O'Donnell stabbed his sister in 1992, murder trial told


MR BRENDAN O'Donnell was treated at a psychiatric hospital in late 1992 after he stabbed his sister and was released after two weeks, a murder trial jury was told yesterday.

Ms Anne Marie O'Donnell (25), sister of the defendant, said she saw "absolutely no improvement" in her brother's condition on release and in her view he was "still mad".

She said her brother had spoken to her of hearing voices "belting in his head" and seeing black dots before his eyes.

She said her brother grew up without love and affection and was subject to violence by their father. He was beaten with, a poker and hurley on occasion and also had his head "bashed against the wall".

She said he never recovered from the death of their mother in 1984 and would often go and lie on her grave. He seemed to get some peace from that, Ms O'Donnell said.

Ms O'Donnell was giving evidence on the sixth day of the trial of her brother Brendan (21), a native of Co Clare but of no fixed abode, who has denied the murder of three people in 1994.

He has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Ms Imelda Riney (29) and her son Liam (3) on a date unknown between April 28th and May 8th, 1994. He has also denied the murder of Father Joe Walsh (37), the former curate of Eyrecourt, Co Galway, between May 3rd and 8th, 1994, and falsely imprisoning Father Walsh.

The defendant has also pleaded not guilty to kidnapping Ms Fiona Sampson and Mr Edward Cleary on May 7th, 1994, and to hijacking vehicles driven by both persons. He has also denied having a shotgun and ammunition with intent to endanger life and for unlawful purposes on the same date.

Ms O'Donnell told Mr Peter Charleton SC, prosecuting, that she saw her brother Brendan with a shotgun on May 3rd, 1994. The gun was wrapped in plastic and cloth.

She said Brendan had arrived at their grandmother's house near Eyrecourt, Co Galway, on that date at 3 p.m. He was very agitated and kept looking out the window and jumping around. She asked him what was bothering him and he didn't say. He remained in the house until 5 p.m.

She noticed a longish blue bag tied with some rope. She asked him what was in it and he said fishing rods, curtain rods or chimney rods.

Ms O'Donnell said she later went into the living room to check on her three year old son and noticed the object was a gun. She asked her brother what he was doing with the gun and he told her to mind her own business.

Brendan was laughing at nothing and fidgeting with his hands and clapping his hands loudly while he was at the house, she said. He had had a habit of doing this for several years.

The witness was shown a shotgun and said that was the gun she had seen.

Ms O'Donnell told Mr Patrick MacEntee SC, defending, that she had three brothers and no sisters. Their mother had died when Brendan was nine years old and he never fully accepted it.

Her father was a regular drinker and was violent to her brothers and mother, she said.

She knew the late Father Joseph Walsh and said he had baptised her child. Brendan was the godfather of the child.

Ms O'Donnell said the family first lived in Whitegate, Co Clare, but she had left home and lived with her grandmother when she was about six or seven years old.

She did not like living at home because she didn't get on with her father. She went to her grandmother's for summer holidays one year and never went back.

Her father was a council worker, Ms O'Donnell said. He would come home for a couple of hours and go out every night. Asked had he a drink, problem, she said "more or less".

Her father would beat Brendan with a hurling stick or poker "or anything that came to hand". He was often "very violent".

"There were a few times when he bashed Brendan's head off the wall."

Ms O'Donnell said her parents had rows on occasion. Her father would wallop her mother in the face, "mostly on the mouth".

Ms O'Donnell said her father "hated" Brendan.

Her mother died suddenly in 1984 when she was 13 years old and Brendan was nine. She said Brendan did not accept that their mother had died.

Ms O'Donnell said she returned home to look after her brothers and father after her mother died. She noticed "odd laughter" from her brother quite a bit after her mother's death.

After her mother died, Brendan got into trouble frequently, she said. He went to England when he was 17 and came back after a couple of months.

He returned on a cold Thursday night and her father told him to go away, but eventually let him stay the night. The following morning, her father told him he had to go elsewhere.

Their father married again around 1989, she said. He had a son in his second marriage. She moved out of home again when she was 18 and went to live at a flat in Portumna from September 1992. She had a son.

Brendan was in the same building of flats, she said. She would see him quite regularly. On some days he was good but on others he was not. He would be easily agitated and start laughing at nothing.

On one occasion, Brendan had asked her to make him a sandwich but she was feeding her child and asked him to wait. He became very angry and he said he wanted it now and if she didn't make it, he would stab her. She said he picked up a knife and went to strike her in the chest but she put up her hands and the knife went into her knee.

"He told me, I'll stab you both to death," she said. She was very frightened and went into the bedroom. He shoved the door in. He sat on the window for about 10 minutes and took out another flick type knife and slit the duet. He was "grinning" and fidgeting.

"He was out of his mind, like a lunatic," she said.

She left the flat and went to report the matter to the gardai. They found a hatchet and other objects in her brother's room and took him to Ballinasloe psychiatric hospital, she said. He had told the gardai she was a raving lunatic who was trying to poison him.

Her brother was kept in hospital for two weeks. There was "absolutely no improvement whatsoever," she said.

The trial continues today before Mr Justice Lavan and the jury.