Christina Anderson sentenced to eight years in prison for stabbing man to death

Anderson, who has been in Central Mental Hospital since stabbing Gareth Kelly (38), will be required to receive psychiatric treatment for four years after release

A woman who was undergoing a psychotic episode when she stabbed a stranger to death has been given an eight-year prison sentence by a judge at the Central Criminal Court. Christina Anderson will also be required to work with probation services and engage with psychiatric treatment for four years after she is released or she will face a further three years in custody.

She has been in the Central Mental Hospital since shortly after the stabbing having been diagnosed with schizo-affective disorder. Anderson (41) had never met Gareth Kelly (38) when she approached him and stabbed him five times while he tried to start his car outside her home in the early morning of February 25th, 2020.

She was initially charged with murder and pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. In January this year, more than one month into her trial, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) accepted a plea of guilty to manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility due to a mental disorder. The State accepted that Ms Anderson was experiencing a psychotic episode due to bipolar affective disorder but did not qualify for the full defence of a not guilty by reason of insanity verdict under the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act.

The State also accepted that cannabis intoxication “does not feature” in the offence despite telling the jury during her trial that a central issue was whether Anderson’s actions were driven by mental illness or by cannabis intoxication.


Passing sentence on Tuesday Ms Justice Karen O’Connor said that the offence fell into the most serious category but for the fact that Anderson’s responsibility was diminished by her mental condition. She remarked that she committed a “fatal attack of a ferocious nature” on a defenceless man who she did not know as he sat in his car.

Anderson then went home but returned a short time later and stabbed Mr Kelly while he lay on the ground. Anderson’s behaviour was “highly dominated by her mental condition”, the judge said. She also noted that Anderson had no previous convictions and had never come to the adverse attention of gardaí before. But the judge said she also had to mark the seriousness of the offence and the impact it had on Mr Kelly’s family.

The judge described Anderson as a devoted mother who had a long work history that included running her own businesses as a masseuse, a graphic designer and running a therapy centre. When she is released, she will return to her husband and children.

She also took into account Anderson’s guilty plea in relation to the manslaughter charge. She noted that Anderson’s rehabilitation is ongoing and unlike in other cases involving mental health, there was no suggestion that her offending was linked to a failure to take medication or refusal to engage with mental health professionals. A probation report put Anderson in the lower category of risk for reoffending, the judge said. However, the judge also noted that the unlawful taking of a human life is “an extremely grave and serious matter”.

Mr Kelly’s family made statements to the court “in the most eloquent and dignified fashion” detailing the loss they have suffered. Ms Justice O’Connor cited the level of violence on a “defenceless man” as an aggravating factor. In the absence of diminished responsibility, Judge O’Connor said the offence would be “at the very top end” where there is a potential sentence of life imprisonment. She said it is “not possible to put words on the sense of loss and heartbreak” that the Kelly family continue to suffer.

She described Mr Kelly as a hard-working man, loved by and devoted to his family. She said the court “must mark the damage caused to those left behind”.

The judge set a headline sentence of 13 years but reduced that down to 11 having considered the mitigating factors. She suspended the final three years for four years on condition that Anderson remain under the supervision of the probation services and be of good behaviour. She must comply with all medication and therapy recommended by her treatment team and abide by drug and alcohol use recommendations. The sentence is backdated to February 25th, 2020 when Anderson went into custody.

Michael O’Higgins SC, for Ms Anderson, told a sentencing hearing last month that while his client’s actions were horrendous, she was suffering delusions brought on by bipolar-affective disorder.

There was, he said, evidence that she had become paranoid and delusional regarding what she falsely believed to be a criminal conspiracy involving her neighbours, gardaí and senior politicians including former Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern. Consultant psychiatrist Dr Brenda Wright diagnosed Anderson with bipolar affective disorder and gave the opinion that she was suffering from a psychotic episode at the time of the killing.

Dr Wright said Anderson falsely believed that Mr Kelly was a threat to her and her family and that by stabbing him she was protecting her family. Mr O’Higgins said the actions of his client were “horrendous” but she was “very mentally ill” and in a “state of paranoia and persecution”. She bears some liability, he said, and that is accepted by her plea of guilty to manslaughter.

Mr O’Higgins also pointed to recent psychiatric reports which state that she is at low risk of reoffending.