Murder accused "wanted to kill victim's grandchildren"

Michael Gannon
Michael Gannon

A jury has heard that a man accused of murdering a 55-year-old grandfather told a psychiatrist that he previously considered killing the deceased's young grandchildren.

The man admitted to stabbing his next door neighbour's father, a jury heard on Monday.

Dragos Nica (30), of Mourne Park, Skerries, Co Dublin has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to the murder of Michael Gannon (55) at Mourne Park, Skerries, Co Dublin on November 14th, 2013.

The court heard previously that on the evening of the attack, Mr Gannon was babysitting his daughter Jade's two young children and a neighbour's child at Jade's house in Mourne Park, next door to Mr Nica's house. 

The court heard that Mr Gannon was making dinner when one of the children told him a man was looking in the window of the living-room. 

Mr Gannon went to investigate, opened the door and the accused man was there, the court was told. 

The jury were told that Mr Gannon was stabbed and died within a few feet of the stabbing.

The court heard that Mr Nica knew Jade Gannon before the killing.

Reading from a report, consultant psychiatrist at the Central Mental Hospital (CMH) Doctor Francis John Kelly told defending counsel, Jonathan Kilfeather SC at the Central Criminal Court on Tuesday that Mr Nica "struck" Mr Gannon over the chest with a knife.

Mr Kilfeather confirmed that the accused had believed he had been deliberately poisoned by Jade and that he was "freaked out".

He confirmed that Mr Nica was certain he was going to die and that initially he thought of killing Jades nine-year-old boy and five-year-old girl.

"He was in an agitated state," said Mr Kilfeather.

"He grabbed a bigger knife in addition to the (small) knife he carried with him," he continued.

He said: "He heard the door opening and struck Mr Gannon over the chest. As soon as the knife went in, the aura changed and the accused immediately went back to his house."

The court heard that the Mr Nica then rang the emergency services claiming he had stabbed someone.

Dr Kelly told Mr Kilfeather that he believed the accused could not control himself at the time of the index offence.

"I don't think he could control himself because of his state of mind at the time," he said.

He confirmed that Mr Nica suffered from chronic paranoid schizophrenia characterised by delusions and false beliefs.

The court heard that Mr Nica's first admission into a psychiatric facility was in 2003 at 19 years of age after he had threatened to hang himself in the family home.

"You could regard his illness as being fairly continuous," said Dr Kelly.

The jury were told that Mr Nica had started smoking cannabis in fourth and fifth year in school and that his drug use was on an almost daily basis in the lead up to the stabbing of Mr Gannon.

Under cross examination by Patrick Treacy, SC prosecuting, Dr Kelly confirmed that the accused had developed an emotional attachment with Miss Gannon and that he had numerous sexual encounters with her.

The court heard that Miss Gannon didn't understand they were in a relationship but that the main factor responsible was the psychosis rather than him being specifically focused on the relationship between him and Miss Gannon.

Consultant psychiatrist at the CMH, Dr Stephen Monks told prosecuting counsel Patrick Treacy SC that the attack on Mr Gannon was driven by "delusions and hallucinations".

The accused said that he had lived in Ireland 19 years and that his family originated from Romania. 

The court heard that Mr Nica had changed school four times since moving to Ireland but that he had not experienced any stress as a result.

"Mr Nica first experienced psychotic (episodes) while playing computer games," he said.

He added: "He heard his friends say 'yo yo yo' and that it was due to technology."

The court heard that following his first admission into a psychiatric facility in 2003 that the accused had six or seven psychiatric admissions, most of which were involuntary, and that he had absconded from hospital on a number of occasions.

"He told me about his alcohol history and how he first started drinking at fifteen," said Dr Monks.

"He started smoking cannabis when he moved to Ashbourne and progressed to smoking two to four grammes a week," he said.

He continued: "In 2009 he smoked heroin and he took ecstasy 15 times in total. The last time he took ecstasy, he had panic attacks that affected him for a few months," he said.

The court heard that a year prior to Mr Gannons death, the accused had been seeing lights 15 to 20 times a day and that he was hearing voices saying "yeah", "no" or just sighing.

The jury heard that the accused said that Jade Gannon had told him of a plan to surprise a male friend of theirs who had been drinking with them at her house.

After the friend returned downstairs from Jade's room, Mr Nica had gone upstairs.

"He said they were going to have sex and he felt a sting like being stabbed by an injection," said Dr Monks.

The jury heard the accused said that days later he woke with a numb finger and that his upper arm was "bubbling up".

Dr Monks confirmed that the accused said: "I was freaking and panicking but I was going to take it out on the world."

It was following this that Mr Nica claims he armed himself with a second knife before going to Jade's house. 

Throughout his time at various psychiatric facilities, the court heard that Mr Nica described "brain reading" where he believed his brain could be "hacked".

"On May 29th 2013, Mr Nica believed he was being monitored by the government,  police and FBI agents," he said.

He had described how Eminem knew of him and the President and Taoiseach had used technology to read reports on him.

"His mother reported a change in his behaviour," said Dr Monks.

"She had made lunch for Mr Nica and advised him to leave it to cool - he became enraged and she could see the anger and hatred in him - she was afraid of him and she believed he was going to assault her," he said.

The court heard that in the time leading up to Mr Gannons death, Mr Nica had been non-compliant with his anti-psychotic medication and that at the time of the attack, he believed he had been poisoned by the victims daughter.

"(He believed) his brain was being monitored by government agencies and he became fearful and angry - his actions were driven by delusions and hallucinations. He did not know the nature and quality of the act and saw it as retribution for being poisoned," he said.

He concluded: "Panic was such that he couldn't refrain from acting as he did - this would fulfil the criteria for the special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity."

The trial continues in closing speeches today before Mr Justice Tony Hunt and a jury of seven men and five women.

Anne Sharkey