A murder trial has heard that a man with schizophrenia thought his mother had been replaced by an impostor when he killed her at their Co Kilkenny home last year.
Niall Stapleton (32), Kilfane, Thomastown, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Siobhán Stapleton (51) in May 2012. She died from blunt force trauma to the head, after being beaten with the handle of a garden fork.
The Central Criminal Court was told that the college graduate maintains that he is not guilty by reason of insanity.
Consultant forensic psychiatrist Dr Stephen Monks testified for the defence yesterday. He had examined Mr Stapleton in the Central Mental Hospital, where he has been since shortly after his mother's death.
Dr Monks said it was his opinion that he was suffering from a mental disorder at the time of the killing. “He had active symptoms of schizophrenia.” He added that Mr Stapleton had a delusional belief at the time that his mother had been replaced by an impostor.
He said Mr Stapleton's mental disorder was such that he did not know the nature and quality of his act, did not know that what he was doing was wrong and was unable to refrain from it. "I think he fulfils the criteria for the special verdict of 'not guilty by reason of insanity'," he said. If such a verdict were reached, he added, he would recommend that Mr Stapleton remain at the Central Mental Hospital.
Dr Monks noted that Mr Stapleton had first come to the attention of the mental health services in 2006, when he was diagnosed with drug-induced psychosis. He said that it was now clear that symptoms of schizophrenia were then present.
His next dealings with the services were in 2008, at which stage he was admitted involuntarily to a psychiatric unit. He had stopped attending work, was not eating, he was getting into trouble and was living alone, refusing to see his parents.
Sleeping in car
The court later heard that he thought the house in which he was living was haunted and had begun sleeping in his car and in the woods.
Mr Stapleton remained in hospital for about six weeks. He discharged himself after a paperwork technicality meant his involuntary status was revoked.
Mr Stapleton was again admitted to hospital involuntarily in 2011, this time in Australia where he had travelled against his family's wishes. He had gone into a bank and handed the cashier a note demanding money.
Dr Monk said he had a history of poor compliance with taking his medication, having often complained of their side effects. He said the effect of this along with his alcohol and substance misuse would have exacerbated his symptoms.
The jury has now begun hearing the evidence of a psychiatrist testifying for the prosecution. The trial continues before Mr Justice Garret Sheehan.