Psychiatrists say man who killed housemate fulfils criteria for insanity verdict
Two consultant psychiatrists have told a murder trial jury that an Italian man who admitted killing his landlord in Castleknock last year fulfils the criteria for a special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.
Saverio Bellante (36) with an address at Beech Park Avenue, Castleknock, Dublin 15 is charged with murdering Thomas O'Gorman at an
unknown time between January 11 2014 and January 12 2014 at the above address.
Last Monday at the Central Criminal Court Mr Bellante pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr O'Gorman.
Earlier this morning the jury heard that the Italian man admitted killing his landlord in Castleknock last year and told gardai in interview that he ate what he believed to be a part of the deceased's heart.
This afternoon consultant forensic psychiatrist Dr Stephen Monks from the Central Mental Hospital was called by prosecution counsel Mr Patrick Gageby SC.
The court heard Dr Monks was asked by the DPP to do a psychiatric assessment on the accused where Mr Bellante told him he was first hospitalised in Palermo in Italy in 2005.
"He said it took him ten years to do his primary degree as he was taking anti psychotic and mood stabilising medication which made his concentration poor so this was part of the reason for problems with his academic work," said Dr Monks.
Upon moving to Ireland in 2011 he was engaged with mental health services in Ireland and up to January 9 2014 Mr Bellante had been attending a clinic on Baggot Street roughly every two months.
Dr Monks said it was there a consultant psychiatrist told him he could come off his medication gradually. However the court heard his doctor in Italy said he should remain on his medication all his life.
The body of Mr O'Gorman being removed from his home
The jury were told that two days before the murder he had attended an out-patient appointment at the Dublin clinic where the anti-psychotic medication Olanzapine he had been on was stopped.
"His medication was coming down gradually since coming to Ireland and he stopped his last visit on January 9 2014. According to clinical records the dose was reduced in January 2012 until finally being discontinued on January 9 2014. By January 10 he started to feel unwell and begin to interpret things to be good or evil and became preoccupied with signs of good or evil," said the doctor.
Dr Monks told the jury Mr Bellante told him he experienced Mr O'Gorman staring at him as if he was "strange or dangerous" while they were playing chess on the night in question.
“I've never seen anyone look at me in that way. He wanted to stop my freedom, when playing there are common rules, he was acting for himself," read Dr Monks from his report which set out to examine the mental state of the accused.
Dr Monks said the accused felt the deceased was "fighting the side of evil" whereas Mr Bellante thought he was respecting the chess game.
The court heard Mr Bellante saw Mr O'Gorman as the devil whereas he was Jesus Christ and he proceeded to stab him four or five times with a knife.
“I thought the way to finish him was to eat his heart as it was the way to good and evil. I thought initially to cook it in the pan," read the doctor.
Mr Bellante was admitted to the Central Mental Hospital on January 14 2015 and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. The court heard this mental disorder is classed under five headings and Mr Bellante displayed "symptoms of several of these domains such as delusions but not hallucinations."
"Despite having the presence of this, it didn't impair his ability to stand trial or plead. His delusional mood started over a few days and progressed to frank delusional thinking and the battle between good and evil until he became profoundly paranoid. He had a belief that killing Mr O'Gorman and eating his heart would put an end to evil in the world," said Dr Monks.
Dr Monks told the jury as a result of his schizophrenia he didn't know the nature and quality of the act he carried out.
"Why he knew to kill a man was wrong in the eyes of the law, he thought what he was doing was right and entirely justified so he was unable to reason outside of his psychotic thought processes and he didn't know what he doing was morally wrong," added the witness.
In his opinion Dr Monks told the court Mr Bellante fulfils the criteria for a special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.
Defence counsel Mr Sean Guerin SC then called Dr Conor O'Neill who told the court he met the accused on January 14 2014 at Cloverhill Prison and performed the first psychiatric assessment of him.
Dr O'Neill said Mr Bellante was on two forms of medication, Olanzapine which is to trace psychotic symptoms such as delusions and the second medication was Sodium valproate, used to stabilise mood.
The court heard the amount of anti psychotic medication Olanzapine started to be reduced by 2.5 milligrams in Janaury 2012 until it became zero by January 9 2014, two days prior to the killing of Mr O'Gorman.
Following blood tests after the murder the levels of Sodium valproate was found to be lower than the therapeutic measure generally given.
However, Dr O'Neill told the court that one or more dose had perhaps been missed and this medication isn't the one that keeps psychotic symptoms in check.
Dr O'Neill also told the court that Mr Bellante meets the criteria of not guilty by verdict of insanity.
