An autistic Kilkenny man has gone on trial, charged with attempting to murder his pregnant sister in a case, where the jury may find him not guilty by reason of insanity, writes Natasha Reid.
Daniel O’Connell (33) with an address at Rosemount, Newpark, Co Kilkenny has pleaded not guilty to the attempted murder of Olivia O’Connell, who was also suffering the effects of chemotherapy at the time.
Mr O’Connell admitted during Garda interviews that he had stabbed her a number of times on April 25, 2016 in her home at Scholarstown Park, Scholarstown Road, Knocklyon in Dublin. He said he had decided to ‘do away with her’ so she wouldn’t raise her child in Dublin.
Michael Bowman SC, prosecuting, opened the trial to the Central Criminal Court today. He explained that Ms O’Connell was 26 and a half weeks pregnant when her younger brother arrived at her house unexpectedly that afternoon.
Ms O’Connell, now 42, told Gardaí that he was almost tearful when he arrived. She knew he had autism and enquired about how he had got to her house. She was suffering from chemotherapy symptoms as a consequence of cancer and was in her dressing gown.
“She was aware of the difficulties he had for quite some time, and of an unnatural and almost pathological dislike of Dublin and Dublin people,” said Mr Bowman, explaining that he had developed this feeling years earlier during a school tour to the capital.
He said the accused went upstairs to use the toilet and Ms O’Connell heard a bang.
“He came downstairs, wearing latex gloves,” explained Mr Bowman. “He had a knife. He stabbed her three to four times in the back.”
He said that she understood that this was a fight for her life and she struggled to resist her assault. She tried to get out the back door through which her brother had entered, but the key was gone gone. She then tried to run out the front door.
“He kicked her into the back of the calves,” continued Mr Bowman.
She eventually broke free and ran to a neighbour’s house. He said that the accused was still in the area when the Gardaí arrived and that he explained his ‘full motivation and elaborate preparation’.
Garda Niall Russell testified that he saw four puncture wounds on Ms O’Connell’s bleeding back when he arrived on the scene. He told Mr Bowman that she gave him the knife that she had managed to wrestle from her brother.
He asked the defendant what had happened.
“He said he’d tried to kill his sister,” explained Gda Russell. “He said he wanted to kill her because she was carrying a Dublin baby.”
He said the accused also told him that he was suicidal, didn’t want to be alone in heaven and didn’t want to leave all his family behind.
When Garda Russell asked about the contents of the bag he was carrying, he replied that he had a roll of duct tape and a hammer in it.
He was still wearing the gloves when he was taken to Rathfarnham Garda Station. He said that he was wearing them ‘to hide fingerprints’.
He identified the claw hammer, which he said was to stun his sister, and the duct tape, which was to stop her screaming as he cut her with the knife. The key to his sister’s back door was found in his pocket.
A doctor was called and the accused was brought to the psychiatric unit of St Luke’s Hospital in Kilkenny, where he remained until his arrest three weeks later.
He was then interviewed a number of times.
Gda Russell told James Dwyer SC, prosecuting, that the accused had described the incident as ‘a failed murder suicide’ during his first interview.
He said he’d had his ‘ups and downs’ with his sister since he was a teenager.
He said he’d planned the attack and was asked about the kitchen knives that he said he’d packed.
“They were to stick in Olivia as well if I didn’t get her with the hammer,” he explained.
He described the moment that he ‘started going for her’.
“She said: ‘Don’t chicken, don’t. You’ll be sorry.’ I eventually got her in the back twice,” he recalled.
He was asked what he was going to do with the body.
“Leave it there, maybe bring it upstairs and put it in her bedroom,” he replied.
Why?, he was asked.
“So it might make it look like she died of natural causes or something,” he responded. “I’d be very weak in jail. I’d rather get a hefty fine.”
He said he was planning to ‘do away with’ himself during a weekend to London with his father 12 days later.
He said that he had first decided to kill his sister the previous St Stephen’s Day or so.
“I heard she was pregnant and I didn’t like the idea of her bringing up a baby in Dublin,” he explained. “So, I decided to do away with her.”
He was asked about his issues with Dublin.
“I would have had a few bad experiences with Dublin people,” he said. “I felt that some of them were not being overly nice to me, shall I say.”
He said that he had fixed that Monday as the day he would do it on learning that his parents were going to Donegal for a long weekend to attend a wedding.
“It was the ideal date for me to visit her,” he said.
He was asked why he hadn’t chosen the Friday, and he replied that he didn’t want to ruin the bride’s wedding day.
He said he would be back home by the time her body would be discovered on the Monday evening. He was asked what he planned to do when news of her death broke
“I might have told my Mam and Dad shortly before taking my own life,” he replied. “I’m extremely remorseful for the stabbings”
Gda Russell told Mr Bowman that he had also taken a statement from Ms O’Connell. She said she felt that what he did was was premeditated and that she thought she was going to be killed.
She explained that her brother had always had a negative obsession with Dublin and was very upset when she’d married a Dubliner 10 years earlier.
She’d been taken to hospital by ambulance and had her four wounds dressed and received stitches. She described muscular pain as result of the assault and restriction in movement of her arm from where he had held her. She said her wounds were painful and uncomfortable and that her body went into shock.
She also attended her maternity hospital, where she received confirmation that her child was ok. The court heard that the child was born healthy.
Mr Bowman told the jury of six men and six women that it would hear from consultant psychiatrists for both sides, and that one of the available verdicts would be not guilty by reason of insanity.
The trial continues before Mr Justice Paul Butler.
This story was originally published in irishexaminer.com