psychotic episode | 

Dublin man (63) who killed his elderly mother found not guilty by reason of insanity

The body of Neasa Murray (88) was found at about 8pm at Kincora Court in Clontarf, Dublin 3, on August 23, 2020

Eoin ReynoldsIndependent.ie

A 63-year-old man who was suffering a psychotic episode due to schizo-affective disorder when he killed his mother has been found not guilty of her murder by reason of insanity by a jury at the Central Criminal Court.

Before the jury began considering their verdict, Brendan Murray's barrister, Padraig Dwyer SC, said his client had a good and close relationship with his mother Neasa Murray (88) and is sorry for what he did.

Counsel said that although the defence was making the case that Mr Murray was not legally responsible, he added: “Any son who took his mother's life in these circumstances could only be sorry about it.”

Counsel said Ms Murray cared for her son and “showed her love for him in many ways. She brought him into the world and it's a cruel twist of fate that by his hand she departed this life”.

Following the jury verdict, Ms Justice Eileen Creedon committed Mr Murray to the Central Mental Hospital until tomorrow when the court will hear from a psychiatrist about Mr Murray's ongoing treatment.

The body of Ms Murray, a grandmother who lived at Kincora Drive, was found at about 8pm at nearby Kincora Court in Clontarf, Dublin 3, on August 23, 2020.

Brendan Murray pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to her murder.

Mr Dwyer told the jury that the evidence in the trial was “pointing in one direction” and should persuade them that Mr Murray was undergoing a psychotic episode and was legally insane at the time.

He reminded the jury that forensic consultant psychiatrist Dr Brenda Wright had told them that Mr Murray's mental disorder meant that he did not know that what he was doing was wrong when he killed his mother.

Prosecution counsel, Anne-Marie Lawlor, told the jury there was no dispute that Mr Murray had schizo-affective disorder and was not in a position to understand that what he was doing was wrong. She reminded the jury that Dr Wright had told them that Mr Murray believed he was being directed by God or the holy spirit.

She said that the killing was “brutal and violent” and that the deceased was a “fit woman in fine health, capable and able and living a happy life”.

She loved her children and grandchildren and her loss is “devastating for her family and her community”. But counsel told the jury that they must decide the appropriate verdict in accordance with the evidence.

She said that every criminal act is made up of the physical and mental aspects. In a case where the accused was insane, they “lack the capacity to form intent and therefore the prosecution is not in a position to establish that they intended to commit that crime”.

Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin

Counsel reminded the jury that Dr Wright had told them she was satisfied, having interviewed the accused and examined all relevant material, that the accused was suffering from schizo-affective disorder and did not appreciate that killing his mother was wrong.

Ms Lawlor also asked the jury to return a verdict in accordance with the evidence.

Ms Justice Eileen Creedon told the jury that the facts in the case are not in dispute. She suggested that the jury first consider the question of whether the prosecution had proved beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Murray unlawfully killed his mother. If they are so satisfied, she said they could then consider insanity. When a person pleads not guilty by reason of insanity under the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act 2006, the burden of proof shifts to the defence, she said.

But the standard of proof for the defence is on the balance of probabilities rather than beyond reasonable doubt so, she said, the jury must ask themselves “what probably happened?”.

She said there were three verdicts available – guilty, not guilty or not guilty by reason of insanity. A murder verdict, the judge said, “would be contrary to the medical evidence before you”. Ms Justice Creedon reminded the jury that Dr Wright had said that the accused meets the criteria for a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.

The jury took less than 30 minutes to return their verdict.

Trial

During the trial, Detective Sergeant David Ennis told Ms Lawlor that the deceased, a mother of five, lived at the family home at Kincora Drive and acted in a carer role for her son Brendan.

Det-Sgt Ennis said on the day of the killing Mr Murray’s neighbours saw him outside his home in pyjamas looking dishevelled.

A neighbour said Mr Murray’s behaviour was erratic and he was gathering bins and using a crutch as though it were a rifle. “I’m kind of confused,” Mr Murray told the neighbour.

Det-Sgt Ennis said a neighbour also told gardaí that Mr Murray had said God had told him to stop taking his medication and with the help of God, he would get better. The neighbour said Mr Murray appeared “very spaced out”.

Ms Murray arrived and she and her son went into the house before they later came back out and Ms Murray got into her car. Mr Murray, who the neighbour said now appeared to be wearing clothes, put his hand on her wrist and she went back into the house.

Det-Sgt Ennis said another neighbour told gardaí she heard screaming from the house and heard Mr Murray screaming at his mother. The neighbour said she could hear Ms Murray being attacked, so she got her husband to ring the gardaí. The neighbour also thought she heard a moment of laughter but could not be sure.

When gardaí arrived at the scene, Mr Murray opened the door with blood on his trousers, jumper and hands and told gardaí he had killed his mother. The gardaí found Ms Murray lying face up, covered in blood, with a lot of blood on the floor surrounding her. There was a pool of blood above her head and blood on her face. Her top was pulled up to just below the bust and her trousers and underwear were pulled down. Det-Sgt Ennis said that it was immediately clear that Ms Murray had been the subject of a violent incident and there was no prospect of saving her.

Det-Sgt Ennis said that when arrested and brought to the garda station, Mr Murray struggled in his seat, shouted abusively and prayed out loud. At one point the gardaí thought he was having a heart attack, but he was in fact masturbating. He made numerous attempts to run at the door and run at gardaí, and he also made references to the bible and God.

He said that Mr Murray told gardaí: “I had to do it, I had no choice, God made me do it. I was in the special forces. I have Lyme disease.”

The garda said there was no evidence of sexual assault.

Det-Sgt Ennis said the accused delivered a “stream of consciousness reflection about abuse and hostages” during garda interview.

He s aid the accused s aid his mother “was shocking strong for 88” and that she died of a heart attack due to “divine intervention”. Det-Sgt Ennis said Mr Murray was crying and appeared to be reciting prayers. Mr Murray told the gardaí he “started punching her around the place” because God told him to. Det-Sgt Ennis said the accused also sang a religious song during the interview.

He said that the accused’s interviews with gardaí were “jumbled” and very hard to write down.

“Our lord told me I had to kill her, it was her or me. God was telling me to do it. She went into shock, I was told by God to keep going,” Mr Murray said.

“The holy spirit was telling me to keep boxing her. The holy spirit directed me to box her nine times. I was trying to choke her; I was told by the holy spirit to choke her.”

Det Sgt Ennis said that Mr Murray told gardaí: “I was choking her a lot. I heard her gurgling sound… I needed to kill her.”

In response to cross-examination by defence counsel Padraig Dwyer SC, Det-Sgt Ennis said that Mr Murray had no previous convictions. He confirmed that the alleged sexual assault Mr Murray claimed to have carried out was not reflected in the crime scene.


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