Jury fails to reach verdict in trial of woman accused of slitting civil servant’s throat

Court heard Fionnuala Bourke was attacked by Laura Kenna in Drumcondra

A jury has been unable to reach a verdict in the trial of a woman accused of slicing a civil servant’s throat on her way home from work.

Laura Kenna (35), of no fixed abode, was charged with the attempted murder of Fionnuala Bourke on Lower Drumcondra Road, Dublin 9 on January 3rd, 2017 and of assault intending to cause serious harm on the same occasion.

She pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to both counts.

The jury members were told that Ms Bourke, a civil servant, was walking home from work around 5pm on the day in question when she was attacked by Ms Kenna with a knife. Ms Bourke's "throat was slit" and she suffered "severe facial scarring," according to prosecuting counsel, Anthony Sammon SC.

The jury were told from the outset that the the central issue in the case was Ms Kenna’s state of mind at the time. They heard from two consultant psychiatrists from the Central Mental Hospital, who gave conflicting opinions on whether the accused was entitled to a special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.

After approximately four hours and forty minutes of deliberations, the jury returned on Wednesday unable to reach a verdict. Mr Justice Robert Eagar, who had earlier given the jury the option of returning a majority 10-2 verdict, discharged the jury after a disagreement was recorded. The case was put back to November for a possible retrial.

Dr Stephen Monks, for the defence, told the jury that Ms Kenna was suffering from psychotic delusions at the time she attacked Ms Bourke and did not know what she was doing and couldn't stop. As such, Ms Kenna was entitled to the special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity, in Dr Monk's opinion.

He said Ms Kenna, who was diagnosed with schizophrenic affective disorder, had been labouring under delusions about killing people for a long time before the attack on Ms Bourke and was allegedly “killing someone for a purpose that wasn’t related to stealing a handbag”.

Dr Monks told the jury that two weeks before the alleged attempted murder of Ms Bourke, Ms Kenna stabbed a woman at a Luas stop in the face with a pen — for which a jury returned a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.

Shortly after being released from Garda custody for the Luas incident, she stated that she was being talked into killing somebody by the “voices in her head”.

Professor Harry Kennedy, for the prosecution, told the jury that Ms Bourke did know the nature and quality of what she was doing when she attacked Ms Bourke and it had "nothing to do" with delusions.

By Ms Kenna’s own account during Garda interviews, Prof Kennedy said the accused had gotten a sharp knife to rob somebody because she needed money and selected an appropriate victim. He referred to Ms Kenna’s comments that she had let another woman “go” prior to the attack and selected Ms Bourke because “she was only little”.