Central Criminal Court
A psychiatrist who gave evidence at a 2003 trial that a man, who subsequently spent 16 years in jail for the murder of his infant son, was not suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, has told his retrial that he is now in agreement with other experts that the man was suffering from a mental disorder at the time, a jury has heard.
Dr Damian Mohan, a consultant psychiatrist at the Central Mental Hospital (CMH), also told the court that he now has the benefit of three admissions of the accused to the facility following his murder conviction in 2003, something he did not have at the time.
However, another consultant forensic psychiatrist based in Edinburgh told the Central Criminal Court trial yesterday, Thursday, December 12, that Dr Mohan did not place "sufficient weight" on the evidence given by the defendant's wife at his trial in 2003.
Yusif Ali Abdi was tried before the Central Criminal Court in 2003 for the murder of his son, where a jury rejected his insanity defence and found him guilty of murder by a majority verdict. His murder conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal earlier this year after the court heard he had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 2013.
Dr Mohan was giving evidence today in the trial of Mr Abdi, who is charged with murdering 20-month-old Nathan Baraka Andrew Ali at The Elms, College Road, Clane, Co Kildare on April 17, 2001. Mr Abdi (46), with an address at Charleville Road, Phibsboro, Dublin 7 has pleaded not guilty to the charge.
The court has previously heard that Mr Abdi came from Somalia to Ireland in 1997 and was granted refugee status in 2000. He married Irish woman Amanda Bailey and they had a son Nathan, who was born in August 1999.
A pathologist has told the trial that baby Nathan died from head injuries which were most likely caused from his head impacting at least three or four times against a hard surface such as a wall or floor.
The State has told the jury that the matter of insanity is at issue in the case but that there is a large amount of agreement between both the prosecution and defence in relation to this.
Giving evidence on Thursday, Dr Mohan told prosecution counsel Seamus Clarke SC that he carried out an assessment on Mr Abdi on January 19, 2003. The witness said it was his opinion in 2003 that the accused man was not suffering from a mental disorder based on information he had at the time as well as how the defendant was presenting himself. Dr Mohan said Mr Abdi had played football on the afternoon before the offence, which he maintained did not "match" with someone suffering from psychosis.
The witness said Mr Abdi had consistently sought to mislead ambulance staff and others by saying the child had fallen. "If someone knows they have done something wrong, they tend to conceal evidence and there was a large effort made to conceal here," he pointed out.
Dr Mohan said he had an opportunity to review notes which postdated Mr Abdi's conviction and his presentation within the prison service. The witness said the accused's transfer to the CMH on four occasions whilst in prison showed he had developed the illness. He maintained that the accused would not admit to his psychotic state at the time of the offence due to his post-traumatic stress disorder and refugee status.
Dr Mohan said he is in agreement with the three medical witnesses, who gave evidence in this trial that Mr Abdi has a history of paranoid schizophrenia which dates back to November 1999.
However, Dr Mohan said signs of Mr Abdi's illness were not immediately obvious to him at the time. In summary, the expert witness said the accused man knew what he was doing and knew what he was doing was morally wrong but was unable to refrain from committing the act and therefore met the verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity. "We now have the benefit of three hospital admissions since the 2003 hearing which we didn't have at the time," he concluded.
Earlier, Dr Alex Quinn, a consultant forensic psychiatrist based in Edinburgh, told Mr Clarke that he met Mr Abdi in March, 2018. The witness said the accused told him that he was sick when the offence took place but didn't know it at the time and believed his son was the devil.
Dr Quinn said the account given by Ms Bailey at her husband's trial in 2003 had detailed the decline in his mental health in the run up to Nathan's death and identified his psychotic personality. He said Dr Mohan had not placed sufficient weight on her evidence at the original trial.
Dr Quinn agreed with Mr Clarke that there had been a delay in Mr Abdi sharing what had happened on the night in 2001. "Often when people are psychotic, they can be very guarded about sharing their mental health and sometimes it takes you several attempts to get the story from someone," he said.
Dr Harry Kennedy in the CMH put Mr Abdi on Olanzapine, an anti-psychotic medication in 2001, said Dr Quinn, adding that he was treated with this from early in his prison stay.
The witness said Mr Abdi was first admitted to the CMH in November 2001 until May 2003 and the reason for his admission was psychotic depression. The accused's second admission to the mental health facility was between June and September 2005 and was for suicidal ideation as he wanted to drink detergent in prison and believed his food and water were being poisoned, said the witness. Mr Abdi's third admission was in May 2007 until July of that year and the reason was due to relapsing depressive illness with possible psychotic symptoms, Dr Quinn said. His fourth and final admission was from May until October 2013 as a result of alleging he was being raped by prison officers in Wheatfield Prison, said the witness, adding that on this occasion people changed their views about Mr Abdi and he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.
Dr Quinn testified that he felt Mr Abdi had first developed psychosis in 1999 and said he would not share the view that the accused was not schizophrenic in 2003. He outlined that the accused was experiencing a schizophrenic episode at the time of the killing and presented with symptoms persistent with the mental illness over a prolonged period of time in prison and needed to be in hospital. The expert witness said the accused man was unable to appreciate that what he did at the time was morally wrong and would have been unable to refrain from committing the act.
On Thursday morning, Dr Aggrey Washington Burke, a London-based consultant psychiatrist, told defence counsel Barry White SC that he gave evidence in Mr Abdi's original trial in 2003. The jury in that trial found the accused guilty of murder.
Dr Burke said he had to take into account that Mr Abdi had previously been prescribed the anti-malaria drug, Lariam, which he said can have some negative side-effects. However, the witness said that he did not think the fact Mr Abdi took Lariam was a critical factor in his diagnosis of schizophrenia. Mr Abdi fulfilled the criteria for a special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity as he was unable to refrain from committing the act, he concluded.
Mr White, defending the accused, has made a number of admissions of fact to the court on behalf of his client including that the accused man caused fatal injuries to his son on April 17, 2001.
The court has heard that on the night of the killing, Ms Bailey and Nathan visited Mr Abdi in his apartment at Clane. Mr Abdi removed his son from his mother's bed around 4am and took him to the living room, where he locked the door and a number of loud bangs were subsequently heard. When Ms Bailey gained access to the room, the child's body was limp, his head was swollen and he had blood in his nose. Ms Bailey failed to find a pulse on her son and he was pronounced dead at 5.30am that morning.
The trial continues today before Mr Justice Alexander Owens and a jury of seven men and five women.