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Woman suspected of slicing civil servant’s throat goes on trial

Laura Kenna attacked Fionnuala Burke on Drumcondra Road Lower on 2 January 2017.

Image: PA Images/PA Archives

A WOMAN ARRESTED on suspicion of slicing a civil servant’s throat told gardaí that she “did it” because the Department of Social Protection were supposed to “look after people”. 

Laura Kenna (35), of no fixed abode, is charged with the attempted murder of Fionnuala Bourke as well as assault intending to cause serious harm on Lower Drumcondra Road, Drumcondra, Dublin 9 on 2 January 2017.

Arraigned before a jury at the Central Criminal Court on Monday, Kenna pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to both counts.

Opening the case today, prosecuting counsel, Anthony Sammon, said the central issue in the case was the state of mind of Kenna at the time. 

Sammon told the jury they would hear evidence from two consultant psychiatrists from the Central Mental Hospital. He said there would be a conflict in the opinions of both doctors and it was for the jury to decide which is more likely to be correct. 

He 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”, she suffered “severe facial scarring” and it was a “dreadful thing to happen”. 

‘Sprung up’

Giving evidence, Detective Sergeant Ken Hoare told Sammon that Bourke was walking along Drumcondra Road away from the city centre on the side of the roadway where traffic was running counter to her.

Detective Sergeant Hoare said Bourke passed the junction of Clonliffe Road and what is known locally as “The Bishop’s Palace” when she noticed a woman, Kenna, sitting on the wall outside one of the houses on Lower Drumcondra Road. 

As Bourke approached, Hoare said Kenna “sprung up” and pushed Bourke backwards onto the grassy area between the footpath and traffic. He said Kenna was on top of Bourke and that Kenna started to stab her. 

Hoare said Bourke could feel short, sharp stabs going into her upper body. He said she could feel her face and neck being slashed and she thought she was going to be killed. 

The detective said Kenna didn’t ask or demand anything from her immediately prior but later said words similar to: ‘If you give me your bag, I’ll let you go’. 

Hoare said Bourke managed to free herself and was at the front of the Bishop’s Palace trying to stop traffic. She was screaming that she had been mugged, that her bag had been taken and that she had been cut. 

He said an ambulance arrived at the scene and Bourke was observed as having a large, deep cut across the front of her neck. It was 8cm in diameter and had penetrated through the muscle. It had cut through to the thyroid gland and there was a suspicion of damage to the oesophagus.

Following a medical procedure, Bourke spent time in the Intensive Care Unit.

Detective Sergeant Hoare said Kenna was arrested the following day in Tallaght for allegedly “making a nuisance of herself” in Tallaght garda station.

She had been identified from CCTV footage in Drumcondra Rail Station and gardaí were seeking her as “the only suspect”. 

Upon her arrest in Tallaght, Hoare said Kenna was found to have blood on her clothing, a knife and items of property belonging to Bourke. 

The detective said he arrested Kenna on suspicion of assault causing harm to Bourke. Upon being cautioned, he said Kenna replied “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.

Hoare said he cautioned Kenna again so she understood everything she was saying could be used as evidence. He said Kenna told him: ‘She took my house away from me, that’s why I killed her. Fuck her, from the Department of Social Welfare (sic), she’s meant to look after people”. 

Medical evidence

Counsel for Kenna, Barry White, said the defence accepted the injuries sustained by Bourke constituted serious harm. 

Under cross-examination, Hoare accepted that Kenna’s comment in relation to the Department of Social Protection was likely to have come from an analysis of documents in Bourke’s handbag, after the incident.

That’s the conclusion I would have come to, yes.

He told White that the gardaí had enquired into Kenna’s comments regarding the Department of Social Protection to ensure the alleged attack was not related to the injured party’s line of work.

Hoare said the gardaí had found no evidence that Kenna ever had any dealings with Bourke. 

He said there was “nothing conclusive” to suggest the Department of Social Protection or any State agency had previously taken property from Kenna.

When asked by White whether he was aware of the medical evidence that would be heard in the case – that Kenna suffered from a form of schizophrenia, that she was delusional and paranoid – the detective sergeant said he knew there was a history of mental health in respect of Kenna.

When asked whether Kenna’s suggestion about State agencies taking property or a home from her indicated some delusional belief on Kenna’s part, the detective sergeant said “that would be a bit of a stretch”. 

He said Kenna was in receipt of social welfare payments and “she may well have had her issues with that Department over the years”. 

White asked the detective whether he was aware that Kenna was involved in another incident, two weeks before the incident involving Burke, where Kenna stabbed another woman which resulted in a jury returning a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity. “I believe so,’ the detective sergeant said. 

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Ruaidhrí Giblin

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