Son who killed mother said he 'lost it' over a row about buying an iPhone

The 28-year-old autistic man admits killing his mother "without any lawful justification" but expert psychiatrists for both the prosecution and defence are in agreement that the accused was insane "as defined by law" at the time of his mother's death
Son who killed mother said he 'lost it' over a row about buying an iPhone

Paul Neilan

A mother who was killed by her son after he said he "lost it" over a disagreement about the purchase of an iPhone died after suffering six hatchet wounds to the head as she lay in her bed, a murder trial jury has heard.

The 28-year-old autistic man admits killing his mother "without any lawful justification" but expert psychiatrists for both the prosecution and defence are in agreement that the accused was insane "as defined by law" at the time of his mother's death, the Central Criminal Court has been told.

Patrick Dunne from Ballingeragh, Lixnaw, Co Kerry, has pleaded not guilty to murdering his mother Susan Dunne (62) between November 26th and 27th, 2013, both dates inclusive, at the same address.

Patrick Gageby SC, defending Mr Dunne, has made a number of admissions of fact on behalf of his client that included that the accused killed his Ms Dunne and had done so "without any lawful justification".

Mr Dunne was arrested by gardaí in Listowel later that morning and was interviewed seven times over two days. Mr Dunne told gardaí that he left the family home at 10.30am that morning, locking the door of his mother's bedroom because he did not want a stray cat to get into the room.

Antonia Boyle BL, for the prosecution, read transcripts of Mr Dunne's interviews to the jury.

iPhone cost

She said Mr Dunne had told gardaí that on the night of November 26th, 2013, he and his mother argued over the price of an iPhone she believed was too expensive but for which he was trying to save money.

In his interviews, Mr Dunne told gardaí that he was "out of control" on the night and had a "bad temper". He said that he rowed with his mother over the cost of the phone and went to his room to listen to music.

He told gardaí that at around 10pm he got up for a drink of water and went to the kitchen where he noticed a hatchet was missing from a box that contained wood. He said he went to his mother's room to look for it.

Ms Boyle said Mr Dunne told gardaí that it was dark in his mother's room and that she was asleep when he found it in her room. He told gardaí that he made "a few practice swings" with the hatchet over his mother and "by accident" hit her - "it wasn't meant to happen", he told gardaí.

He then returned to the kitchen with the hatchet and washed off the blood in the sink before drying it and placing it next to the fridge. The hatchet was examined by forensics and blood and hair particles matching Ms Dunne's were found along with a majority DNA profile for her son, said counsel.

Mr Dunne told gardaí that he was "shocked" by what happened and that "he cried, wishing he could take it back". Mr Dunne said he went to bed and in the morning returned to his mother's bedroom and tapped her three times on the shoulder but she was "gone".

Mr Dunne said that he then locked her bedroom door, took his social protection card from her bag and went to the post office to collect some money before driving on to Listowel. Gardaí, alerted to the incident, arrested him there after seeing him by his mother's car.

When asked by interviewing detectives why he didn't call someone for help, Mr Dunne said that he was "too upset" and that he "didn't know how to put it into words". He later admitted to locking the door because he did not want anyone to find her. Of the incident, he repeatedly told gardaí that he "lost it" and that he could not control his temper after becoming upset over the row about the iPhone.

'I lost control'

When it was put to Mr Dunne by detectives that the killing was not an accident, Mr Dunne replied: "Not really, no." However, when asked if the killing was "deliberate", Mr Dunne said: "Not really. I lost control."

Detectives told the accused man that a pathology report showed Ms Dunne had been struck by a sharp-edged instrument six times in the back of the head. Mr Dunne then admitted to striking Ms Dunne twice with both hands on the hatchet before then admitting to gardaí that he struck her four times.

When asked if striking someone four times with an axe in the head sounded like an accident, Mr Dunne told detectives that it did not and that his actions could be described as "harm" but that he did not intend to do harm.

At around 4am after the attack, Mr Dunne rang and texted a friend from his mother's phone, but it rang out. A statement from his friend Catriona Powers said she missed 14 missed calls from the number before answering it the next morning at 7.50am. Ms Powers said that Mr Dunne was the caller and told her that he loved her to which she responded that she had a boyfriend.

Prosecution barrister Dominic McGinn on Tuesday read the report of State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster who found six wounds to the right posterior side of Ms Dunne's head.

Counsel said that Dr Bolster attended the scene to find a large amount of blood on Ms Dunne's bed sheets and blood spatter on the door. Dr Bolster said brain matter had been oozing from the wound on the right side of the head and that Ms Dunne had a partially severed right index finger. She also noted two spots of blood on the ceiling.

Dr Bolster recorded that a sharp instrument had penetrated Ms Dunne's skull, that there had been multiple fractures and that there had been lacerations to her brain tissue. She found that three of the wounds had penetrated the mid-brain area and that these were consistent with being committed when she was lying as she was found in bed.

She said Ms Dunne's cause of death was due to multiple blows to the head by a sharp weapon causing brain swelling and laceration.

The trial continues before Ms Justice Mary Ellen Ring and a jury of five men and seven women.

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