Wednesday 11 December 2019

Wife of psychiatric patient accused of murdering fellow patient tells court her 'loveable' husband had been in a 'dark place'

Peter Doyle

THE wife of a psychiatric patient accused of murdering a fellow patient told a court today that her “loveable” husband had been in a “dark place” and was drinking heavily prior to his admission to hospital.

Ian Harman (50), of Carrickallen, Mountain Lodge, Cootehill, Co Cavan, has pleaded not (NOT) guilty at the Central Criminal Court to the murder of Michael Treanor (82) at the Psychiatric Unit of Cavan General Hospital, Lisdarn, Co Cavan, on June 27, 2011.

Mary Harman told the court that she married the accused in 1993 after a five-year courtship.

Under cross-examination from defence counsel Caroline Biggs SC, Mrs Harman described her husband as a “happy-go-lucky” individual who was “soft-natured and loveable” and “well-liked in the community”, despite the fact that he had been previously treated for depression and alcohol misuse.

And she agreed with Ms Biggs that from 2009 her husband had been in a “dark place” after his mental condition worsened.

Mrs Harman then agreed with counsel’s assertion that “in drunkenness” the accused “wasn’t a good husband”.

The witness said Mr Harman had frequently gone “straight to the pub” after work and “one night stayed in his Landrover outside the pub”.

And when Ms Biggs stated: “He (Mr Harman) had sex with you and you asked him to stop,” Mrs Harman replied “yes” before adding: “I would have never have thought he would have done that.”

Earlier today, the court was told how the accused had been complaining of lack of sleep and paced the corridors of his ward for 12 hours the day before the alleged offence.

The jury was also shown CCTV footage of Mr Harman continuously walking around the open courtyard and a corridor of the secure unit.

Mr Harman, who is originally from west London, told gardai after his arrest that he had been “pacing all day from six-thirty in the morning to eight o’clock at night” during an interview given under caution, extracts of which were read out in court by prosecuting counsel Paddy McCarthy SC.

The accused said he had hoped he would sleep later if he spent the day walking around his ward.

Mr Harman said: “They (the staff) asked, ‘do you want to talk about it’ but I said all I wanted was some sleep.”

On the morning of the alleged killing, Mr Harman said he asked for a sleeping tablet at “around three or 4am” but was refused because it was “too late”.

State pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy, who carried out the post-mortem on the deceased, told the court that Mr Treanor’s face was “red and blueish in colour” when she examined him and that there were “signs of lack of oxygen prior to death”.

Dr Cassidy said she concluded that the cause of death had been “asphyxia principally to smothering or suffocation”.

Earlier in proceedings, 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”.

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

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