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Dublin: 6°C Saturday 22 January 2022

Man found not guilty by reason of insanity over murder where woman was stabbed 100 times

The jury returned a unanimous verdict.

A MAN WITH paranoid schizophrenia was suffering a psychotic episode when he stabbed a woman 100 times and attacked four other people, a jury has found at the Central Criminal Court.

Paul Cuddihy (38), a former resident of St Otteran’s Hospital in Waterford, was found not guilty by reason of insanity of the murder of 55-year-old Maria O’Brien at St Otteran’s on 5 September 2014.

The jury of seven women and five men reached the same, unanimous verdict on four charges that Cuddihy assaulted fellow hospital resident Mary Nugent and nurses Breda Fennelly, Terry Hayes and Mary Grant, causing them harm.

The deliberations had lasted 39 minutes.

Justice Patrick McCarthy thanked the jury and exempted them from service for 10 years. He committed Mr Cuddihy to the Central Mental Hospital and ordered that he return to court on 14November when a doctor will outline a plan for his continued treatment.

Speaking outside the court after the verdicts Maria O’Brien’s brother Joe O’Mahony and son Patrick Halley, flanked by her partner William Halley, described her as a “kindhearted, fun-loving person”.

Patrick said:

She will always be in our memories. She was just the most caring person you could ever meet. She’d do anything for anybody, anything she could do, she would.

O’Mahony said that the details of her death, whereby she suffered stab wounds to the face and had defensive wounds on her hands, had been difficult for the family to hear.

“It’s harrowing to know it happened to someone you know very well,” he added.

During three days of evidence the jury heard that Cuddihy lived with Maria O’Brien, Mary Nugent and four other people at a residential unit on the grounds of St Otteran’s.

They had the freedom to come and go as they pleased but they had the support of nurses and staff at the hospital who issued their medication and checked on them regularly.

On September 5 the alarm was raised by one of the residents, Sinead Barron, who called staff from her bedroom saying Paul Cuddihy was attacking someone. Breda Fennelly and Mary Grant told the court that they arrived to find Mr Cuddihy in the kitchen standing over Mary Nugent with a knife in his hand.

Both nurses were injured as Cuddihy turned his attention on them while they tried to calm him down and give Mary Nugent a chance to escape. He slashed Breda Fennelly’s face with the knife and injured Mary Grant’s hands as she prized the knife from his fingers.

When assistant director of St Otteran’s Terry Hayes arrived, Cuddihy headbutted, kicked and punched him in an attack that Hayes described as “intense”, adding: “I feared for my life.” It took five gardai and members of St Otteran’s staff to subdue Cuddihy.

Two forensic psychiatrists told the court that Paul Cuddihy was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia many years before this attack.

Dr Brenda Wright said he had persecutory delusions and heard voices in his head.

In March 2012, two years before the attack on Maria O’Brien, he assaulted his father and told him “I want to send you to an early grave.” He said at the time that his thoughts directed him to attack his father and doctors believed this might mean that the voices in his head had commanded the assault.

At the time of the attack on Maria O’Brien he told Dr Wright and Dr Paul O’Connell that he believed he had to kill her or he would go to hell. He also believed that he would be freeing his family or the world from a curse if he killed her. Both doctors said these ideas were brought about by his illness, and that he did not understand the nature of what he was doing.

Assistant State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis told the court that Maria O’Brien had suffered more than 100 knife wounds to the head and face and blunt force trauma that had bruised her head and broken her nose. She died from blood loss as one of the knife wounds had cut her jugular vein.

Comments are off as this case is still before the courts.

About the author:

Eoin Reynolds

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