A Dublin man who was high on a cocktail of drugs when he stabbed his daughter's partner to death has been found guilty of his murder by a unanimous jury decision at the Central Criminal Court.
The jury of nine men and three women rejected Mark Whelan's defence that, although he did not have a mental disorder, he was psychotic through intoxication and did not know the nature and quality of his acts, didn't know they were wrong and couldn’t prevent himself from carrying them out.
They took just two hours to return their unanimous verdict and gasps were heard in the body of the court as the jury foreman read out the verdict.
Mark Whelan (48), with an address at Castlecurragh Heath, Mulhuddart, Dublin 15, had pleaded not guilty to murdering Noel Whelan (22) at his home on March 30th, 2019. The accused is the father of the late Mr Whelan’s partner, who was pregnant at the time he was killed.
On Friday, Ms Justice Tara Burns, in her charge to the jury, said there was “no issue” as to whether or not Whelan killed Noel Whelan.
Ms Justice Burns told the jury it was up to them to decide if the appropriate verdict was that Whelan was guilty or not of murder, or guilty of manslaughter. The judge said she did not want to trespass on the jury's duties but said that both the prosecution and defence had accepted that Whelan had killed Noel Whelan.
After reviewing differing expert psychiatric evidence, the judge told the jury that the evidence in the case did not meet the threshold for Whelan to be found “guilty but with diminished responsibility”, or of being “not guilty by reason of insanity”.
Ms Justice Burns had previously told the jury to consider whether Whelan was capable of forming the intent of causing serious harm or to kill Noel Whelan. She said that if the jury decides that Whelan had the capacity to form the intention they must also consider if he then did so on the night.
Last Wednesday, Dr Francis Kelly told Michael Lynn SC, for the defence, that in his opinion the accused did not know the nature and quality of the act, did not know it was wrong and could not refrain from doing it.
“I was satisfied that at the material time of the offence Mr Whelan was voluntarily intoxicated with multiple substances – which included cocaine, cannabis and benzodiazepines,” Dr Kelly said. “I felt he was psychotic at the material time, but I felt his psychosis was caused by intoxication.”
'No mental disorder'
The State had called Professor Harry Kennedy, consultant forensic psychiatrist at the Central Mental Hospital, as a rebuttal witness who found no mental disorder present in Whelan.
Prof Kennedy said that Whelan’s symptoms were better explained by his poly-substance abuse, referring to “recurrent episodes of an intoxicated state with delirium”.
“In my view, intoxication is a sufficient explanation,” he said. “This remains the explanation whether or not Mr Whelan has any mental disorder. I cannot find any mental disorder,” he said.
“Your opinion is that he did not have a mental disorder as defined by the Criminal Law Insanity Act?” asked prosecution counsel, Dominic McGinn SC.
“In my opinion, no,” Prof Kennedy said.
“He knew he was stabbing his son-in-law. He knew he was stabbing him with knives,” he said. Prof Kennedy argued that acting out of a mistaken or delusional belief that he was defending himself and his family, or out of revenge for an imagined act, “would not necessarily amount to not knowing what he was doing”.
“Dr Kelly was clear in his evidence that he was of the view that Mr Whelan did not know the nature and quality of the act, did not know it was wrong, and could not refrain from doing it,” said Mr Lynn, cross-examining Prof Kennedy.
“I respectfully disagree,” said the professor. “Mr Whelan very clearly knew he had taken two knives – two long knives. He had the capacity to form an intention. He didn’t take up a wooden spoon.”
After receiving the guilty verdict this morning, Ms Justice Burns adjourned the case to November 15th, for sentencing and for the opportunity to consider victim impact statements.