Psychiatrist tells court murder accused motivated by 'retribution and revenge'
A psychiatrist, who assessed a Dublin man charged with murdering his ex-girlfriend, said the accused was motivated by retribution and revenge when he organised to meet her using a fake identity, and by extreme anger when he strangled and suffocated her.
He said he didn’t believe that the strangulation was driven by mental illness as the accused didn’t have one. Instead, he said the accused had described having symptoms of autism in a way that seemed ‘lifted from a textbook’.
The consultant psychiatrist was giving evidence today in the Central Criminal Court trial of Eric Locke, who used a fake Facebook profile to meet Sonia Blount after she had cut contact with him.
Mr Locke is charged with murdering the mother-of-one in a room at the Plaza Hotel in Tallaght on the 16th of February 2014.
The 35-year-old, with an address at St John’s Park East in Clondalkin, has pleaded not guilty, but admits causing the 31-year-old’s death.
Dr Francis Kelly told Ronan Kennedy BL, prosecuting, that he met Mr Locke twice this year. He did not find him to be suffering from a mental illness at the time of the meetings, and couldn’t find any evidence of mental illness in his prison medical notes or in DVDs of his garda interviews.
“He made a very curious statement to me, that he often couldn’t understand the emotions in people’s faces of get their jokes,” he recalled.
“He said it in a manner that was almost as if he had lifted it from a textbook, and it’s a very common description of autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorder,” he said, referring to diagnoses given to Mr Locke by a psychiatrist for the defence.
“It struck me as not terribly credible, particularly as in his later years, he describes being able to talk with others in various social situations,” he added.
He noted that Mr Locke had a friend with whom he enjoyed watching football, and was able to go to pubs and talk to others, including strangers, on a fairly frequent basis.
He thought that Mr Locke had a personality disorder, specifically anankastic personality disorder. However, he said that personality disorders were excluded from the definition of mental disorder under the Mental Health Act. This would mean they couldn’t be used in a defence of diminished responsibility on a murder charge.
He said that Mr Locke had displayed symptoms of a depressive disorder since his mid teens, but had resisted treatment ‘until all these symptoms were exacerbated in the month leading up to the indexed offence, precipitated by the break up with Ms Blount’.
He was asked about his state of mind in the lead up to that offence
“I have no doubt he was in a highly distressed state,” he said. “You could argue that he did satisfy the criteria for having an episode of depression, but one could equally describe an adjustment reaction,” he continued.
“It appears that once he made contact with Ms Bount using the false Facebook ID, this lifted his mood somewhat, such that he no longer satisfied the criteria for a moderate depressive episode,” he said.
He said the reason for this lift was that he had a clear opportunity to meet with her so that he could tell her about his feelings.
He said Mr Locke had told him that him that his plan was to purchase various items with which he could bind and gag her so that she would listen to his pain without interruption from her.
“The planning was significant and very complex and detailed,” he said.
“The fact that his erstwhile girlfriend was prepared to meet a total stranger in a hotel, quite clearly for the purpose of sexual congress, would have enraged him,” he said. “The motivation of retribution and revenge, I believe, was more significant.”
He said that the level of planning Mr Locke engaged in had a certain vigour that wouldn’t be found in a severely depressed person. He noted that he was able to go to another hotel after the killing and spend about an hour on a computer.
Mr Locke had claimed that killing her was not part of the plan, but that she had shouted when she saw the items he had brought to restrain her and that he had panicked. The doctor was asked about the actual moment that Mr Locke had strangled her with a mobile phone charger and his hands.
He said he did not believe the strangulation was driven by mental illness.
“His intention at the material time, around the time that he strangled her and put the t-shirt in her mouth with great force, would suggest to me that the motivation behind the act was one of extreme anger and that’s certainly not a mental illness,” he said.
“I think his actions of dressing the body, leaving the Do Not Disturb sign on the hotel door, throwing away his mobile phone are all good evidence that he knew what he was doing was wrong and was attempting to cover up the act,” he said. “This all indicates he had capacity to form intent to do the act.”
He said that, had he been depressed to any great degree, he wouldn’t have been able to create such an elaborate plan, buy the items to restrain Ms Blount or engage in a detailed and persistent way via text and Facebook.
He noted that the accused had ‘persistently and doggedly insisted’ that she leave a keycard for him at reception and that she eventually relented.
“I think this signifies that he had capacity, was in clear consciousness and had intent to surprise her, and didn’t want to go to the room without being able to gain entry easily,” he said.
He concluded that he did not believe that Mr Locke had a mental disorder at the time, as necessary for the defence of diminished responsibility.
He added that, even if he did, as suggested by two defence psychiatrists, it was not severe enough to impair his capacity to form intent.
Under cross examination by Patrick Gageby SC, defending, he denied coming to the case with ‘a slightly closed mind’.
“I’m neutral. My primary duty is to the court and not to either side,” he said.
He said the amount of violence Mr Locke had used seemed to be out of keeping with trying to silence Ms Blount. He noted that, apart from strangling her, he had broken her teeth while gagging her.
“The degree of violence … would indicate a level of rage,” he said.
Both sides are expected to give their closing speeches to the jury Friday morning.