Garda murder accused's behaviour was 'bizarre', psychiatrist tells court

Stephen Silver did not seem to grasp the gravity of the situation he found himself in after he shot and killed Garda Colm Horkan, the psychiatrist said
Garda murder accused's behaviour was 'bizarre', psychiatrist tells court

Eoin Reynolds

Murder accused Stephen Silver’s behaviour was bizarre and inappropriate and he did not seem to grasp the gravity of the situation he found himself in after he shot and killed Garda Colm Horkan, a psychiatrist has told the Central Criminal Court.

Dr Brenda Wright, a consultant psychiatrist with the Central Mental Hospital, told Mr Silver’s trial that the accused's aggression and hostility towards investigating gardaí, grandiose ideas and disinhibited behaviour were possible symptoms of an abnormal mental state or a manic mental state.

She said she watched DVDs of Mr Silver's interviews with gardaí in which he claimed to be a captain in the 62nd Cavalry of the Connaught Rangers, warned a detective to “sit down before you’re put down” and described Gda Horkan as a “little dirtbag that got shot with his own fucking gun”.

She said such behaviours during interviews and other behaviour noted by gardaí and a doctor on the day of the shooting were bizarre and inappropriate to the situation he was in. His aggression and hostility, she said, did not reflect the behaviour of gardaí who acted appropriately throughout.

As part of her report, which she will continue explaining to the jury on Wednesday, she said she considered all of his behaviours and his background of bipolar disorder with 17 psychiatric admissions dating back to 1997.

Dr Wright said she had to consider whether his behaviour indicated or reflected an abnormal mental state. Some of the ideas he expressed, she said, were grandiose, and suggested he had an important military status or special set of skills and importance that were "bizarre" and "not in keeping with reality".

Mr Silver (46), a motorbike mechanic from Aughavard, Foxford, Co Mayo has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Det Garda Horkan knowing or being reckless as to whether he was a member of An Garda Síochána acting in accordance with his duty. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility, at Castlerea, Co Roscommon on June 17th, 2020.

Mood swings

Dr Wright told Roisin Lacey SC, for the defence, that Mr Silver's mood from the time of his arrest fluctuated from agitated to calm, and he did not appear to grasp the gravity of the situation he was in.

She said his disinhibited behaviour, agitation, aggression towards gardaí are "important to consider in the context of the possibility of an abnormal mental state. Each can be taken as a symptom of an abnormal mental state and in Mr Silver's case of a manic mental state."

In his fifth and final interview the witness said Mr Silver's tone was "angry" and he shouted at gardaí. This was not, Dr Wright said, in keeping with the behaviour of gardaí who were "very appropriate". His "irritability and hostility are not in response to any behaviour by anyone else in the room," she said.

"From my point of view, failing to appreciate the gravity of the situation, the comparison of this behaviour to that of others in the room, really just highlights how unusual his behaviour was. It appeared on the DVDs that there was no external context for him to behave in a hostile or irritable manner or to behave in such a bizarre and unusual manner."

He also made "unreal assertions", Dr Wright said, such as that he would "f**k off for a pint" that suggested he did not grasp his circumstances or showed a "bizarre failure to judge his situation".

At one point, having put a tissue paper that had previously been up his nose into his mouth, he began picking his nose and ears, staring wide-eyed at gardaí and gesturing with his fist. He then turned to the window at the back of the interview room and began whistling. Dr Wright said she also considered this behaviour as possibly reflecting an abnormal state of mind.

Each behaviour, taken on its own, "are unusual and not appropriate, but in the context of his presentation over the course of that interview you would have to consider the possibility that they were manifestations of an abnormal mental state," she added.

Dr Wright will continue her evidence on Wednesday in front of Mr Justice Paul McDermott and a jury of seven men and five women.

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