Court hears Roscommon man told gardai: "I'm after killing my mother"

Paul Henry (Pic via Hany Marzouk)
Paul Henry (Pic via Hany Marzouk)

A Roscommon man stabbed his mother to death the month after a mental health tribunal decided he did not fulfil the criteria to be detained at a psychiatric unit, a jury has heard.

Paul Henry (29) with an address at Ardsallagh, Athlone Road, Roscommon is charged with murdering his mother Ann Henry at Abbeystown, Ballyphesan in Roscommon town on September 17 2011.

Yesterday at the Central Criminal Court Mr Henry pleaded not guilty to murdering Ms Henry by reason of insanity.

Mr Justice Tony Hunt told the jury of eight men and four women that this trial is of a "slightly unusual variety" and the plea offered is "not one against which either party will be arguing."

"This is still a case where there is a right to be tried by a jury. You are not here to rubber-stamp but you are here to assess the evidence. You must independently satisfy yourself that the verdict is an appropriate one," said Mr Justice Hunt.

At the beginning of the trial defence counsel Mr Colm Smyth SC told the court that his client admitted he killed his mother.

Prosecution for the State Ms Caroline Biggs SC said this was an "unusual case" as one would normally hear evidence from witnesses.

However as Mr Smyth's client had "indicated by way of formal admission" that he killed his mother Ann Henry, counsel told the court she would call Detective Inspector Pat Finley to give evidence.

"He will summarise evidence by a vast number of witnesses and none of it is in dispute. You will have to decide the state of mind of Mr Henry on that day and that is a fact you alone can determine," said Ms Biggs.

Prosecution counsel said that on September 17 2011 it is alleged that Paul Henry "fatally assaulted" his mother by stabbing her in her house at The Spinney, Abbeytown, Roscommon.

The barrister said the accused then continued "to kick and punch" his mother outside the house which was seen by a number of witnesses on the day.

Ms Biggs told the jury that they must find that the accused person committed the "act alleged against him."

"This should cause you no concern whatsoever as Mr Smyth has indicated on behalf of his client that Mr Henry killed his mother Ann Henry," she said.

Ms Biggs told the court they will hear a summary of evidence that witnessed Mr Henry carry out the acts "outside of the house having stabbed her."

She also said they would hear the admissions the accused made himself.

Ms Biggs said Mr Henry told gardai at the time: "It took a lot out of me to do this, I'm after killing my mother."

The court heard that Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis said that Ms Henry had sustained ten wounds "some of which were to her thoracic aorta and right lung."

"There will be no doubt in your mind but that Mr Henry killed his mother on September 17 2011," she said.

Ms Biggs said the jury will hear evidence that the accused was suffering from a mental disorder at the time.

"You will hear from two psychiatrists, one is being called by the defence and the other the prosecution," she said.

The court heard both psychiatrists will say the accused man "was suffering from a mental disorder."

"You must find for the purposes of returning a special verdict that the accused committed the alleged acts," she said.

Ms Biggs told the court that from an early age Mr Henry presented with "very significant difficulties."

Mr Henry was initially diagnosed with ADHD which progressed into more serious diagnoses in later life.

In 2010 following Mr Henry's release from prison his mental health deteriorated and in July 2011 he was committed on an "involuntary basis" to hospital.

"In the days and weeks prior to the killing of his mother his behaviour deteriorated even further. He had a disturbed view of his mother and tragically she was the person who loved him most. Prior to Ms Henry's death her son sent her texts threatening to cut off her fingers," she said.

"A culmination of statements from friends and family members will lead you to have no doubt that Mr Henry's mood at the time when these events occurred was very disturbed indeed," said counsel.

On September 23 2011 the accused was deemed "unfit to attend court" and committed to the Central Mental Hospital (CMH) where he was assessed by two consultant psychiatrists.

Counsel said the defence will call Professor Tom Fahey, a consultant psychiatrist, to give evidence. It is expected he will say that the accused was "suffering at the time from a mental disorder classified as a delusional disorder or schizophrenia."

The court heard that the prosecution will call Dr Brenda Wright, who is a consultant psychiatrist at the CMH. It is expected she will say the accused "did suffer from a mental disorder known as paranoid schizophrenia."

