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‘Did you hurt someone?’ The psychotic episode that led to the fatal stabbing of a stranger

Christina Anderson was jailed for eight years this week for the manslaughter of father of seven Gareth Kelly in a ‘ferocious’ knife attack as he sat in his car

Mark Anderson was startled awake by a bang. He pulled himself from bed and entered the hallway of his home where he discovered the source of the noise: the house alarm had been pulled from the wall.

He presumed his wife Christina (41) had done it as she had been acting strangely for days. The previous night she insisted that the deceased singer Michael Jackson was coming to visit and they would all soon discover that they were gods and goddesses.

He was so concerned that he sent their two eldest children to stay with their grandmother and brought forward Christina’s appointment at the local psychiatric hospital to 9am that morning.

He walked downstairs and the doorbell rang. It was Garda Barry O’Shea and Garda Ross Coyne. They had arrived in the suburban south Dublin estate at about 7.05 that morning – February 25th, 2020 – in response to reports of a stabbing. When they arrived, they began knocking on doors while paramedics tried to revive Gareth Kelly, who was lying on the ground of the car park directly opposite the Anderson home.


Mark invited the two gardaí into the kitchen where Christina was cutting fruit for their youngest child. Mark told them he had not been out yet that morning and Christina said likewise. She said she knew nothing of the injured man outside but Garda O’Shea noticed something wrong in her demeanour.

CCTV footage showed him sitting in the car when Christina Anderson approached, still in her dressing gown but with a knife in her hand

“Initially everything appeared normal but then she became more agitated and distressed,” he later told the court. He cautioned Christina, telling her she was not obliged to say anything but anything she did say would be written down and could be given in evidence.

The husband and wife began to talk and Mark was becoming worried that his wife knew more than she had let on.

‘I did it for love’

“Did you hurt someone?” he asked.

“I did it for us, Mark. I did it for love. One of us is insane, Mark,” she said.

She told him she did it to protect him, to protect them.

Garda O’Shea and Garda Coyne told Sergeant Bernard Maguire what they had heard. When he arrived, Sgt Maguire told Mark to take the child upstairs so he could arrest Christina on suspicion of the murder of Gareth Kelly.

Kelly (38) was a hardworking man with seven children. He wanted to give them everything he could, so he worked two jobs, sometimes finishing one as late as 3am but getting up for the next one before 7am. The previous night he had been unable to find a parking space in his own estate so he drove to the neighbouring Brownsbarn Wood and parked in a space that belonged to the Andersons. They didn’t use it, so he didn’t see any harm in it.

Shortly before 7am, Gareth arrived at his car but he couldn’t get it started in the cold morning so he went to the boot to retrieve a battery charger. He connected it and sat into the driver’s seat as he waited for the charge to build.

CCTV footage showed him sitting in the car when Christina Anderson approached, still in her dressing gown but with a knife in her hand. He had not even left his seat when she delivered the first stab wound and ran away, back to her home. Gareth stumbled from the car and slid slowly to the ground before Christina returned, again armed with a knife. She stabbed him again, and again, inflicting five stab wounds in total. There was no chance he would survive.

She had never given any indication that she might be capable of lethal violence. She had struggled with her mental health for years, particularly after the birth of one of her children, but, according to her husband, she gladly took the medication she was prescribed and listened to the advice of her doctors.

Bipolar disorder

In 2017 she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and regularly attended the Mary Mercer clinic, near Tallaght, where her treating doctor considered her to be a good patient with insight into her illness.

By early 2020, she Christina was fixated on what she falsely believed to be a criminal conspiracy involving her neighbours, gardaí, criminals and politicians

Mark sometimes noticed a “spike” in her enthusiasm levels when she would become “very eager”. On one occasion, they ordered a ton of soil for the garden but by the time Mark got home she had already spread it. During those times, he would tell the court, “when a project presented, it got all the attention”.

By early 2020, she was fixated on what she falsely believed to be a criminal conspiracy involving her neighbours, gardaí, criminals and politicians.

Maria Cormick had been friends with Christina since childhood and told the trial she was “sort of in admiration of her – I valued her highly”. In January and February 2020 Christina started sending her messages about the criminal conspiracy and a legal action she was taking against one neighbour.

In late January, Christina sent her friend a WhatsApp message saying: “In case I go missing, it’s the neighbours who did it.” On February 23, two days before the stabbing, she forwarded a chain of emails she had sent to her solicitor over the previous weeks.

At the top she had written: “Just in case if anything happens to me, I want justice and the truth to come out, the crooks exposed.”

The email chain was full of rambling conspiracy theories and wild accusations.

Mark had been in Canada on a business trip since February 16th. Before he left he didn’t notice anything unusual but when he returned on February 23rd he was immediately concerned. Christina’s mother was taking care of the children because she recognised her daughter wasn’t capable. The house was a mess; pizza boxes and fast-food wrappers were strewn around and the laundry hadn’t been done.

Delusional and paranoid

To Mark, Christina seemed delusional and paranoid. When the children asked to go out to play, she screamed.

“She wasn’t forming coherent thoughts or sentences; she was just saying, don’t go near the door; she was screaming at the kids,” Mark later recalled.

As they watched Star Trek, she became more delusional, thinking she was a character in the show or saying that Michael Jackson was coming or that she was a goddess

He had never seen her act in a paranoid way before. Mark called the Mary Mercer clinic but it didn’t have psychiatric services on a Monday, so he had to settle for bringing her scheduled appointment for the Tuesday afternoon forward to 9am.

As Sunday rolled into Monday she became more lucid and at times she understood that she needed treatment. She told Mark she had hidden a knife on a high shelf near the front door. He retrieved it and put it back in the kitchen. That evening they watched Star Trek and they may have smoked a joint. It was their usual habit, Mark told the trial, but he couldn’t be sure if they smoked that night.

As they watched, she became more delusional, thinking she was a character in the show or saying that Michael Jackson was coming or that she was a goddess and that everything would be fine because they would all become gods and goddesses.

They went to bed at about 11pm, ready for her appointment with psychiatric services the following morning.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Brenda Wright diagnosed Christina with bipolar affective disorder. Having studied her history of mental illness, her behaviour in the build-up to the stabbing and her erratic behaviour after she was arrested, the psychiatrist concluded that Christina had a psychotic belief that Gareth Kelly was a danger to her and her family.

She believed that by stabbing him she was protecting her family and therefore harboured a psychotic justification for the attack and was unable to refrain from her actions. Under the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act, Dr Wright believed she qualified for a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.

Cannabis intoxication

The prosecution, however, was planning to call Prof Harry Kennedy. He had found that Christina’s behaviour was better explained by cannabis intoxication. Intoxication does not qualify as a mental disorder under the act and cannot be used as a defence. Before Prof Kennedy had been called to rebut Dr Wright’s evidence, lawyers on both sides told the Central Criminal Court that work was being done behind the scenes.

In January, more than one month into the trial, the prosecution accepted a plea of not guilty to murder but guilty to manslaughter due to diminished responsibility. The prosecution accepted that Christina had been undergoing a psychotic episode and that cannabis intoxication did not feature.

Ms Justice Karen O’Connor jailed Christina Anderson for eight years this week. The judge noted that Christina was “highly dominated by her mental condition,” but she also said she had to mark the gravity of the offence and the devastating impact of the “ferocious” attack on a defenceless man.