Wednesday 21 February 2018

'Why do you want my blood?' - what mentally-ill man asked before stabbing Mairead, court hears

Shop worker (26) 'attacked and dragged outside store before being stabbed repeatedly', court hears

Mairead Moran
Mairead Moran

Andrew Phelan

A MENTALLY ill man stabbed a young shop assistant to death as she finished her day’s work in a health food store, a court has been told.

Shane Smyth (29) attacked Mairead Moran (26), stabbing her repeatedly with a knife and leaving her fatally injured, a lawyer for the prosecution said.

The Central Criminal Court was told Ms Moran died from a stab wound to her body which went into her heart.

The jury also heard Mr Smyth had been diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic and at the time, had been suffering from a delusion that he was being persecuted and Ms Moran was part of a conspiracy against him.

As the trial got underway today, a jury was told how Ms Moran was attacked at her workplace in a busy shopping centre in Kilkenny city.

Mr Smyth, with an address at McGuinness House, Evans Lane, Kilkenny is charged with murdering Ms Moran on May 8, 2014 at the Market Cross Shopping Centre.

He is pleading not guilty by reason of insanity.

John O’Kelly SC, for the prosecution first reminded the jury that the defendant enjoys a presumption of innocence. He said the prosecution carries a burden of proof and this “never shifts” from the prosecution.

He told the jury members that they would be the judges of fact in the trial. He said the defence of insanity must be proven on the balance of probabilities rather than beyond reasonable doubt.

Mr O’Kelly said an unlawful killing is not murder unless the accused intended to kill or cause serious harm.

He said a lot of the factual evidence in the case was not going to be disputed.

The public gallery of courtroom 13 at the Criminal Courts of Justice was full as Mr O’Kelly delivered his opening speech.

Outlining the prosecution’s case, he said Ms Moran had been working on the late shift and people were coming and going in the shopping centre.

The accused had known her years earlier from when they were in their late teens.

They went out together for several months, Ms Moran was away for some time, then came back to the area and got a job in the shop.

Mr Smith had been living in the area throughout that time, Mr O’Kelly continued.

He had been diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2005 and had been treated and after this was back out in the community.

He and Ms Moran “very seldom met” over this period.

In the months leading up to May 2014, Mr Smyth became aware of where Ms Moran was working. There had been previous occasions where he had confronted her and he had spat at her once, which had disturbed and upset her. Apart from that, she “went on with her life.”

On the night, Mr Smyth turned up at around 8pm and started speaking to Ms Moran “quite aggressively.”

“You will hear evidence that people heard him asking a question - ‘Why did you want my blood?”, Mr O’Kelly told the jury.

Ms Moran was in tears and a security man saw what was happening. He went across and spoke to Mr Smyth and there was an exchange of words between them.

Mr Smyth was saying he just wanted to talk to her and reluctantly left, Mr O’Kelly said.

Within five minutes, he got back in and “this terrible attack took place.”

“It ended up with Ms Moran being attacked in the shop and being dragged outside and she was stabbed repeatedly by Mr Smyth with a knife he had brought,” Mr O’Kelly told the jury.

There were people around and they came over and disarmed the accused. He was told to drop the knife, he did so and it was kicked away by a security guard.

He was put sitting on the ground while people tended to Ms Moran who was very seriously injured.

Mr Smyth then “hopped up” and ran out of the centre. People tried to follow him but he got away, emerging close to Kilkenny Castle, where he got a taxi to his cousin’s house.

The court heard while there he told his cousin that he had stabbed “his ex-girlfriend.”

Gardai were made aware of where he was and they went to the house and arrested him. He was brought to a garda station and examined by a psychiatrist and interviewed by gardai. Psychiatrists’ reports were prepared.

The background was the onset of illness happened in his late adolescence and Mr Smyth remained mentally ill, Mr O’Kelly said.

He displayed psychosis, suffering from delusions about “spider infestation and thought broadcasting.”

According to a report, he “clearly failed to appreciate the enormity of his actions.” The psychiatrist found Mr Smyth’s behaviour at the time was “driven by active symptoms of mental illness” and his reasoning was “grossly impaired.”

