Farmer 'too unwell' to attend trial for murder

Fri, Mar 16, 2012, 00:00

AS HIS trial draws to an end, a Co Wicklow farmer who denies murdering his brother in a row over his mother’s burial wishes did not attend court yesterday because he was “too unwell”.

Cecil Tomkins (63), New Lodge Nursing Home, Stocking Lane, Rathfarnham, Dublin, has pleaded not guilty at the Central Criminal Court to murdering Walter Tomkins (66) at Cronlea, Shillelagh, Co Wicklow, on July 1st, 2010.

Mr Tomkins, who has Parkinson’s disease, told gardaí that he shot his brother Walter in the hallway of the house they shared because he did not follow his mother’s burial wishes.

Judge Garret Sheehan told the jury: “Mr Tomkins has deteriorated overnight and he is too unwell to attend his trial today.”

Dominic McGinn SC, prosecuting, told the jury the case was not about emotion but about the evidence.

He said on the one hand Cecil Tomkins was a very sick man but, on the other hand, Walter Tomkins was a defenceless man who was shot in his own home.

Mr McGinn said the very least the jurors could convict Mr Tomkins of was manslaughter if they felt the prosecution had not proved murder.

Mr McGinn said Mr Tomkins loaded the gun, discharged it and that the natural and probable consequence was that it would cause, at the very least, serious injury and that at the very least he intended to cause him serious harm.

He said Mr Tomkins’s actions were deliberate, that he had to go into his bedroom, find the gun, find the cartridges, open the gun and put the cartridge in.

He told the jury he would have had to raise it, pull the hammer back and pull the trigger. “That series of actions could not be an accident,” he said.

John O’Kelly SC, defending, told the jurors that if there was a reasonable doubt, they would have to acquit Mr Tomkins. They had to be satisfied that the prosecution had proved the physical act was carried out.

Secondly, he said, it was necessary for the criminal intent to be present and that since it was essential the prosecution prove that he did the necessary act, it was necessary to prove he had intent.

He said that was very important in the case because Mr Tomkins had frontal lobe atrophy – shrinkage of the brain.

Mr O’Kelly said there were brain scans in 2010 and 2009 documenting brain atrophy, which affects judgment and the ability to inhibit socially unacceptable behaviour.

He said a consultant psychiatrist, Dr Paul O’Connell, who had been treating his client since 2006, said his judgment could have been impaired because of this. He said the medication his client was on might also affect his judgment and his normal inhibitors.

Mr O’Kelly told the jury that diminished responsibility was a statutory defence that could be used if a person was suffering from a mental disorder.

He said that the evidence of Dr O’Connell was based on a thorough study of the case and that the psychiatrist had no doubt in his professional opinion that Mr Tomkins “had diminished responsibility within the terms of act”.

The nine men and three women of the jury are expected to begin their deliberations in the trial this morning.