"Both of the consultant psychiatrists take the view that the accused had a mental disorder and from a clinical perspective he ought not to be held responsible," said counsel.

Ms Briggs then called Det Insp Pat Finley who agreed with counsel on a summary of the facts and details of the case.

The court heard that one witness said a man was pursuing Ms Henry as she ran towards the main road screaming with blood on her forehead.

"He was shouting at her and going around her body kicking her in the head, ribs and back.  She said he looked crazy, his pupils were huge," read Ms Biggs.

Another witness said the man had a brush in his hands and started to hit Ms Henry's legs with it and when it broke he started to kick her.

At 2pm on September 17 the gardai received a 999 call from a woman saying there was a violent assault taking place and Mr Henry was arrested for assault causing harm.

The court heard when Mr Henry was placed in the rear of the patrol car he said to Gda Delaney: "It took alot out of me."

The court heard in Ms Henry's house gardai noticed a "knife handle but with a blood like substance on the surface."

Ann Henry was pronounced dead at 15.51 on September 17.

"She had nine stab wounds to her back - four of the stab wounds had penetrated the chest cavity - and two wounds to the right lung. The cause of death was multiple stab wounds," said Ms Biggs.

After a consultant psychiatrist was called to the garda station, Mr Henry was remanded to the CMH and on September 18 he was formally charged.

Det Insp Finley agreed with counsel that there had been "disturbed behaviour" and a "number of events that preceded the assault" including Ms Henry asking a doctor to admit her son as "a voluntary patient to Roscommon psychiatric unit."

The court heard that twenty one days after Paul Henry had been admitted to the hospital he was released in August 2011 as "a result of a decision by a Mental Health Tribunal."

"The Tribunal found he did not fulfil the criteria to be detained in a mental hospital," said Ms Biggs.

On September 12 2011 gardai received a phone call from Ann Henry who said her son had threatened to shoot her and asked them would he commit him. They advised her to ring her doctor on the Monday morning.

The court heard Mr Henry told his friend after picking up a black handled knife: "This is what I need and I'm going to butcher my mother."

Ms Biggs read that the accused had beliefs that his brother had "planted bombs in the house" and his mother "had put a cow in the road to stop him driving."

Defence counsel Mr Smyth then called consultant psychiatrist Professor Tom Fahey to give evidence.

Prof Fahey said he assessed the accused on March 4 2013 and again on January 13 2016.

"Paul Henry had a troubled teenage period mostly relating to alcohol and a number of convictions with gardai," said the witness.

The court heard that matters took a "sinister twist" in 2011 after spending time in prison.

“There was no signs of mental illness prior to his admittance to prison in 2010. After being released he began to show evidence of a mental illness in 2011," said Prof Fahey.

Mr Henry was admitted to a psychiatric until in Roscommon as an involuntary patient and it was during this time he became "paranoid about his mother."

"There are detailed records where he reported that he thought his mother was going to harm him. A tribunal reviewed his case and he was released from hospital. He felt his parents especially his mother was interfering in his life and stopping him from doing the things that he wanted to do," said Prof Fahey.

Prof Fahey said he thinks Paul Henry became "psychotic" after he left prison and he told him his mother "looked at him in such a way, he thought she would get somebody to get him killed.”

"The attack took place and he believed his mother was intending to kill him so he had to kill her to avoid assassination himself," he said.

Prof Fahey told the court it "remains clear" that Mr Henry suffers from a psychotic disorder which he calls "delusional disorder."

While the witness felt the accused "did know the nature of the act" he said he was "doing this as he was trying to prevent himself from being killed."

The court heard in the doctor's opinion Paul Henry was "unable to refrain from committing the act" and this "propelled him" to acting in the way in which he said he did.

When asked by counsel if there had been "a change" from the time period between his first interview and his second interview Prof Fahey said: "If anything when I saw him recently he was just as resolute that his mother had tried to kill him."

The court heard the "other worrying aspect" is that Mr Henry does not "acknowledge he suffers from a mental illness and does not agree he needs treatment."

“He remains convinced that his mother wanted to kill him and was capable of doing so," said Prof Fahey.

The trial continues.

By Alison O'Riordan