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Trial of doctor accused of murdering son hears from her neighbours

Maha Al Adheem has pleaded not guilty to murdering Omar Omran on 10 July 2017.

Central Criminal Court, Dublin
Central Criminal Court, Dublin
Image: Google Maps

NEIGHBOURS OF A doctor who is on trial accused of murdering her three-year-old autistic son have told a jury that she was “beyond” a caring mother and did everything for him, the Central Criminal Court has heard.

Maha Al Adheem (43) has admitted stabbing her son and told gardai that “a power” had made her go to a drawer and remove a knife. The boy was stabbed 20 times and four stab wounds had penetrated his lungs and heart, severing a vital artery. 

Opening the trial yesterday, prosecuting counsel Michael Delaney said the defence of insanity is being raised on behalf of Al Adheem. This applies where the accused is suffering from a mental disorder at the time, he said, so as not to be held legally responsible for her actions. 

The barrister stated that expert psychiatrists for both the prosecution and defence are in agreement that Al Adheem fulfils the criteria of not guilty by reason of insanity.  

Al Adheem, with an address at Riverside, Poddle Park, Kimmage, Dublin 12 has pleaded not guilty to murdering Omar Omran on 10 July 2017 at the same address. 

Delaney told the court this afternoon that he was tendering two witnesses at the request of the defence.

Siobhan Murray told Patrick Gageby, defending, that she was Al Adheem’s neighbour and found her bubbly and a bit hyper as well as “beyond” a caring mother to her son.

“She was amazing, she did everything for him morning and night. I never heard her raise her voice once or correct him,” remarked Murray.

The witness said a black cat with no tail hung around their apartment complex and Al Adheem did not want her calling the cat over. Murray agreed with Gageby that the accused thought the cat was an evil spirit and the cause of a lot of bad things that were happening to her. 

Murray said that Al Adheem gave her “a blow by blow” account about a smashed mirror in her apartment on 7 July which she maintained the cat had caused. “She thought that when anything was not going right the cat seemed to be there. It was a worrying thing for her,” she said.

The witness agreed with Gageby that the accused had told her that a man-made her have sex with him whenever the cat was around.

‘Best friend’

Aingle Ní Cheallaigh told defence counsel Anne Rowland that she also lived at Riverside and found Al Adheem “so friendly” when she first met her in 2010 but could see the accused’s difficulty with her son being demanding. However, the witness said her “best friend” was extremely caring and protective of Omar.

Rowland put it to Ní Cheallaigh that her client had devoted herself to her son’s care. “She was his only care that I knew. The only time she got to put out the bins was when he was asleep,” she replied. 

The witness said she had noticed Al Adheem become paranoid a few months before the incident and told the court that her friend was afraid the spirits of dead people would inhabit the cat and use this cat to hurt her.

Ní Cheallaigh further agreed with the defence that the accused was a kind, good and decent mother.

A statement by Deputy State Pathologist, Dr Linda Mulligan was read into evidence by Delaney.

Mulligan said she conducted a post-mortem on the deceased on 12 July and the cause of death was multiple stab wounds to his chest, abdomen and trunk as well as to his right thigh.

There were 20 stab wounds in total and four of the stab wounds had been fatal as they had penetrated his heart and lungs, severing a vital artery. The remaining stab wounds to his back, abdomen and right thigh contributed to overall blood loss and death. Two incised wounds to his hand were consistent with defensive type injuries.

‘No response’

Earlier, former garda Diarmaid Kelly told Delaney that he was attached to Sundrive Road Garda Station in July last year. He was the driver of an official patrol car on the Crumlin Road on 10 July when he was informed by Dublin Fire Brigade that a child was in cardiac arrest at Riverside, Poddle Park in Kimmage at 6.52pm. 

Members of the fire brigade were preparing to leave the scene when Kelly arrived as they had tried to gain access to the accused’s apartment but there was no response. 

Kelly said he made several attempts to knock on the door of the apartment with some members of the fire brigade and rang the caller’s number who had previously dialled 999.

The court has heard that Dublin Fire Brigade got a 999 call from Al Adheem at 6.40pm and she said that her baby was dead and then hung up. The person who took the call phoned the caller back but she hung up again.

