Two consultant psychiatrists have told a murder trial jury that an Italian man who admitted killing his landlord in Castleknock last year fulfils the criteria for a special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.
Saverio Bellante (36) with an address at Beech Park Avenue, Castleknock, Dublin 15 is charged with murdering Thomas O'Gorman at an unknown time between January 11th, 2014 and January 12th, 2014 at that address.
Last Monday at the Central Criminal Court Mr Bellante pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr O'Gorman.
On Thursday, the jury heard Mr Bellante admitted killing his landlord in Castleknock last year and told gardaí in interview that he ate what he believed to be a part of the deceased’s heart.
Consultant forensic psychiatrist Dr Stephen Monks from the Central Mental Hospital was called by prosecution counsel Mr Patrick Gageby SC. The court heard Dr Monks was asked by the DPP to do a psychiatric assessment of the accused in which Mr Bellante told him he was first hospitalised in Palermo in Italy in 2005.
“He said it took him 10 years to do his primary degree as he was taking anti-psychotic and mood stabilising medication which made his concentration poor so this was part of the reason for problems with his academic work,” said Dr Monks.
Upon moving to Ireland in 2011 he was engaged with mental health services here and up to January 9th, 2014, Mr Bellante had been attending a clinic on Baggot Street roughly every two months.
Dr Monks said it was there a consultant psychiatrist told him he could come off his medication gradually. However, the court heard his doctor in Italy said he should remain on his medication all his life.
The jury were told that two days before the murder, he had attended an out-patient appointment at the Dublin clinic where the anti-psychotic medication Olanzapine he had been on was stopped.
“According to clinical records the dose was reduced in January 2012 until finally being discontinued on January 9th, 2014. By January 10th, he started to feel unwell and began to interpret things to be good or evil and became preoccupied with signs of good or evil,” said the doctor.
Dr Monks told the jury Mr Bellante told him he experienced Mr O’Gorman staring at him as if he was “strange or dangerous” while they were playing chess on the night in question.
“I’ve never seen anyone look at me in that way. He wanted to stop my freedom, when playing there are common rules, he was acting for himself,” read Dr Monks from his report which set out to examine the mental state of the accused.
Dr Monks said the accused felt the deceased was “fighting the side of evil” whereas Mr Bellante thought he was respecting the chess game.
The court heard Mr Bellante saw Mr O’Gorman as the Devil whereas he was Jesus Christ and he proceeded to stab him four or five times with a knife.
Mr Bellante was admitted to the Central Mental Hospital on January 14th, 2015 and was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
“Despite having the presence of this, it didn’t impair his ability to stand trial or plead. His delusional mood started over a few days and progressed to frank delusional thinking and the battle between good and evil until he became profoundly paranoid.
“He had a belief that killing Mr O’Gorman and eating his heart would put an end to evil in the world,” said Dr Monks.
Dr Monks told the jury as a result of his schizophrenia Mr Bellante didn’t know the nature and quality of the act he carried out.
“Why he knew to kill a man was wrong in the eyes of the law, he thought what he was doing was right and entirely justified so he was unable to reason outside of his psychotic thought processes and he didn’t know what he doing was morally wrong,” added the witness.
In his opinion, Dr Monks told the court, Mr Bellante fulfils the criteria for a special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.
Defence counsel Mr Sean Guerin SC called Dr Conor O’Neill who told the court he met the accused on January 14th, 2014 at Cloverhill Prison and performed the first psychiatric assessment of him.
Dr O’Neill said Mr Bellante was on two forms of medication: Olanzapine which is to trace psychotic symptoms such as delusions and Sodium valproate, used to stabilise mood.
However, Dr O’Neill told the court that one or more dose had perhaps been missed and this medication isn’t the one that keeps psychotic symptoms in check.
Dr O’Neill also told the court that Mr Bellante meets the criteria of not guilty by verdict of insanity.
Earlier, the jury of seven men and five women heard Mr Sean Guerin SC make a number of admissions on behalf of his client, which they were told would make their time in the court very short.
Prosecution counsel Mr Patrick Gageby SC told the trial that if an issue of insanity arises the accused has to show he is insane, which Mr Gageby said is a "live issue in this case."
The trial, before Ms Justice Margaret Heneghan, heard from Mr Gageby that Mr O'Gorman was killed sometime in the early hours of January 12th, 2014 and what alerted gardaí to that fact was when Mr Bellante rang them.
Mr Gageby said Mr O'Gorman was just shy of his 40th birthday, he was a freelance journalist and worked part-time at the Iona institute associated with the Roman Catholic faith.
Mr Gageby said Mr Bellante was a native of Palermo in Italy and he was 35 years of age when he killed Mr O’Gorman.
Mr Gageby said the two men met through Focolare and in November 2013 Mr Bellante rented a room in Castleknock from Mr O'Gorman. They were acquaintances with "common interests."
On the evening of January 11th, 2014, both men were playing a game of chess.
A 999 phonecall was made by Mr Bellante at 1.50am in the morning. He said he had killed Mr O’Gorman with a dumbbell and a knife.
“There was extensive blunt force trauma to the deceased and an enormous amount of blood everywhere. Unusually there was some form of a cutting open of his front chest. It would appear part of his lung was cut out and brought to the kitchen,” said Mr Gageby.
Defence counsel Mr Guerin made nine admissions under Section 22 of the Criminal Justice Act to ease the burden of the prosecution including that at an unknown time between January 11th, 2014, or January 12th, 2014, Mr Ballante killed Mr O'Gorman.
A second admission was that Mr O’Gorman died a result of blunt force trauma to his head and stab wounds to his neck and chest.
Garda Patrick Traynor who arrived on the scene on the night in question was called to give evidence and he told the court he found the deceased Mr O'Gorman slumped across the carpet and what was unusual was whatever he was wearing on top was cut up and the area of his chest was open in middle with a large hole.
The court heard there was a dumbbell and a broken part of a sharp kitchen knife beside the body and a plate or bowl in the kitchen with lung tissue in it. There was also a frying pan.
When Mr Bellante was asked what happened he said they were playing chess and he had “moved the king”. Mr O’Gorman had got angry and accused him a “stupid and perverse move”.
The court heard the accused then went to the kitchen and took a knife from a block of knives before he “put it straight into him” by stabbing him.
The court heard Mr Bellante thought he took Mr O’Gorman’s heart out of his chest with his hand but it was in fact his lung.
Chief State Pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy old the court she carried out a post mortem. Mr O'Gorman had been a victim of a violent assault with severe blunt force trauma to the left hand side of his head.
“There was a large gaping hole which was consistent with several blows from a large blunt object,” she said.
There was also evidence of a knife assault to his head, chest and neck. Prof Cassidy told the court she found the right lung was severed and removed and in a plastic carrier bag in the kitchen were the remains of the lung.
Prof Cassidy said the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head and stab wounds to the neck and chest.