Man who thought alleged murder victim was FBI 'agent' fails to meet insanity verdict criteria

Valerijs Leitons (25) is charged with murdering Skaidrite Valdgeima on June 26th, 2019.
Man who thought alleged murder victim was FBI 'agent' fails to meet insanity verdict criteria

Stephen Bourke

A man who inflicted dozens of slash and stab wounds on his partner was suffering with a mental disorder but was not impaired enough to meet the criteria for a "not guilty by reason of insanity" verdict, a psychiatrist has told a murder trial.

Valerijs Leitons (25), with an address at St Kevin’s Gardens, Dartry, Dublin, is charged with murdering Skaidrite Valdgeima on June 26th, 2019 at the Binary Hub aparthotel on Bonham Street, Dublin 8. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

The trial has heard that Mr Leitons and Ms Valdgeima, a married woman, had struck up a friendship that became a sexual relationship. The couple met at a concert in May 2019 and began seeing each other frequently over the following weeks.

A pathologist’s report read into evidence on Friday by Conor Devally SC found Ms Valdgeima had suffered “multiple penetrating slash and stab wounds, particularly to the face, head and neck”.

Dr Allan Cala carried out a post-mortem examination the morning after the 34-year-old suffered the fatal injuries. He found over 50 injuries to her body; the bulk of them slash and stab wounds which he said were consistent with two knives recovered at the scene by gardaí – one with a partially serrated edge, the other a retractable blade.

He said the wounds to her face, head and neck did not pierce any arteries, but would have “bled significantly” – estimating that the area of “thickly congealed blood” where she had been lying amounted to half a litre or more.

Struggle

“[She] would have been able to struggle for a period of time,” he wrote, noting that her body showed “defence-type injuries on both arms”. He suggested these likely happened when she tried to grab the knife or tried to block it.

He also noted blunt force injury to her head, suggesting she might have been beaten with the butt-end of the knife.

“The attack seemed to be very violent and sustained,” he said.

She had been pronounced dead in hospital at 4.49am, after attempts to resuscitate her failed.

Dr Damian Smith, a consultant forensic psychiatrist at the Central Mental Hospital, told Mr Devally he examined the accused seven times during his time in custody, reviewed his treatment records, interviewed his mother and examined his correspondence with Ms Valdgeima.

He said Mr Leitons had shown symptoms of a psychotic disorder as far back as February 2018 and had been prescribed medication to treat it the following month, later moving to a different drug and higher dosage.

According to his mother, he may have stopped taking his prescription as early as February 2019, Dr Smith said. He began to believe he was being targeted by “agents” of the FBI or KGB who were following him, and that he was receiving instructions through the mass media.

Directed 'from above'

“He began to believe intelligence agencies were trying to recruit him because of his superior intelligence,” Dr Smith said. Around two weeks before her death, he formed the view that Ms Valdgeima was one of these “agents”, Dr Smith said.

He asked Mr Leitons why he agreed to keep meeting her, and was told “his level of belief was fluctuating”.

“One week prior he heard a man on the radio say ‘kill the agent’,” Dr Smith said. “Although he believed the message was directed to him 'from above', the accused said he did not intend to act on it.”

However, he began carrying the two knives as tools for “self-protection” but “denied he had carried a knife because of a sense of a threat from the deceased,” Dr Smith said.

The knives were taken from him by gardaí when they arrested him near Binary Hub on the night of the killing.

“He believed at the time that his face was swollen and that he was surrounded by agents. He said he was afraid that the deceased was an FBI agent and was going to harm him, kill him,” Dr Smith said.

“He saw her adjust her bra while walking to Binary hub and thought she had a weapon.”

Poison

When she offered him a Tic-Tac, he took this to mean she was going to poison him, and had “activated” some toxin in the sweets by shaking the container.

Dr Smith said the defendant told him that when he saw Ms Valdgeima return from the apartment’s bathroom with her hands behind her back, he became convinced she had a weapon.

He told the doctor that his thoughts were: “It’s either me or she,” then he took out the knife and stabbed her.

He said as he did this he saw the face of a person he knew from Chechnya speaking a proverb translated as: “If you put the knife out, you must cut.”

“These thoughts were in my head, and I thought it was coming from above,” he said in interview.

Dr Smith asked him what he meant when he told gardaí they were “playing a sexual game”.

“I said to them it was just a game, like she was playing with me,” he said.

“Although becoming mentally unwell, [Mr Leitons] was able to act normal enough for the victim to meet up with him,” Dr Smith told Mr Devally.

"Although Mr Leiton was mentally disordered, I am not satisfied that his condition is impaired to such a degree to meet the criteria for not guilty by reason of insanity," Dr Smith said.

He told the court it happened during an "acute psychotic lapse of paranoid schizophrenia, most likely precipitated by his non-adherence with prescribed antipsychotic medication up to three weeks prior".

The trial will continue on Tuesday before Mr Justice Paul Burns and a jury of seven men and five women.

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