Accused Brother Had ‘Mental Disorder’

A jury at the Central Criminal Court has been told that a 21-year-old man accused of murdering his 17-year-old sister was suffering from a mental disorder at the time of her killing. Patrick O’Dwyer of Shrohill, Ennistymon, Co Clare, denies murdering his sister, Marguerite, on 29 November, 2004.

A consultant psychiatrist in forensic psychotherapy gave evidence on Mr O’Dwyer’s behalf that she believed he had been suffering from ‘depersonalisation disorder’ and that this mental state predated the killing.

Dr Cleo Van Velsen said the symptoms the accused had included ‘detachment from oneself, like being an automaton in a movie, sensory anaesthesia, lack of effective response or lack of emotional response.’ She said Mr O’Dwyer’s inability to connect with those around him led him to self medicate with alcohol which made his condition worse.

Dr Van Velsen mentioned two incidents when Mr O’Dwyer had ‘exploded’ into violence in the year before the killing. She said he had become aggressive with his father who confronted him about his drunken behaviour at a wedding. On another occasion he hit a woman and bit her fingers when she rejected his advances while he was very drunk.

She said she believed Mr O’Dwyer intended to kill himself on the night of 29 November, 2004. but that his sister was there and his ‘murderous strain of mind’ was ‘misdirected’ towards Marguerite. She said she believed he called a sexual chat line after the killing in an attempt to talk to a woman for some sort of contact.

Dr Van Velsen said she believed his disorder could be linked to his very premature birth. He was almost two months early and weighed less than three pounds when he was born. She said early trauma could affect development from a neurobiological point of view.

The court has been told that the Director of the Central Mental Hospital, Dr Harry Kennedy, will give evidence that the accused was not suffering from a mental disorder. But another consultant from the Central Mental Hospital’s Dr Paul O’Connell said he agreed with Dr Van Velsen’s report.

The trial continues.