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Woman on trial for attempted murder of civil servant stabbed woman two weeks earlier, jury hears

Laura Kenna had stabbed a woman at a Luas stop in the face with a pen, the Central Criminal Court was told today.

Image: RollingNews.ie

A WOMAN ON trial for the attempted murder of a civil servant stabbed a woman in the face at a Luas stop two weeks earlier, the Central Criminal Court has heard.

Laura Kenna (35), of no fixed abode, is charged with the attempted murder of Fionnuala Bourke on Lower Drumcondra Road, Dublin 9 on 3 January 2017. She is also charged with assault intending to cause serious harm.

Kenna has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to both counts.

Opening the case on Tuesday, prosecuting counsel, Anthony Sammon SC, said the central issue was the state of mind of Kenna at the time. He said the jury would hear evidence from two consultant psychiatrists from the Central Mental Hospital and there would be a conflict in the opinions of the doctors.

Sammon told the jury that Bourke, a civil servant, was walking home from work around 5pm on the day in question when she was attacked by Kenna with a knife. Sammon said Bourke’s “throat was slit” and she suffered “severe facial scarring”.

Upon her arrest the following day, Kenna told gardaí: “I’m guilty. Yeah, I fucking did it.

Is she still alive? Yeah I did it, I sliced her like you would a goat. You couldn’t have stitched that up, I cut through her like butter.

‘Messages through the television’

On the third day of the trial today, the defence called Dr Stephen Monks, consultant forensic psychiatrist based at the Central Mental Hospital, to give evidence on Kenna’s state of mind.

Dr Monks told Barry White SC, for Kenna, that he interviewed the accused on two occasions in 2018 and, in his opinion, Kenna did not know what she was doing when she attacked Bourke and couldn’t stop. As such, Dr Monks said Kenna fulfilled the criteria for a special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.

Dr Monks said Kenna had schizophrenic affective disorder and, at the same time, exhibited psychotic delusions and hallucinations.

He said Kenna believed she was receiving messages from the television and could communicate with celebrities. He said she believed other people could hear her private thoughts which was a classical symptom of schizophrenia.

Luas attack

He told the jury that two weeks before the alleged attempted murder of Bourke, Kenna stabbed a woman at a Luas stop in the face with a pen. Kenna believed the woman had been saying things about her under her breath but it was “most likely” the woman hadn’t said anything at all.

She had intended to stab her in the eye, the jury heard.

Shortly after being released from garda custody for the Luas incident, Kenna stated that she thought she was going to be “eaten” and that if she didn’t kill somebody she wouldn’t survive. She stated that she was being talked into killing somebody by the “voices in her head”.

Under cross examination from Sammon, for the prosecution, Dr Monks said Kenna had been labouring under delusions about killing people for a long time before the attack on Bourke and was allegedly “killing someone for a purpose that wasn’t related to stealing a handbag”.

Reason of insanity

For the prosecution, Professor Harry Kennedy, a consultant forensic psychiatrist at the Central Mental Hospital, told the jury that he and Dr Monks were in agreement on many matters including Kenna’s diagnosis.

However, Prof Kennedy said Ms Kenna did know what she was doing when she attacked Bourke and was not entitled to the verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.

By Kenna’s own account, Prof Kennedy said she had gotten a sharp knife to rob somebody and selected an appropriate victim. He referred to Kenna’s comments that she had let another woman “go” and selected Bourke because “she was only little”.

Referring to Bourke’s statement in which she recalled Kenna telling her ‘if you give me your bag, I’ll let you go’ in a normal tone, Prof Kennedy said that had nothing to do with delusion. It was “straightforward” and part of the negotiated robbery.

Prof Kennedy said Kenna knew what she was doing was wrong – she took the bag and ran away – and there was no evidence that she was unable to refrain from committing the attack on account of her condition. She had an ability to cease and desist which she exercised once she had achieved her primary goal which, Prof Kennedy said, was to rob Bourke’s handbag because she had no money.

He said he was unable to connect delusions about supernatural forces with a robbery at knifepoint and a demand to Bourke to give up her bag.

Hallucinations 

In contrast, Prof Kennedy said he believed Kenna was entitled to a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity for the Luas stop attack – which was recorded by a jury in a previous trial.

Prof Kennedy said the victim of the Luas stop incident gave an account of what Kenna was saying at the time of that assault. It was independent evidence that Kenna was responding to hallucinations at the time.

Furthermore, she waited very near to the scene of the assault until the gardaí arrived.

In summary, Prof Kennedy said it appeared Kenna knew the nature and quality of what she was doing when she attacked Bourke, which meant she was not entitled to a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.

The jury of seven men and five women will hear closing speeches from the defence and prosecution tomorrow before Mr Justice Robert Eagar advises the jury on the evidence they have heard.

Comments have been closed as the case is before the courts.

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Ruaidhrí Giblin

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