“He would have been unable to reason about the wrongness of his actions,” the report stated. Another psychiatrist said the accused would not have had the capacity to form intent as a result of his mental disorder.

According to the report, he “did not understand the nature and quality of his actions” and believed he was being persecuted. He believed people were conspiring against him and that Ms Moran was part of this conspiracy.

He had believed he was being victimised and that his life was in danger, a second report continued.

Colman Cody SC, for the defence, said that eight facts were being admitted.

The first was that Ms Moran died as a result of injuries inflicted by the accused with a knife. The second was that she died of a stab wound to the trunk as determined by the State Pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy.

The third accepted fact was that Mr Smyth was lawfully arrested and detained. The fourth was that he was fit to be interviewed having been examined by a consultant psychiatrist.

The fifth fact, Mr Cody said, was that the physical evidence was lawfully seized by the gardai.

The sixth was that the scene of the alleged crime was lawfully preserved; the seventh was that warrants were lawfully obtained and executed and the final accepted fact was that the forensic evidence was not disputed.

Mr Smyth, wearing a black suit, grey shirt and tie and with long hair tied in a ponytail and a long beard sat and listened as the lawyers addressed the jury.

Led through his evidence by John O’Kelly SC, for the prosecution, Security guard James Coffey said he asked the man to leave the centre.

He had noticed the girl seemed upset and the man was in an agitated mood.

“He was accusing Ms Moran of working for a company who kidnapped him and stole his blood,” Mr Coffey said.

He asked him “politely” a number of times and Mr Smyth kept saying “why.”

Mr Smyth made a kick at him but did not connect. He then made a grab for his radio, which he threw over the balcony to the lower level.

Mr Smyth went out the James’s Street entrance.

Mr Coffey followed him to the exit and saw him walk up the street. While he was talking on the radio he saw people running to Holland and Barrett.

The first thing he saw was a cut near Ms Moran’s eye and thought Mr Smyth had hit her. The accused dropped his hands to his side and that was when Mr Coffey saw the knife.

It was five to six inches long and had a timber handle and blood on it.

“He had a completely blank look on his face, like he didn’t even realise what he was after doing,” Mr Coffey said.

When Mr Smyth left again, Mr Coffey slipped and did not see which way he ran.

An elderly man came and asked: “who done it?”

Cross-examined by Colman Cody SC, for the defence, Mr Coffey agreed that the man had been “accusing Ms Moran of working for a company who kidnapped him and stole his blood,” Mr Coffey said.

A witness, Angela Hennessy, said she saw a man abusing the security guard. The man had a “goth or grungy look about him.”

He was roaring and shouting and the language he was using made her nervous.

She recalled he was saying: “I just want to get into the shop, will you just let me into the f***ing shop? I just want to talk to her.”

The security guard was trying to defuse the situation. The woman was crying and her eyes were swollen and red, Ms Hennessy said.

However, she felt the security guard had the situation under control.

“I had a funny feeling about him, he just seemed really angry,” she said of the man.

When she passed the shop again, she saw the girl lying on the ground in front of it.

She got “such a fright” when she saw this. A younger security guard had towels and there were “people running in all directions.”

Someone told her: “that girl is after being stabbed.” The gardai and an ambulance arrived. She did not see the man who had been angry with the girl again.

“My abiding memory of the guy was how angry he was,” she said. “He was nearly shaking.”

Emer Lawlor told the court she saw a young man who was “quite aggressive” and shouting. She saw him take something off a security guard and throw it over the railings.

She had only gone a few yards when she heard a scream from behind.

She turned and saw the same man pulling the girl from Holland and Barrett.

“He was pulling her by the hair with his left hand and stabbing her with a knife into the chest,” Ms Lawlor said, adding that she saw the man stab the girl at least three times. There was blood all over the girl’s hand and she “screamed even more when she saw the blood.”

A security guard ran over to the girl and pulled the man off her, she said.

Ms Lawlor did not ring 999 because a security was on the phone to the gardai.

The court heard she thought she heard the man shouting “you took my gun,” but she was not certain of this because she could not hear properly.

The trial continues before Ms Justice Margaret Heneghan and a jury of nine women and three men. It is expected to conclude within a week.

Mr O’Kelly continued to lead witnesses through the statements they had given gardai.

