Monday 20 November 2017

Eric Locke showed 'no evidence of a serious mental illness', psychiatrist tells trial

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

Eimear Cotter

A MAN accused of the murder of his ex-girlfriend has shown no signs of a serious mental illness, a psychiatrist had told a jury.

Consultant forensic psychiatrist Dr Frank Kelly was giving evidence on behalf of the prosecution in the trial of Eric Locke for the murder of Sonia Blount.

The mum-of-one was found strangled and suffocated in a room in the Plaza Hotel in Tallaght on February 16, 2014.

Mr Locke (35), of St John’s Park East in Clondalkin, 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.

He used a fake Facebook profile to meet Ms Blount, whom he had briefly dated. The relationship ended on January 11, 2014 after he called her a “sl*t” in a row after a night out.

Dr Kelly said he had also concluded that Mr Locke was able to express his feelings, which mitigated against a diagnosis of pervasive development disorder (PDD) and alexithymia.

Victim: Sonia Blount
Victim: Sonia Blount

Two defence psychiatrists have previously given evidence that Mr Locke suffers from PDD with one also diagnosing alexithymia, which is the inability to describe emotions.

Dr Kelly said he interviewed Mr Locke twice, in February and March 2017.

Dr Kelly also said he watched the DVDs of the interviews which gardai conducted with Mr Locke.

He said he found “no evidence of a serious mental illness” as Mr Locke was able to describe in great detail to gardai the lead-up to Ms Blount’s death as well as what happened afterwards.

“Mr Locke was not suffering a serious mental illness or a cognitive impairment at the time”, he said.

He also said Mr Locke was assessed numerous times by consultant psychiatrists in Cloverhill Prison and “not one of them found any evidence of a serious mental illness”.

Dr Kelly said Mr Locke did show a number of abnormal personality traits and may have underlying obsessive qualities but no personality disorder.

Dr Kelly said Mr Locke gave him an account of what in the hotel bedroom where he killed Ms Blount.

He said Mr Locke told him he put a do not disturb sign on the bedroom door after he killed her and then threw his mobile phone down a drain outside as it would “give him time to get away”.

The psychiatrist said this was significant as it showed Mr Locke “knew what he was doing” and there was a “quite deliberate attempt to conceal his responsibility”.

Dr Kelly said Mr Locke told him he put a t-shirt in Ms Blount's mouth to stop her screaming, and to hide the blood.

Mr Locke said to him that Ms Blount was naked when she died so he dressed her as it was more "humane".

Dr Kelly said it did not "sit easily" with him that Mr Locke left the t-shirt in Ms Blount's mouth, as there was "nothing humane in that".

He said he read the pathology report prepared by the State Pathologist Prof Marie Cassidy. He noted she found damage to Ms Blount’s teeth, which signalled the top was placed in her mouth with significant force.

“My interpretation is that Mr Locke downplayed the amount of force he used in putting the t-shirt in her mouth”, he said.

After the killing, Dr Kelly said Mr Locke went to a hotel where he spent nearly an hour searching on the internet. Again, he found this interesting at it indicated Mr Locke’s state of mind at the time.

“He was not aroused. He was not in a distressed state of mind”, he said.

Dr Kelly also said he did not find that Mr Locke was alexithymic, or unable to read emotions.

He said Mr Locke’s self-esteem was low but he was able to express his emotions.

He said a letter Mr Locke wrote to Ms Blount, a suicide note for his family where he told them he loved them, his years of socialising and watching football matches in pubs and his ability to speak to strangers “suggests very strongly Mr Locke does not have alexithymia most of the time”.

Furthermore, when he interviewed Mr Locke, Dr Kelly said the accused told him he “couldn’t understand the emotions on people’s faces and often didn’t get jobs”.

Dr Kelly said this struck him as “odd” and it appeared “almost lifted from a textbook”, as it’s a common description of autism and PDD.

He said Mr Locke denied he’d been reading psychiatric textbooks but he found this was “not credible”.

Dr Kelly will continue to give his evidence this afternoon.

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

Online Editors

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