"Mr Bellante has been diagnosed since his early 20’s and his disorder is a mental disorder. He has been on medication for ten years although it was reduced when he relapsed. The interviews with gardai suggest he was deluded and he did not know what he doing was wrong," said the witness.
THIS MORNING'S EVIDENCE
The jury of seven men and five women heard Mr Sean Guerin SC this morning make a number of admissions on behalf of his client, which they were told would make their time in the court very short.
Prosecution counsel Mr Patrick Gageby SC told the trial, which is expected to last two days, that if an issue of insanity arises the accused has to show he is insane, which Mr Gageby said is a "live issue in this case."
The trial before Ms Justice Margaret Heneghan heard from Mr Gageby that Mr O'Gorman was killed sometime in the early hours of January 12 2014 and what alerted gardai to that fact was when Mr Bellante rang the gardai.
Mr Gageby said Mr O'Gorman was just shy of his fortieth birthday, he was a freelance journalist and worked part-time at The Iona institute which is associated with the Roman Catholic faith.
"Mr O’Gorman was also a member of an international movement called Focolare which is a very large international group, promoting the benevolent values of brotherhood and unity. It originated in World War Two in Italy," said the barrister.
Mr Gageby said Mr Bellante was a native of Palermo in Italy and he was 35 years of age when he killed Mr O'Gorman. He had previously spent a year in Ireland between 2002 and 2003 and came from a respectful family.
"When Mr Bellante left Ireland, he went back to Sicily at that stage he was diagnosed with suffering from a mental disorder and diagnosed with having religious hysterical deliria.
He was treated by a psychiatrist across there and put on anti-psychotic medication," said the counsel.
The court heard Mr Bellante returned to Ireland again in 2011 and worked with a pharmaceutical company and had been taking his medication.
Mr Gageby said both men met through Focolare and in November 2013 Mr Bellante rented a room in Castleknock from Mr O'Gorman. They were acquaintances with "common interests."
On the evening of January 11 2014 both men were playing a game of chess.
The court heard the first unusual thing to happen was an unusual phone call made by Mr Bellante which suggested there was a disagreement. It was at 10.48pm to a mutual acquaintance of the two men, Mr Brendan Gallagher.
Mr Gallagher didn't pick up the message until 11.30pm that night. The court heard the accused sister knew her brother had suffered a breakdown in the past and had a series of mental disorders.
The phonecall which was made to 999 by Mr Bellante at 1.50am in the morning said he killed Mr O'Gorman with a dumbbell and a knife.
"There was extensive bunt force trauma to the deceased and an enormous amount of blood everywhere.
Unusually there was some form of a cutting open of his front chest.
It would appear part of his lung was cut out and brought to the kitchen," said Mr Gageby.
Defence counsel Mr Guerin then made nine admissions under Section 22 of the Criminal Justice Act to ease the burden of the prosecution including that at an unknown time between January 11 2014 or January 12 2014 Saverio Ballante killed Thomas O'Gorman.
A second admission was that Mr O'Gorman died a result of blunt force trauma to his head and stab wounds to his neck and chest.
Garda Patrick Traynor who arrived on the scene on the night in question was called to give evidence and he told the court he found the deceased Mr O'Gorman slumped across the carpet and what was unusual was whatever he was wearing on top was cut up and the area of his chest was open in middle with a large hole.
The court heard there was a dumbbell and a broken part of a sharp kitchen knife beside the body and a plate or bowl in the kitchen with lung tissue in it.
Also there was a frying pan with "reddish material" in it.
When Mr Bellante was asked what happened he said they were playing chest and he had "moved the king" and Mr O'Gorman got angry.
Mr Gageby read the first interview conducted with the accused at Blanchardstown Garda Station on Sunday January 12 2014.
The court heard Mr Bellante thought he took Mr O'Gorman's heart out of his chest with his hand but it was in fact his lung.
"I was thinking of eating his heart, I washed it and ate the bigger piece and left smaller one.
I didn't cook it, I left the smaller part and ate the bigger part, the smaller part wasn't for me," read Mr Gageby.
Chief State Pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy was also called to give evidence and she told the court she carried out a post mortem and Mr O'Gorman had been a victim of a violent assault with severe blunt force trauma to the left hand side of his head.
"There was a large gaping hole which was consistent with several blows from a large blunt object," she said. There was also evidence of a knife assault to his head, chest and neck.
Prof Cassidy told the court she found the right lung was severed and removed and in a plastic carrier bag in the kitchen were the remains of the lung.
"There was a large wound to the front of the chest and a flap cut out of the rib cage through which the right lung was injured and part of it removed.
Also seven stab wounds minor and shallow and not likely to be the cause of death," she said. Prof Cassidy said the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head and stab wounds to the neck and chest. The trial continues.