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Detective Garda Colm Horkan, who was killed in Roscommon. Garda Press
colm horkan

Psychiatrist who assessed Garda murder accused found 'no evidence of acute mental illness'

He had assessed garda murder accused Stephen Silver hours after the shooting of Garda Colm Horkan.

A PSYCHIATRIST WHO assessed Garda murder accused Stephen Silver hours after the shooting of Garda Colm Horkan found “no evidence of acute mental illness”, the Central Criminal Court has heard.

Dr Will Monteiro, a consultant psychiatrist with 30 years’ experience, said Silver’s speech and behaviour were within normal limits and he passed him fit to be interviewed. 

The doctor accepted under cross-examination that he did not have time to do a full assessment and diagnosis of Silver and had recommended that a forensic psychiatrist carry out a formal assessment.

The trial also heard today that Silver had previously met Horkan in 2003 when the Garda called to the accused’s mother’s house to assist her.

Silver (46), a motorbike mechanic from Aughavard, Foxford, Co Mayo has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Detective Garda Horkan knowing or being reckless as to whether he was a member of An Garda Siochana acting in accordance with his duty.

He pleaded guilty to manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility, at Castlerea, Co. Roscommon on 17 June 2020.

During the opening of the trial, prosecution counsel Michael Delaney SC told the jury that the defence will argue that Silver was having a relapse of his mental health issues at the time of the shooting and that his culpability is therefore substantially reduced. 

Dr Monteiro today told Delaney that when he arrived at Castlerea at about 9am that morning, he knew Silver had some mental health history but he didn’t know the nature of it.

He spoke to the accused through a hatch in the cell door as it was considered too risky to enter the room, he said.

Silver was in “quite a dishevelled state”, he said, “and didn’t really want to talk to me and made it clear he didn’t want to be interviewed by me on the basis that he had never met me before and didn’t know who I was.”

Silver also said that he wanted his family to be present before he would be willing to talk.

The doctor noted that the accused’s speech was normal although forceful. His eye contact was appropriate, he was purposeful, goal directed and displayed “pretty well the behaviour of a normal person, his information processing appeared normal.”

He did not appear to be intoxicated or delirious, his movements were within normal limits and there was “no evidence of psychotic elements in his speech”.

He was “a little agitated” but that, the doctor said, “was within the context of someone being interviewed in a cell who didn’t want to be there.”

Dr Monteiro said he felt Silver was able to determine whether he wanted to speak to him and he quickly formed the opinion that it was likely that Silver was fit to be interviewed.

He added: “He did understand the information given to him and was able to respond to it in a way that he chose.”

He said he did not have enough time to say whether a mental illness was manifesting but, he felt that “whatever else was happening, he had enough presence of mind to be interviewed.”

Dr Monteiro spoke to Silver again a short time later “to confirm if that was correct”. From the second interview he found nothing that would contradict what he found in the first.

When the doctor asked Silver what had led to him being in a cell, he made a note that Silver responded, “you’re joking” in a loud voice and added: “Why should I tell you? I want a solicitor, I’m not talking to you.” The doctor said these were normal things to say for a person in Silver’s situation.

The doctor noted that Silver was obviously agitated “in the sense of being forceful but at the same time the speech was within normal limits. He was able to hold my gaze when he spoke to me and although he was very clear he didn’t want to talk, he was demonstrating that his ability to make up his mind and be rational and engage in a reciprocal conversation was more than adequate.”

When speaking to the sergeant in charge of the station, Dr Monteiro said the accused was able to listen to what was said and respond appropriately.

He added: “There was no evidence of acute mental illness present at the time, no thought disorder. The structure of the speech was within normal limits and there was no extraneous delusional material or hallucinatory material or that kind of thing.”

People suffering delusion or hallucination, he said, would say things “completely out of context” or that contained “ideas related to things that are not real or true and so on. His speech was completely reality-based and normal.”

Dr Monteiro said that Silver obviously had a history of mental illness but added: “I felt at the time that it was within his control, so to speak, and I felt he was in a position to be interviewed.”

Silver understood the situation he was in, could act in his own interest and “showed many elements which would suggest his capacity was intact.”

Dr Monteiro said he later became aware that a general practitioner had earlier that morning given Silver 50 milligrams of Seroquell, an antipsychotic drug.

He said that if he had known that at the time, it would not have changed his findings.

He said the 50mg dose given was “very small”; the range for treatment of psychotic illness would be from 300mg to 800mg. He added: “If someone was in an aroused state, it would make very little difference to their functioning.”

Under cross-examination, the witness told Roisin Lacey SC that he was unable to do a mental state evaluation because Silver refused to be interviewed.

He further agreed that he advised that Silver should have the benefit of more formal forensic assessment and that his own assessment was incomplete. He said his task was to assess whether Silver was fit to be interviewed and he found that he was.

The jury in Silver’s trial also watched footage of a fifth interview Silver did with gardai at Castlerea garda station the day after the shooting.

During the interview Inspector Brian Hanley put it to Silver that he had told detectives in earlier interviews that Garda Horkan identified himself as a garda before he got out of his car and when he was standing in front of Silver.

They also put to him that he had said that Garda Horkan told him he was under arrest for assault.

Silver did not respond.

The detectives added that Silver had said that he noticed a gun in a holster on the garda’s hip but didn’t know who removed the gun from the holster. They pointed out that Horkan’s garda ID was found on the ground away from his body.

Inspector Hanley asked: “So how can you tell me you didn’t know he was a guard?”

Silver had his back turned to the gardaí and did not respond. When detectives asked if he had ever met Horkan before, Silver began singing, “We Have All The Time in the World” and referred to the gardai as “detective garda Henry Hippo and Paddy Farrell” before asking to be allowed to leave, “because I need to go and urinate”.

When the interview restarted, Inspector Hanley told Silver that he had previously met Garda Horkan.

In October 2003, he said Garda Horkan had called to Silver’s mother’s home after she asked for assistance. When asked if he remembered, he answered: “I do in my fucking hole.”

He said that he couldn’t be expected to remember that and added that if Garda Horkan knew him, “he should have known that I’m a trained man, so he should not have approached me.”

Inspector Hanley told Silver that Garda Horkan had “done his best” and had helped him and his mother when they needed assistance.

He replied: “I don’t need help. You’re telling me that fucking tosspot was helping me. His own fucking gun, that’s all I had to do was disarm him, the fucking eejit.”

He said that Garda Horkan “should have stayed in his car” and that he would be alive if he had.

The trial continues in front of Justice Paul McDermott and a jury of seven men and five women.