Kelly said there was a “red smudge mark” on the left-hand side of the apartment door which he believed was blood. A resident approached Kelly while he was trying to gain access and told him that a female and her child lived there and pointed to a blue Micra car in the carpark which he said belonged to the woman. 

The fire brigade used a ladder to look through the balcony window but the curtains were drawn and the balcony door was locked.

Kelly said two firefighters breached Al Adheem’s apartment door using a sledgehammer which activated an intruder alarm. “I also noticed a chub lock had been put on the door as well,” he said, adding that he was first to enter the apartment.

The witness testified that Al Adheem was standing in the hall directly in front of him and looked panicked. He identified himself as a member of An Garda Síochána.

“Ms Al Adheeem held her hands up and said ‘no, no, no’ and backed away into the living area where she sat on a couch,” he said.

 ‘Called for assistance’

Kelly said he observed a large amount of blood on her hands, her right hip and her clothing. The accused was in her pyjamas and wearing a headscarf.

He called for the assistance of paramedics and a doctor who had accompanied them to the scene. 

The witness said he soon became aware of a “degree of commotion” coming from the bedroom of the apartment and went to see what the cause of this was. 

Kelly said he observed the body of a young male lying on his back in the middle of the bed with his head towards the foot of the bed. “There was a substantial amount of blood at the scene and paramedics had connected an ECG monitor to the child,” he said.

The witness said he noted several puncture wounds to his torso and his legs. A silver metal knife was also on the bed.

Paramedics informed Kelly that the child was unresponsive and had no pulse before he returned to Al Adheem in the living area.

Kelly said he asked the accused repeatedly what had happened and she replied: “I did it, I stabbed my son and then stabbed myself”.

Al Adheem was initially reluctant to be examined by staff and held a cushion to her side where her injuries were. Eventually, she allowed a doctor to examine her before she was brought by ambulance to St James’s Hospital at 7.40pm. 

Under cross-examination by Patrick Gageby , defending, Kelly agreed that one of the pieces of information he was able to access from the Pulse record was that Al Adheem had the benefit of a safety order in her favour. He further agreed with counsel that it is very common that a safety order is conveyed to the local garda station as gardaí will give effect to it.

Kelly agreed with Gageby that he had entered the apartment in uniform and members of Dublin Fire Brigade were also dressed in uniform. Gageby said Al Adheem’s reaction to this was “no, no, no” and the witness agreed with this.

‘The only thing’

Detective Garda Riana O’Sullivan gave evidence that she attended St James’s Hospital with Al Adheem as she had three small puncture wounds on her abdomen. 

O’Sullivan said the accused told her in hospital that she had killed her son and her bed was full of blood. “She said ‘the spirit goes to bed with me, at 12 o’clock I take the knife and start hitting him and myself, I want to die’,” said O’Sullivan.

The witness said the accused also told her that her husband had autism and had given the disease to their child saying: “He could not understand this disease so he left”.

Sergeant Brendan O’Halloran told the prosecution that he arrested the accused at 10.05pm in the psychiatric unit of St James’s Hospital on July 12 and conveyed her to Crumlin Garda Station where four interviews were conducted with her. When the murder charge was put to her she replied: “yes it was my knife, my hand, it was not me, the power.”

Al Adheem said to gardaí in her first interview “how can I kill my son, the only thing in my life I lost”.

She told gardaí that her son had been playing the ipad on the couch and she was reading before she grabbed a knife and stabbed him the bedroom.

The accused said she did not answer the door to gardaí as she thought they were “fake people” and she knew Omar was already dead.

When gardaí informed her that a post-mortem had been carried out on her son and the results showed he died of multiple stab wounds including to the heart and lungs, she replied: “I want to die, I want to die.”

Under cross-examination by Gageby, defending, O’Halloran agreed that Al Adheem said in interviews a number of times that she wanted an explanation for what had happened.

The trial resumes tomorrow before Justice Eileen Creedon and a jury of nine men and three women.

Comments are closed as legal proceedings are ongoing.

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Alison O'Riordan

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