Shop worker "dragged outside and repeatedly stabbed" by mentally ill man

Mairead Moran
Mairead Moran

A MENTALLY ill man stabbed a young shop assistant to death as she finished her day’s work in a health food store, a court has been told.

Shane Smyth (29) attacked Mairead Moran (26), stabbing her repeatedly with a knife and leaving her fatally injured, a lawyer for the prosecution said.

The Central Criminal Court was told Ms Moran died from a stab wound to her body which went into her heart.

The jury also heard Mr Smyth had been diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic and at the time, had been suffering from a delusion that he was being persecuted and Ms Moran was part of a conspiracy against him.

As  the trial got underway today, a  jury was told how Ms Moran was attacked at her workplace in a busy shopping centre in Kilkenny city.

Mr Smyth, with an address at McGuinness House, Evans Lane, Kilkenny is charged with murdering Ms Moran on May 8, 2014 at the Market Cross Shopping Centre.

He is pleading not guilty by reason of insanity.

John O’Kelly SC, for the prosecution first reminded the jury that the defendant enjoys a presumption of innocence. He said the prosecution carries a burden of proof and this “never shifts” from the prosecution.

He told the jury members that they would be the judges of fact in the trial. He said the defence of insanity must be proven on the balance of probabilities rather than beyond reasonable doubt.

Mr O’Kelly said an unlawful killing is not murder unless the accused intended to kill or cause serious harm.

He said a lot of the factual evidence in the case was not going to be disputed.

The public gallery of courtroom 13 at the Criminal Courts of Justice was full as Mr O’Kelly delivered his opening speech.

Outlining the prosecution’s case, he said Ms Moran had been working on the late shift and people were coming and going in the shopping centre.

The accused had known her years earlier from when they were in their late teens.

They went out together for several months, Ms Moran was away for some time, then came back to the area and got a job in the shop.

Mr Smith had been living in the area throughout that time, Mr O’Kelly continued.

He had been diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2005 and had been treated and after this was back out in the community.

He and Ms Moran “very seldom met” over this period.

In the months leading up to May 2014, Mr Smyth became aware of where Ms Moran was working.There had been previous occasions where he had confronted her and he had spat at her once, which had disturbed and upset her. Apart from that, she “went on with her life.”

On the night, Mr Smyth turned up at around 8pm and started speaking to Ms Moran “quite aggressively.”

“You will hear evidence that people heard him asking a question - ‘Why did you want my blood?”, Mr O’Kelly told the jury.

Ms Moran was in tears and a security man saw what was happening. He went across and spoke to Mr Smyth and there was an exchange of words between them.

Mr Smyth was saying he just wanted to talk to her and reluctantly left, Mr O’Kelly said.

Within five minutes, he got back in and “this terrible attack took place.”

“It ended up with Ms Moran being attacked in the shop and being dragged outside and she was stabbed repeatedly by Mr Smyth with a knife he had brought,” Mr O’Kelly told the jury.

There were people around and they came over and disarmed the accused. He was told to drop the knife, he did so and it was kicked away by a security guard.

He was put sitting on the ground while people tended to Ms Moran who was very seriously injured.

Mr Smyth then “hopped up” and ran out of the centre. People tried to follow him but he got away, emerging close to Kilkenny Castle, where he got a taxi to his cousin’s house.

The court heard while there he told his cousin that he had stabbed “his ex-girlfriend.”

Gardai were made aware of where he was and they went to the house and arrested him. He was brought to a garda station and examined by a psychiatrist and interviewed by gardai. Psychiatrists’ reports were prepared.

The background was the onset of illness happened in his late adolescence and Mr Smyth remained mentally ill, Mr O’Kelly said.

He displayed psychosis, suffering from delusions about “spider infestation and thought broadcasting.”

According to a report, he “clearly failed to appreciate the enormity of his actions.” The psychiatrist found Mr Smyth’s behaviour at the time was “driven by active symptoms of mental illness” and his reasoning was “grossly impaired.”

“He would have been unable to reason about the wrongness of his actions,” the report stated. Another psychiatrist said the accused would not have had the capacity to form intent as a result of his mental disorder.

According to the report, he “did not understand the nature and quality of his actions” and believed he was being persecuted. He believed people were conspiring against him and that Ms Moran was part of this conspiracy.

He had believed he was being victimised and that his life was in danger, a second report continued.

Colman Cody SC, for the defence, said that eight facts were being admitted.

The first was that Ms Moran died as a result of injuries inflicted by the accused with a knife. The second was that she died of a stab wound to the trunk as determined by the State Pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy.

The third accepted fact was that Mr Smyth was lawfully arrested and detained. The fourth was that he was fit to be interviewed having been examined by a consultant psychiatrist.

The fifth fact, Mr Cody said, was that the physical evidence was lawfully seized by the gardai.

The sixth was that the scene of the alleged crime was lawfully preserved; the seventh was that warrants were lawfully obtained and executed and the final accepted fact was that the forensic evidence was not disputed.

Mr Smyth, wearing a black suit, grey shirt and tie and with long hair tied in a ponytail and a long beard sat and listened as the lawyers addressed the jury.

The trial continues before Ms Justice Margaret Heneghan and a jury of nine women and three men. It is expected to conclude within a week.