'Better supports' may have avoided killing of mother by son in row over iPhone

Patrick Dunne was found not guilty by reason of insanity of bludgeoning his mother Susan Dunne to death after an argument over the purchase of a mobile phone
'Better supports' may have avoided killing of mother by son in row over iPhone

Paul Neilan

The death of a mother who was killed with a hatchet by her autistic son could potentially have been avoided "with better supports", the victim’s daughter told the Central Criminal Court on Wednesday.

"I hope he knows his mother loves him still – a mother's love is unconditional," Helen Sheehy told the court in her victim impact statement.

Last month, a unanimous jury found Patrick Dunne not guilty by reason of insanity of bludgeoning his mother Susan Dunne to death after an argument over the purchase of a mobile phone she believed to be too expensive.

In Ms Sheehy's victim impact statement, read into the record on Wednesday by prosecuting counsel Dominic McGinn SC, she said she "knew nothing" of the lives her mother and Patrick were living.

Ms Sheehy said it was a "very unfortunate outcome between a protective mother and a son looking for his independence" and that "maybe with better supports it could be avoided".

"Nothing can change what has happened. I feel the same today as the day I heard my mother was dead. Patrick deserves the help and support he needs. I hope he knows his mother loves him still – a mother's love is unconditional," she said in her statement.

Mr Dunne's brother, Anthony Sheehy, said in his statement that his parents separated when he was in his teens and that for a long time he did not see his mother.

Mr Sheehy said the day his father got in touch to tell him his mother was dead was "a devastating one".

Reconnect

Mr Sheehy said that he had intended to move back to Ireland to re-connect with his mother. He said that to "properly heal from that pain, I need to forgive". Mr Sheehy said he found comfort in his faith and that "one day, we shall see each other again".

Mr McGinn said consultant psychiatrist Dr Anthony Kearns, of the Central Mental Hospital, reported that Mr Dunne could continue with his treatment.

Ms Justice Mary Ellen Ring said she would order that Mr Dunne continue with his progress in the Central Mental Hospital. She said the case was a "very sad" and wished Mr Dunne well with his future appropriate treatments.

The jury had heard that Mr Dunne told gardaí in interviews that he "lost it" over the disagreement about the purchase of an iPhone which Ms Dunne believed to be too expensive.

Ms Dunne died after suffering six hatchet wounds to the head as she lay in her bed, five of which were fatal.

The jury heard psychiatric evidence that Mr Dunne had "little understanding of the act or its consequences and was unable to refrain" from killing his mother.

They also heard that Mr Dunne felt his mother was controlling him and perceived that she was preventing him from having an independent life.

An expert medical witness gave evidence that there was a culmination of anger in Mr Dunne over his restricted life, and the defendant had also stated that he shoplifted the hatchet with the intention of killing his mother.

Mr Dunne admitted to killing his mother "without any lawful justification", but psychiatrists for both the prosecution and defence were in agreement that the defendant was insane, as defined by law, at the time of his mother's death.

Mr Dunne (28), from Ballingeragh, Lixnaw, Co Kerry, had pleaded not guilty to murdering Susan Dunne (62) between November 26th and 27th, 2013, both dates inclusive, at the same address.

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