Trial for murder of Athy woman reaches closing speeches

The trial of a Kildare man accused of murdering his ex-partner by stabbing her six times in the chest has reached its closing stages at the Central Criminal Court.

The trial of a Kildare man accused of murdering his ex-partner by stabbing her six times in the chest has reached its closing stages at the Central Criminal Court.

Michael McDonald (51) of Barnhill, Castledermot has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Ms Cummins on May 13, 2010 at Michael Dooley Terrace, Athy. He has further pleaded not guilty to assault causing harm to John Lawlor (44) of Pearse Terrace, Castledermot at Michael Dooley Terrace on the same date.

McDonald has admitted to the manslaughter of the mother-of-one but this plea has not been accepted by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Prosecution counsel Mr John Alymer, SC, told the jury in his closing speech on Wednesday that this is a case of the accused “being jealous and enraged at the fact his partner of five years left him for another person. He rang Ms Cummins up to 13 times leading up to her death.”

“He was a person who went out to vent his rage and jealously, armed with a knife and planned it,” Mr Alymer said.

“He had time to think about what he was doing during the 18km journey to Athy, stabbed Mr Lawlor in the hand and then set upon Ms Cummins and stabbed her six times in the chest,” Counsel said.

He told the jury that the prosecution’s task of proving the charge of murder has been eased somewhat after McDonald pleaded guilty to manslaughter but said where the issue arises is in relation to the question of diminished responsibility.

Counsel told the jury that the defence case of diminished responsibility is unusual and under the Criminal Law Insanity Act the burden of proof for this defence falls on the defence and the standard of proof on the balance of probability falls on the accused.

“The accused must satisfy you on the balance of probability that he suffered a mental disorder to cause his actions to be diminished,” said Mr Alymer.

He reminded the jury that forensic psychiatrist Dr Stephen Monks gave his opinion that he found McDonald did not have a mental illness but suffers from Alcohol Dependency Syndrome. But that Dr Alan Byrne, a clinical psychiatrist, who examined McDonald in 1998, 2003 and 2006 diagnosed McDonald with Schizoaffective Disorder, “without interviewing the accused, without viewing 11 hours of garda interview tapes and without reviewing the Book of Evidence, before compiling his report.”

“In my submission, the evidence of Dr Byrne can carry very little weight as a consequence of the deficiencies in the manner in which he went about his diagnosis but that is a matter for you,” he told the jury.

Defence counsel Mr Feargal Kavanagh, SC, told the jury it is a “tragic case, not just because of the death of Ms Cummins but that alcohol had played a big feature. Ms Cummins was a tragic alcoholic, John Lawlor and Michael Fennell and Michael McDonald all consume large amounts of alcohol.”

He reminded the jury McDonald, in his teens, was treated by psychiatric services after he was found conversing with plants.

“We have seen and heard his various cries for help over the years and it is tragic as unfortunately as good as our health service is, it allowed him to fall through the cracks. He was never involuntarily committed when he went for help and discharged himself several times and didn’t get the treatment he required,” said Mr Foley.

He told the jury to weigh up and consider all of the evidence including the evidence of Dr Byrne stating that McDonald suffers from a mental illness of Schitzoaffective Disorder whereas Dr Monk’s gave his evidence of looking back over medical notes after the event has happened.

He told the jury it was a not a premeditated act “as in McDonald’s own deluded mind he brought the knife for his own defence.”

“His mind was telling him to bring a knife,” said Mr Foley.

“It was a frenzied attack which might indicate to you some degree of psychosis. He blessed himself in front of a picture of the Sacred Heart after the incident, forgot about it and went home to bed.”

He said sadly Ms Cummins was killed by Michael McDonald who was suffering from a mental disorder at the time and this somewhat substantially diminishes his actions.

Mr Foley told the jury to reject the prosecution case of “a cold-blooded killing done in rage” but that McDonald “is a disturbed man, a vulnerable man who committed the tragic act in a blind white range he could not understand.”

“It is more appropriate to return a verdict of manslaughter,” Mr Foley told the jury.

Ms Justice Iseult O’Malley will charge the jury in the morning and following that they will commence their deliberations.