Hostage-taker ‘at risk of mental health relapse’

A farm worker who subjected an elderly man, his daughter and her fiance to a terrifying hostage ordeal involving a double barrelled shotgun is at significant risk of relapse in his mental health.

That is according to Dr Ronan Mullaney of the Central Mental Hospital (CMH) who told Ennis Circuit Court yesterday that Mr Howard, 50, suffers from severe depression that has psychotic features and distortions in his thinking.

Dr Mullaney said that Mr Howard of Gortnaminch, Listowel is currently in remission from his severe depression with the accompanying symptoms but is at “significant risk of relapse”.

Dr Mullaney said that Mr Howard’s “acute symptoms have largely resolved”.

Dr Mullaney told the court that the care and treatment for Mr Howard at the CMH “is aimed at his recovery and rehabilitation and very much an eye to his conditional discharge back to the community in the very near future”.

Earlier this month, a jury found Mr Howard not guilty by reason of insanity at the time of eight separate charges arising from a three-hour drama at Donnybrook House, Sixmilebridge on July 2 last when he held the three people hostage.

In the incident in the grounds of the home, Mr Howard fired his shotgun in a bid to startle Declan Finn, 29, who had overpowered him after a struggle.

On the date, Mr Howard — wearing a balaclava, blue medical PVC gloves and armed with the shotgun — took 68-year old gardener, Tadgh Corbett hostage.

Mr Howard kept Mr Corbett hostage for two and a half hours before Mr Corbett’s 27-year-old daughter Elaine Corbett and Mr Finn came to the home as Mr Corbett had not returned for his dinner.

However, on their arrival, Mr Howard emerged from behind the trees in the garden of the house to falsely imprison at gunpoint Ms Corbett and Mr Finn.

The three raised the alarm after Mr Corbett and Mr Finn overpowered Mr Howard.

On April 19 last, Judge Gerald Keys at Ennis Circuit Court directed that Mr Howard be detained at the CMH for psychiatric assessment.

Mr Howard yesterday appeared back before the court and Judge Keys yesterday ordered that Mr Howard be further detained at the CMH under the Criminal Law Insanity Act after Dr Mullaney’s evidence.

Dr Mullaney explained at the CMH, a Mental Health Review Board reviews the detention of all people under the Act.

“If Mr Howard is returned to the Central Mental Hospital, we would ask that the board would convene six weeks from this day to review if Mr Howard was suitable for conditional discharge under the Criminal Law Insanity Act and that is the plan.”

Dr Mullaney said a case conference will be convened on May 19.


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