A Dublin man who killed a stranger with garden shears because he thought he was the devil has pleaded not guilty to murder by reason of insanity at the Central Criminal Court.
Thomas Connors (aged 25), of Manor Court, Mount Argos, Harold’s Cross, had sought medical help on three occasions in the days before he killed Michael Hughes and was waiting to taken from Saint Vincent’s Hospital to Saint James’ by ambulance to be admitted when he absconded.
He thought 30-year-old Mr Hughes was the devil when he savagely attacked him in the stairwell of Manor Villa apartment block on the morning of December 15, 2007.
A jury of three women and nine men heard uncontested evidence from senior investigating garda, Detective Inspector Gearoid Begley, about how Mr Hughes died from multiple stab wounds inflicted by the accused.
It then heard psychiatric evidence from Dr Damien Mohan who concluded that Mr Connors was suffering from schizophrenia at the time of the killing and was legally insane. Mr Connors believed that the devil was embodied in Mr Hughes and he was on a mission from God to kill him.
Det. Insp. Begley told the Paul O’Higgins SC, prosecuting, that Mr Hughes was a Dublin Bus employee, lived in Banagher, Co. Offaly and was engaged to be married. He was in Dublin for the evening to meet friends and his cousin, Liam Davis, for drinks.
The group went out in the city centre and then went to pubs in Rathmines. Mr Davis went home early as he was playing football the next day.
There had been a loose arrangement for Mr Hughes to stay at his cousin’s flat in Manor Villa Apartments. Mr Hughes went back to the apartment block at around 4am but was unable to get into the flat and decided to sleep in the stairwell of the building.
After 6am Mr Connors, who lived in another apartment block in the complex, smashed though the apartment block glass doors armed with garden shears and fatally attacked Mr Hughes. Residents heard screaming and called gardaí. Mr Connors made no attempt to conceal his actions and told gardaí: “I had a fight with the devil and the devil is gone”.
Det. Inspt. Begley said a post mortem revealed that Mr Hughes suffered 95 injuries all over his body which ranged from superficial to deep penetrating wounds which would have rapidly caused death. He also had a “multiplicity of defence wounds”. In opening the case to the jury Mr O’Higgins said the victim suffered 143 injuries.
Dr Mohan, a fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and consultant at the Central Mental Hospital, was called to give evidence by defence counsel, Ciaran O’Loughlin SC.
Dr Mohan said Mr Connors had a history of psychiatric illness and had sought medical help in the days leading up to the killing.
Dr Mohan said Mr Conors’ parents were from the Travelling Community and his father suffered from schizophrenia. The defendant had lived with his wife and child in Harold’s Cross for the previous six months.
He had been admitted to hospital with psychosis in 2004 and 2005. His delusions had involved religious preoccupations. He had believed that he was God and everyone else was Lucifer.
The jury heard he was a cannabis user and while that may have contributed to his mental state Dr. Mohan did not consider it to be the major factor in his actions. He had no history of violence and one previous conviction for not having tax or insurance.
Four days before he killed Mr Hughes the defendant went to the accident and emergency department of Saint James’ Hospital. He was seen by a triage nurse but then left. Two days later he returned with his wife and child and said he had stopped taking his medication.
He was given a prescription for anti-psychotic medication and was told that he fell within the catchment area of Saint Vincent’s Hospital. The next day he went to Saint Vincent’s where it was decided that he should be admitted to Saint James’. He waited a number of hours while an ambulance was arranged but absconded before he was transferred.
Dr Mohan said that Mr Connors’ wife said she had been frightened by her husband’s behaviour. She tried to get him hospitalised but he was just given pills so she got a bus to Laois and went to a woman’s shelter with their child.
During the marriage Mr Connors had suffered from delusions that her father was the devil and she was the daughter of the devil. When gardaí arrived at the scene of the killing Mr Connors told them he had killed the devil and then said he had killed his wife’s father.
Mr Connors was arrested and interviewed but then taken to hospital as gardaí were concerned about his mental state. He told gardaí that he “had to do it” and “it was the devil”.
Mr Connors believed that the devil had been in his apartment and that “it was either him or me”. He had taken his duvet outside and stabbed it because he thought the devil was hiding in it.
Sean Guerin BL, prosecuting, told the jury that a psychiatrist’s report prepared for the State “did not disagree” with the conclusions reached by Dr Mohan.
Defence counsel and Mr Justice George Birmingham will address the jury tomorrow morning . It will have to decide, on the balance of probabilities if the accused is not guilty of murder by reason of insanity.