A cleaner, Pieota Duda, said he saw a man punching a woman, as he thought, a little outside the shop.

He was punching her in the body using a fist. The man stopped hitting the girl as he approached and Mr Duda saw the knife in his hand. It was a hunter’s knife and the man brandished it in front of him.

Mr Duda asked him why he did that but he said nothing. Mr Duda was “scared of him.”

He gave his phone to security man Liam Dwyer to call the gardai and and ambulance.

“I had never seen anything like that, I was in shock and I am still in shock today,” Mr Duda said in his statement. “I have not slept fully since this, waking up thinking about it.”

He said Ms Moran “was always happy and smiling.”

Mr Dwyer said in his statement he saw the knife in the man’s hand when he held it up.

Mr Dwyer told the man to put the knife down three times. The third time, he dropped the knife and Mr Dwyer put his foot on it and slid it away.

He told the man to sit down on the floor and he replied: “no, I’m sitting over there” at a corner pillar. While their attention was turned to Ms Moran, the man turned and ran away.

Mr Dwyer gave chase and the man dropped a Nintendo DS Light. When he returned, Ms Moran was lying on her back being tended to by two people - Joan Donovan and Seamus Walsh, who were trying to stop the bleeding.

Mr Dwyer took off his shirt to try to stop the blood, then opened the first aid kit and gave to the people trying to help.

Mr Dwyer tried to reassure Ms Moran but noticed that her eyes had gone back in her head and her jaw was slack.

“You knew she was in serious trouble,” Mr O’Kelly said to the witness.

Mr Dwyer had noticed that the attacker had been wearing one red fingerless glove on the hand he used to stab Ms Moran.

“I didn’t see any emotion, not a bit,” he said. “He was so calm after what he had done.”

Penney’s security guard Liam Connolly said there was “blood everywhere” when he got to the scene.

He saw a dagger.

“I was in shock, I hadn’t expected to see that when I went upstairs,” he said.

Publican Seamus Walsh said he heard screams and saw what he thought was two women fighting. One was standing over the other with their arm swinging “in a punching fashion.”

He realised the attacker was a man - the man walked in an arc, saying “you stole my f***ing blood.”

Mr Walsh told the man to drop the knife and  “it appeared to me he had accomplished what he had come to do.”

Mr Walsh knelt down and got Ms Moran’s name from her name tag. Ms Donovan joined him and they used her jacket to try to slow the  blood coming from Ms Moran’s wounds.

“I couldn’t figure out where all the blood was coming from - there was so much blood,” he said.

He also saw a huge gash on her finger. He held her hand and spoke to her.

Ms Moran’s lips had turned blue and she “stayed with us for a few moments” before fading. She “came back” again but started gurgling and “faded again.”

Ms Donovan said she had heard the girl screaming “help me, help me.” When she got there she helped put pressure on the wounds and asked Mr Walsh to keep her talking and awake.

“While I was there she didn’t say anything, she was gasping for breath,” Ms Donovan said.

Several statements were then read out to court.

In one, a fifth year student said he saw the man hit the girl into the stomach area several times. She saw blood across her forehead and she was screaming as if she was in pain.

Another witness, Marion Clifford said in a statement she saw the man “lighting a fag” and sitting down smoking it.

A woman described seeing Ms Moran in “the foetal position.”

“I was on my way up to help her and when he stood up with the knife in his hand, dripping blood, I froze, I was in total shock,” she said.

Butcher Jimmy O’Hara said he took off his apron and tied the string around Ms Moran’s arm, which was cut.

“There was a lot of blood coming from this woman, the eyes were rolling back in her head, she was losing consciousness, she was finding it very difficult to breathe,” he said.

Supervalu worker Paula Begley said she saw a man in black looking in the shop’s exit door before turning to walk towards Holland and Barrett.

When she was told about the stabbing she brought a blanket. She knew the man from coming to buy cigarettes in the shop,

Garda Noel Casey said he took the 999 call. Garda Liam Murphy went to the scene and found Ms Moran “very pale and unresponsive.”

He told the people helping to keep pressure on the wounds until the paramedics arrived. The accused was later arrested at Hazel Grove, Loughboy.

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