The jury in the trial of a woman accused of murdering a father of seven in a "totally random killing" heard on Tuesday that the woman’s behaviour in the immediate aftermath of the stabbing appeared to be “very severely impaired”.
Dr Harry Wood, a consultant and forensic psychologist, gave evidence to counsel for Christina Anderson (41) of Brownsbarn Wood, Kingswood, Dublin 24.
Ms Anderson is charged with murdering Gareth Kelly (39), who died from stab wounds following an incident at the estate on the morning of February 25, 2020. She has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
Barrister Michael O’Higgins SC asked Dr Wood whether a very traumatic event can affect a person’s memory.
Dr Wood replied that it can, and he referenced the work of Dr Bessel van der Kolk whose research with Vietnam war veterans showed that different parts of the brain are activated by trauma. He agreed with Mr O’Higgins that a heightened emotional state affects memory, and he also agreed that mania and psychosis can be heightened emotional states.
“Memory is very flawed; we all forget things all the time,” said Dr Wood. He said that memory laid down during a heightened emotional state is qualitatively different from normal memory.
He agreed with Mr O’Higgins that Ms Anderson’s behaviour in the immediate aftermath of the stabbing appeared on the face of it to be very severely impaired.
Dr Wood said that a psychologist and not a psychiatrist would attend to personality disorders.
“Clearly anything that involves early trauma is a psychological issue rather than a psychiatric one,” he said.
The witness told Mr O’Higgins that a personality disorder is a mental disorder so, in his opinion, it is a psychological issue.
Following Dr Wood’s evidence, Ms Justice Karen O'Connor told the jury that certain matters had to be discussed in their absence.
Telling them to return the following day at 10am, Ms Justice O’Connor reminded them not to discuss the case with anyone, not to do any research into the case, and not to look up any social media reports about it.
State of mind
When the trial opened, counsel for the prosecution Patrick McGrath SC said there is no disputing that Ms Anderson killed Mr Kelly. The issue will be her state of mind at the time, he said.
Mr McGrath said: "The accused is seen coming out of her house in a dressing gown. It would appear she had a brief conversation with the deceased and she stabbed him and then ran back into her own house."
Mr McGrath said the CCTV shows Mr Kelly getting out of his car clutching his chest and slowly falling to the ground.
He added: "The accused is then seen coming out of her own house again and going back to the gap between her car and Mr Kelly's car and making a number of movements which look like stabbing movements towards Mr Kelly. She is then seen to drop something as she goes back to her own house."
Dr Wood has told the trial that when he interviewed Ms Anderson, she told him that the week before the offences she was “really ill”, was hearing voices and was paranoid someone was going to stab her.
“I saw the man outside and I knew he was the killer. I believed he was there to kill me," Ms Anderson told Dr Wood.
He said the accused now realises she was delusional at the time and told him: “It’s a tragedy. No one was trying to kill me, I was ill. It was just that his car had broken down.”
Mr O’Higgins had previously told the jury that an issue in the trial is whether Ms Anderson's actions when she stabbed Gareth Kelly to death outside her home were driven by mental illness or cannabis intoxication.
The jury also heard evidence from the accused’s husband, Mark Anderson, who said the couple were smoking an average of €200 to €250 worth of cannabis per month in the lead-up to her stabbing Mr Kelly.
The trial continues on Wednesday in front of Ms Justice Karen O'Connor and a jury of seven men and five women.