Man with schizophrenia found not guilty of murdering mother

Niall Stapleton believed mother had been replaced by an impostor when he killed her

Wed, Dec 18, 2013, 17:54

A 32-year-old man with schizophrenia has been found not guilty of murdering his mother by reason of insanity.

Niall Stapleton of Glebe Lodge, Kilfane, Thomastown, Co Kilkenny had pleaded not guilty to the murder of Siobhan Stapleton (51) at that address on May 25th, 2012. She died from blunt force trauma to the head, after being beaten with the handle of a garden implement.

The college graduate admitted causing his mother’s death, but a four-day trial at the Central Criminal Court heard that he believed she had been replaced by an impostor when he killed her.

Forensic psychiatrists for both the prosecution and defence were in agreement that Mr Stapleton met the requirement for the special verdict of not guilty of murder by reason of insanity.

However it took a jury of seven men and five women more than two hours to reach a majority verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.

The trial heard from the clinical director of the Central Mental Hospital, where Mr Stapleton has been an inpatient since shortly after his mother’s death.

Professor Harry Kennedy had studied his medical records and interviewed the accused on behalf of the prosecution. He was satisfied that at the moment he was striking his mother, he believed he was striking a doppelganger.

It was one of a number of delusions from which he suffered at the time, all in keeping with a diagnoses of schizophrenia made in 2008.

The court also heard that he had misused a variety of substances since the age of 14 and that this might have led to his schizophrenia being missed in 2006, when he was diagnosed with drug-induced psychosis.

The trial also heard that Mr Stapleton had been in denial about his illness until after his mother’s death and did not always take the anti-psychotic medication he was prescribed.

He had tried to move out of home a number of times but always relapsed when he didn’t have the support of his mother to ensure he took his medicine.

On one such occasion, Mrs Stapleton had to fly to Australia to bring him home, after he had been committed to a psychiatric hospital there. It followed his attempted robbery of a bank in which he had simply handed a cashier a note demanding money.

The trial heard that Mr Stapleton was quite paranoid and behaving erratically at a family barbecue the evening before her death. He thought his sister’s boyfriend was putting LSD in his cans of beer.

He didn’t sleep for long that night and was paranoid again the following morning. He was afraid to go into Thomastown to get his hair cut, thinking the barber might hold him captive.

Meanwhile, his mother was in good form that day, singing along with the radio. It was a warm sunny day and his sister, just returned from college, was painting outside.

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