force, but not violent, never blood or choking," he replied, adding that his parents were unaware that he'd been accessing pornography.

He said that his violent thoughts had first started around 2015, which he described as a frustrating time, when he was very angry with himself and had no energy by the end of the day.

The psychiatrist asked him about the attack on Ms Ng and he said he had first contacted her two weeks beforehand.

He was asked about his messages to her, including asking if she wanted to die in Dublin. He explained that he'd meant in the future, after she'd travelled the world. "You're scaring me," she had replied.

He said that he knew he was going to meet her so he shut down his emotions.

"The performer kicked in," explained the boy.

He said he was feeling powerful, like he had new blood in his veins. "I had a voice in my head saying: 'You have to do this', so I attacked," he said.

The boy said he had bought the knife in Lidl, after realising that "you could just buy a knife and attack someone".

"He said he just wanted to attack somebody or a squirrel, but no squirrel came," testified Dr Church.

The boy said that he was surprised Ms Ng had survived.

"I was happy she survived because it meant I wasn't a murderer," he said. "First, I was not happy she survived because it meant there was more evidence against me."

The boy told the psychiatrist that he now regretted his actions because he had hurt everyone. He reported feeling complete remorse and said that what he had done was "cruel, demonic and evil".

Dr Church had also interviewed the boy's parents, who said he'd been skipping school, feeling he would hurt someone. They had sought professional help and were told they should remain with him 24 hours a day, which they did for October, November and December of 2017.

Their son told them that he felt amazing on his prescribed antidepressant fluoxetine, sometimes sold as Prozac.

They said he'd committed the offence at the height of those difficulties. It was the first time he'd been let out on his own in months.

They had let him out because they thought he was better, but he was actually sick.

Dr Church carried out a risk assessment that concluded the boy posed a risk to others.

This had "the potential to be life-changing or fatal" but was currently lowered within Oberstown Detention Centre.

Mr Justice Michael White remanded the boy in custody until October 7, when Patrick Gageby SC will put forward the defence case.

Irish Independent

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