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Murder accused produced “restraint kit” after being “unable to perform sexually”, court hears

Eric Locke
Eric Locke

A defence psychiatrist has agreed with the State that a Dublin man engaged in ‘a great degree of planning’ in the days before he killed his ex-girlfriend, that the strangling itself was intentional and that he had lied to save his skin.

However, he had earlier told the man’s trial that his responsibility for strangling her in a city hotel room was diminished due to his mental state at the time.

The doctor 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 31-year-old 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 death of the mother-of-one, who was found strangled and suffocated.

Dr Richard Bunn, a consultant forensic psychiatrist with the NHS in Belfast, told Patrick Gageby SC, defending, that he interviewed Mr Locke in Cloverhill Prison in April of this year.

The accused had been confined to wearing a poncho in a padded cell for his safety, having reacted badly to being moved from working alone to working with other inmates.

“I like stability. I’ve always had a problem with change,” he’d told the doctor.

He told Dr Bun that his brief relationship with Ms Blount was the first time where he had embraced life. He said his pain had been ‘off the charts’ after she had ended it.

He reported having the ‘sweats, shakes, and involuntary rocking back and forth’. He said he’d been ‘gripped by a tortuous pain’ and felt ‘an absolute need’ to explain it to Ms Blount.

“His final act was to get her to listen to his pain,” testified Dr Bunn. “He planned to talk to her.”

However, he told the doctor that she had, more or less, ignored him and was ‘oblivious to his pain’.

Mr Locke had then organised to meet her using a false identity, having previously set up a Facebook profile in the name of Shane Cully.

He told Dr Bunn that he had brought a pellet gun to point at her so she would have to listen and duct tape to put over her mouth so she wouldn’t converse.

In his description of himself, Mr Locke told the doctor that he believed he was ‘a lovely person, genuinely peaceful’.

In the doctor’s assessment of him, he found Mr Locke lacking empathy.

“His narrative was about him, despite me asking questions about the victim,” he explained.

Dr Bunn was satisfied with previous diagnoses of an adjustment disorder due to the stress of prison and court, of borderline personality traits and of a pervasive developmental disorder. He also found that Mr Locke had symptoms of ADHD.

He said there was objective evidence from medical staff that he had been suicidal and his thinking ‘clearly disturbed’ at the time leading up to the incident.

 

He said he did not accept Mr Locke’s account of having an ‘out-of-body experience’ when strangling Ms Blount.

However, he said he was satisfied that he fulfilled the criteria for Diminished Responsibility as a partial defence for murder due to ‘a constellation of symptoms’.

Dr Bunn was then cross examined by Remy Farrell SC, prosecuting, who quoted another defence psychiatrist’s opinion that Mr Locke hadn’t engaged in much planning in the days before the killing.

“Isn’t it blindingly obvious that he had engaged in a great degree of planning during those days?” asked the barrister.

Dr Bunn agreed.

He was asked about self-control.

“I formed the view that he could have exercised self-control,” said Dr Bunn, agreeing that this included when he stopped strangling her with a phone charger and started strangling her with his hands.

He agreed that using the charger, putting his hands around her neck and shoving her t-shirt into her mouth were all intentional.

“Because she was panicking, she was making noise and he wanted to shut her up?” asked Mr Farrell.

“Correct,” he replied.

“He could have chosen not to do that, but didn’t,” suggested the barrister.

Dr Bunn agreed.

“He had clearly planned and carried out a false imprisonment of a fairly elaborate sort?” asked Mr Farrell.

“Correct,” he replied.

Mr Farrell also asked if he thought Mr Locke had lied  to save his skin.

“Yes,” he replied.

He agreed that ‘anger was a feature’ of Mr Locke reaching for the pellet gun, duct tape and other items, which the doctor described as a ‘restraint kit’. Mr Locke had said this was something he had done after being unable to perform during sex with Ms Blount.

“Unable to perform sexually, he becomes angry, reaches for a ‘restraint kit’ and she panics and he strangles her?,” asked Mr Farrell.

“Correct,” replied the doctor again.

He agreed that Mr Locke was well able to lie and deceive to get what he wanted, including setting up a Facebook page of a person, who did not have a similar personality.

“So Shane Cully is to Eric Locke what Superman is to Clark Kent?” asked Mr Farrell.

“Exactly,” replied Dr Bunn.

The trial continues this morning, when the jury will hear from the prosecution’s rebuttal witness.