Man who stabbed mother to death found not guilty by reason of insanity in 'very distressing' case

Man who stabbed mother to death found not guilty by reason of insanity in 'very distressing' case

A 32-year-old man who stabbed his retired psychiatrist mother to death with a kitchen knife before attacking his sister and a passer-by, has been found not guilty of murder and assault by reason of insanity.

Fionn Braidwood with an address at Clarinda Park East, Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin was charged with murdering his mother Jane Braidwood (aged 65) on January 20, 2015 at the same address.

Mr Braidwood pleaded not guilty to murdering Ms Braidwood at the Central Criminal Court.

Mr Braidwood also pleaded not guilty to assault causing harm to Ceili Braidwood and Anthony Maguire at the same address and on the same date.

Ms Braidwood died after receiving three stab wounds to anterior and posterior parts of her chest.

Two consultant psychiatrists gave evidence during the trial that Mr Braidwood was suffering from schizophrenia and would have been unable to refrain from his actions.

They both said that he met the requirements for the special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.

Today after a period of 32 minutes deliberating, a jury of two men and 10 women returned verdicts of not guilty by reason of insanity on the three counts.

After they had delivered their verdict, Ms Justice Carmel Stewart thanked the jury for their attention and commitment to the case.

"This was a short trial but that doesn't make it any less distressing on the issues you have had to listen to," she said.

The judge then exempted them from further jury service for a period of 10 years.

Ms Justice Stewart then made an order committing Mr Braidwood to go to the Central Mental Hospital today and to be brought back before the court on December 16.

The judge also directed the preparation of a psychiatric assessment by an approved medical officer.

Ms Justice Stewart finally expressed her sympathies to the Braidwood family on what they had to endure.

"It's been a very distressing case," she said.

Opening the case for the prosecution on Monday, Mr Alex Owens SC told the jury that the central issue they would be asked to consider is whether they should bring in a special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity against Mr Braidwood.

The court heard evidence by video link from Mr Braidwood's sister, Ms Ceili Braidwood. She told Mr Owens that she was living with her mother in the family home in Dun Laoghaire on January 20, 2015.

Mr Braidwood had also been living in the family home “on and off since Christmas."

The witness agreed with Mr Owens that her brother began to experience “fairly severe psychiatric symptoms” in his early twenties which went on for quite a number of years.

The court heard her father had died some years previously.

Both her parents had been practising psychiatrists and her mother had recently retired.

Mr Braidwood went off his medication in November 2014 and had been on medication for bipolar disorder, manic depression and schizophrenia, the court heard.

Ms Braidwood agreed with counsel that when her brother went off his medication his conduct would deteriorate.

In the couple of weeks leading up to January 2015, Mr Braidwood spent a lot of time in the house and was sleeping all day.

He had also made a decision not to eat.

His mother, Jane Braidwood, was trying to look after him but was having difficulty convincing him to drink water, the court heard.

The accused was very tense and would spend long periods sitting in the kitchen and not talking. He would sometimes go upstairs to let off steam.

Mr Braidwood was under the care of Cluain Mhuire, who were giving him psychiatric assistance but he wasn’t taking their assistance at this time.

On January 20, 2015, Ms Braidwood was at home with her mother and her brother.

At about 4.30pm, Mr Braidwood made “an appearance” as he had been in bed previously in his bedroom which was on the top floor of the house.

Ms Braidwood told the court she was “working from home” that day and she then heard her brother ask her mother some questions.

Mr Braidwood wanted his mother to facilitate him going to Australia.

“He wanted her to ask our aunts in Australia to help him and let him stay as they lived over there. He didn’t need a VISA as we have double citizenship,” she said.

The court heard that Jane Braidwood didn’t think her son was well enough to take the trip. The deceased then tried to persuade her son that it was a bad idea to go to Australia and he was in no condition to do it.

The witness told the court that she was sitting at the bay window in the kitchen when she saw her mother between the window and table looking out onto the road.

There was also a discussion about the accused’s medication and then Mr Braidwood went silent.

