Cork woman found not guilty of daughter's murder by reason of insanity

A Cork woman who told gardaí she killed her daughter because Our Lady told her to has been found not guilty by reason of insanity at the Central Criminal Court today.

A Cork woman who told gardaí she killed her daughter because Our Lady told her to has been found not guilty by reason of insanity at the Central Criminal Court today.

Gardaí found Mary Prendergast’s daughter, Jessica, covered in blood at the foot of the stairs of her home. She had been stabbed 44 times.

It took the jury of seven women and five men 24 minutes to reach its unanimous verdict, finding Ms Prendergast (aged 49), of Glenna Cottages, Commons Rd, Cork, not guilty by reason of insanity of murdering of Jessica Prendergast, 21, at that address on July 29, 2006.

Ms Prendergast, who has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, wept as the verdict was read out.

During the trial, the court heard that Ms Prendergast had been released from psychiatric treatment at Cork University Hospital 19 days before the killing. She had gone to stay with Jessica and her grandson, who was one year old at the time.

Ms Prendergast told gardaí during interviews that she “didn’t sleep at all” the night of the killing.

She believed she was “getting messages from Our Lady from the water dripping into the toilet bowl”.

The bathroom was beside her bedroom.

She said that Our Lady told her to kill Jessica.

She went downstairs and got a knife from the kitchen, then returned to bed.

“I said to her [Our Lady]: 'When do you want me to do it?' She said: ‘I’ll let you know, my love.’ At half past five she said: ‘You can do it now.’”

Ms Prendergast went into her daughter’s room and stabbed her in the chest in what was described as a “frenzied attack”.

Jessica was struck with the knife almost 100 times.

Ms Prendergast then took Jessica’s son, left the house, and walked to the offices of the Blue Cab taxi company.

She passed by the offices a number of times before coming to the hatch and asking for a taxi to the garda station.

There was blood on her face and hair, and on the child she was carrying.

One of the men working at the office contacted Mayfield garda station and, at 6.10am, Garda John Flynn arrived.

He observed that Ms Prendergast was “very distressed”.

An ambulance was called and took Ms Prendergast to the Mercy Hospital.

On the way, she said “something to the effect that her daughter was possessed by the devil”.

Later, while in the hospital, Ms Prendergast was attended to by Garda Deirdre Murphy.

Garda Murphy observed that Ms Prendergast was in a “shocked state, crying, shaking, grinding her teeth”.

She also took notes of some of what Ms Prendergast said.

Ms Prendergast said that the baby told her that Jessica was “bad with the devil”.

“I asked the baby was she [Jessica] dead and he told me she was and he clapped his hands.”

Consultant Psychiatrist Dr Brian McCaffrey told the court that Ms Prendergast has had illness of a psychiatric nature for approximately 19 years and was admitted to psychiatric institutions on seven occasions before the killing.

He diagnosed Ms Prendergast with paranoid schizophrenia with very fixed delusions.

“At the time of the events, she was suffering from an exacerbation of symptoms. They were actually worse that night,” he said.

Mr Justice Paul Carney told the jury that these cases are “very distressing”.

Ms Prendergast has been committed to the Central Mental Hospital.

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