Intoxication more likely led man to kill wife than brain injury, psychiatrist says

The court heard that Alan Ward had anger management issues and violent episodes as far back as 2002.
Intoxication more likely led man to kill wife than brain injury, psychiatrist says

Eoin Reynolds

A man who denies murdering his wife was previously charged with assaulting her and gardaí were called to their home over a number of domestic disputes, the Central Criminal Court has heard.

Psychiatrist Dr Damian Smith told the court that Alan Ward had anger management issues and violent episodes as far back as 2002.

He said he found no evidence to suggest that the accused experienced any significant personality changes following a stroke in 2017 or that his responsibility for killing Catherine Ward was diminished as a result. He said intoxication was more likely a factor in his actions than the effects of any brain injury.

The 54-year-old has pleaded not guilty to murdering Mrs Ward (41), who died in the bedroom of their home after suffering multiple stab wounds to her neck and hands, at Greenfort Drive, Clondalkin, Dublin 22, on March 1st, 2019.

He has also pleaded not guilty to making a threat to kill or cause serious harm to his son, Adam Ward, intending him to believe that the threat would be carried out, and to attempting to stab Adam on the same date.

Childhood trauma

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Paul O’Connell, who was called by the defence, told Mr Ward’s trial that the effects of a stroke and excessive alcohol consumption had contributed to Mr Ward’s actions.

He said childhood trauma due to abuse the accused sustained at the hands of his mother’s partner may also have caused post-traumatic stress disorder and may have contributed to his poor impulse control and anger issues.

Dr O’Connell said it is up to the jury to decide if Mr Ward should be found to have diminished responsibility due to his mental disorder and therefore he would not offer his own opinion.

He said it would be “appropriate for the jury to consider the extent to which his responsibility may have been substantially impaired at the time”.

Dr Smith, who was called by the prosecution, told Bernard Condon SC he was not satisfied that the brain injury explained Mr Ward’s actions in killing his wife nor that it was sufficient to diminish his responsibility.

He said the accused had anger management issues and violent episodes as far back as 2002 and he found no evidence that he underwent any significant personality changes following his stroke in 2017.

He said there was no evidence of aggression since he entered prison, where he has not had access to alcohol and therefore he was not satisfied that Mr Ward met the criteria for an “organic personality disorder” brought on by a stroke.

Previous incidents

Dr Smith noted that Mr Ward was charged with assaulting his wife, causing her harm, after drinking heavily and taking tablets in 2002.

In July 2010, there was another incident in which he assaulted his wife resulting in her going to hospital for treatment to a cut on her head.

He said Mr Ward injured a neighbour with a sword in 2011. The court heard there was further evidence that gardaí had been called to the Ward home five times to deal with domestic disputes and only one of those came after the stroke in 2017.

He said Mr Ward’s level of intoxication was a better explanation for his behaviour, but that the final decision would be a matter for the jury.

The trial continues before Mr Justice Tony Hunt and a jury of eight men and three women.

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