A 51-year-old woman with paranoid schizophrenia who stabbed her elderly father to death on his 94th birthday because she believed the voice of God told he was an imposter trying to hurt her has been found not guilty of murder by reason of insanity.
The jury at the Central Criminal Court deliberated for just 48 minutes before returning their unanimous verdict on Thursday in the trial of Julie Flood, with an address listed as The Oyle, Oylegate, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford.
Ms Flood had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to the murder of her father, Patrick Flood, on April 14th, 2019.
The jury heard evidence from two psychiatrists who agreed that Ms Flood did not know that what she was doing was wrong when she stabbed him.
When the verdict was read out, Ms Flood said: “Thank you very much, jury, thank you very much for your patience, thank you very much for supporting me.”
Mr Justice Paul McDermott thanked the jury for their attention in the case and excused them from jury service for the next five years. He adjourned the matter to Friday to finalise the arrangements for Ms Flood’s care.
During the trial, evidence was given by witness Alan Somers, who said he was driving to work on the morning of April 12th when he saw a woman trying to flag people down. He said the woman was hysterical, and told him: "I'm after stabbing my daddy."
Mr Somers ran up to the woman's house and saw an elderly man wearing chequered pyjamas, who was covered in blood and in some distress, standing by the porch entrance. Mr Somers gave evidence that the man said: "She is after stabbing me."
Ms Flood told gardaí she heard God say: "He's not your daddy, stab him in the heart three times, stab him, stab him, stab him."
Mr Flood died two days later on April 14th.
Before he died, Mr Flood told Dr Paul Cromwell that he had woken up at 7am on April 12th to find his daughter standing in the hall screaming at him that he was an imposter. He said his daughter had come up to him and stabbed him in the stomach.
Cause of death
Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margot Bolster, who conducted a post-mortem examination on Mr Flood's body, said Mr Flood was suffering from severe heart disease, which he could have died from at any time.
She said the cause of death was congested cardiac failure complicated by ischemic colitis on the background of a recent stab wound.
The jury heard evidence from two psychiatrists concerning Ms Flood’s mental health history.
Forensic psychiatrist Dr Brenda Wright gave evidence to defence counsel Michael Delaney SC that Ms Flood experienced auditory hallucinations over the years. Dr Wright said Ms Flood had a “close relationship with God”, adding she would talk to God and he would comfort her.
Dr Wright said Ms Flood heard voices telling her: “This is not your real father”, which tormented her. Ms Flood also experienced delusions of being raped and felt “an evil man” would intrude into her house and rape her, the court heard.
Ms Flood said a voice told her that her father “wasn’t my daddy”, and Dr Wright said this was a “delusion of misidentification”, where someone believes a person known to them has been replaced and is now a threat.
The witness said her diagnosis of Ms Flood was one of schizophrenia. She added that at the time of the stabbing, Ms Flood did not know the nature and quality of her actions.
Dr Sally Linehan, a consultant forensic psychiatrist at the Central Mental Hospital, called on behalf of the prosecution, gave evidence to Shane Costello SC that she reached the same conclusions in this case as Dr Wright.
Dr Linehan said her diagnosis of Ms Flood was that she has paranoid schizophrenia. She said that at the time of the stabbing, Ms Flood was suffering a relapse of her illness.
“I’m satisfied that she fulfils the criteria for a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity,” Dr Linehan said.
In his closing statement on behalf of the prosecution, Mr Costello said that the jury could be certain that the elements of the offence of murder had been proved in this case.
He said it would be “perverse” for them not to accept the evidence of the two psychiatrists, and if they accepted it, they must return the special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.
In the closing statement for the defence, Mr Delaney said Ms Flood, who was 48 at the time of the stabbing, had been living with her elderly father and the pair were “devoted to each other”.
“On the morning of his 94th birthday, she picks up a knife and stabs him, and brings to an end the life of someone so important to her,” he said.
“There is nothing in the evidence to provide any rational explanation as to why she did what she did that morning to her father,” Mr Delaney said.
He said Ms Flood had an active mental illness, and she met all three conditions under the Mental Health Act: she did not understand what she was doing; she did not know what she was doing was wrong; and she was unable to refrain from doing it.
In his direction to the jury, Mr Justice McDermott said there was very little in the way of dispute involved in the facts of this case.
He pointed out that there was no contrary evidence to that given by the medical experts, and all evidence pointed to the existence of a mental illness from which Ms Flood suffered.
“This is a case about the killing of Mr Flood, the loss of his life. You don’t lose sight of that, but criminal responsibility has to be very carefully assessed. Those who should not bear responsibility due to mental illness should not be condemned,” the judge said.