“This was the point he lost control and became quite angry,” she said. Mr Braidwood then strode “purposely” towards the knife drawer beside the oven.

She said he had never been violent towards her or her mother before and it was “always towards the house or objects”.

Ms Braidwood said she heard her mother screaming something at her son as he took a long and sharp knife from the drawer, but it happened very quickly.

The witness said she then observed her brother struggling with her mother as her mother tried to run away.

Ms Braidwood then observed her brother stabbing her mother on a number of occasions.

She recalled her brother “jabbing” her mother with the knife before she tried to separate them from each other.

The witness said her brother then let go of the knife and punched her in the right side of her head on a number of occasions before knocking her onto the couch.

The knife was in her mother's back and Fionn Braidwood looked like he was going towards the knife drawer again, she said.

Ms Braidwood then locked herself in the bathroom and dialled the emergency services.

Ms Braidwood then came out and checked on her mother in the kitchen, but she was in the same place and not moving.

The accused was still standing at the knife drawer in the kitchen.

The court heard she then got to the front door of the house and started shouting for help.

She observed Anthony Maguire across the road and asked him for assistance. Mr Maguire rang the emergency services on his mobile phone.

Ms Braidwood then asked her brother to stay at the front door of the house as she did not want him around her mother in the kitchen with the knives.

The accused then got angry with Mr Maguire and started to punch him in the head.

Ms Braidwood said her mother was still lying in the kitchen with the knife in her back and tried to attend to her as the ambulance services arrived.

Defence counsel Patrick Gageby SC called consultant forensic psychiatrist Dr Brenda Wright from the Central Mental Hospital to take the stand.

Dr Wright told the court that Jane Braidwood told her son on the day of the offence that she did not think it was a good idea for him to go to Australia as he wasn’t taking care of himself and not showering.

“His illness was significantly complicated by non-compliance with medication and non-engagement with mental health teams,” she said.

Dr Wright told the jury that Mr Braidwood was suffering from “paranoid schizophrenia” at the time of the offence and would have been unable to refrain from his actions.

Prosecuting counsel, Alex Owens SC, called consultant forensic psychiatrist Dr Ronan Mullaney from the Central Mental Hospital to give evidence.

From Autumn 2014 up until January 2015, Dr Mullaney said there was a history of the accused not taking fairly strong anti-psychotic medication.

The witness agreed with Mr Owens that Mr Braidwood was suffering from schizophrenia on January 20, 2015 and was very unwell at the time.

He also agreed that the accused had a very significant need for regular medication in order to prevent any deterioration in his mental state.

Dr Mullaney also agreed with counsel that people can intrinsically lack insight into their illness and don’t appreciate they need treatment or benefit from treatment.

The court heard this has been a feature of Mr Braidwood's illness for a long number of years.

The witness said that the accused was off an injection of an anti-psychotic nature up to January 2015.

“People who have difficulty taking medication but still require it can turn up to a depot clinic and get this medication. Mr Braidwood decided he did not want to do that for several months,” said Dr Mullaney.

The witness agreed with counsel that Mr Braidwood was “very, very unwell” at the time of the offence and would have been unable to refrain from committing the act.

He also agreed that the accused needs continuing treatment and care at the Central Mental Hospital.

Dr Mullaney agreed with defence counsel, Patrick Gageby SC, that Mr Braidwood’s illness was of “at least 10 years standing.”

He also agreed with Mr Gageby that the accused is not frank with the world about his symptoms and downplays them.

“What I would say is that he fails to recognise them as symptoms of an illness and it has always been very distressing for him to have the diagnosis he has. He lacked insight into this diagnosis and it caused fear for him that people might detain him against his will,” said Dr Mullaney.

The court heard that Mr Braidwood has only understood the nature of his illness in recent months.

Mr Braidwood's family have been very attentive to his needs but the accused would have seen them as “intrusions rather than support".

Dr Mullaney agreed that minding her son would have been “quite an exhaustive process” for Jane Braidwood and consequently the same would have happened for those who were left to care for him in Australia.

The witness agreed with Mr Gageby that Jane Braidwood trying to stop her son from going abroad was a rational and caring approach.

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