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02 Jul 2022

Man was high on 'cocktail of drugs' when he murdered daughter's partner

Man was high on 'cocktail of drugs' when he murdered daughter's partner

Man was high on 'cocktail of drugs' when he murdered daughter's partner

A Dublin man who was high on a cocktail of drugs when he stabbed his daughter's partner to death has been found guilty of his murder by a unanimous jury decision at the Central Criminal Court on Monday.

The jury of nine men and three women rejected Mark Whelan's defence that, although he did not have a mental disorder, he was psychotic through intoxication and did not know the nature and quality of his acts, didn't know they were wrong and couldn’t prevent himself from carrying them out. 

They took just two hours to return their unanimous verdict this morning and gasps were heard in the body of the court as the jury foreperson read out the verdict.

Whelan (48), with an address at Castlecurragh Heath, Mulhuddart, Dublin 15, had pleaded not guilty to murdering Noel Whelan (22) at his home on March 30, 2019. The accused is the father of the late Mr Whelan’s partner, who was pregnant at the time he was killed.

On Friday, Ms Justice Tara Burns, in her charge to the jury, said there was "no issue" as to whether or not Mark Whelan killed Noel Whelan.

Ms Justice Burns told the jury it was up to them to decide whether or not the appropriate verdict was that Whelan was guilty or not of murder, or guilty of manslaughter. The judge said that she did not want to trespass on the jury's duties but both the prosecution and defence had accepted that Whelan had killed Noel Whelan.

After reviewing differing expert psychiatric evidence, the judge told the jury that the evidence in the case did not meet the threshold for Whelan to be found 'guilty but with diminished responsibility', or of being 'not guilty by reason of insanity'.

Ms Justice Burns had previously told the jury to consider whether or not Whelan was capable of forming the intent of causing serious harm or to kill Noel Whelan. She said that if the jury decides that Whelan had the capacity to form the intention they must also consider if he then did so on the night.

Last Wednesday, Dr Francis Kelly told Michael Lynn SC, for the defence, that in his opinion the accused did not know the nature and quality of the act, did not know it was wrong and could not refrain from doing it.

“I was satisfied that at the material time of the offence Mr Whelan was voluntarily intoxicated with multiple substances – which included cocaine, cannabis and benzodiazepines,” Dr Kelly said. “I felt he was psychotic at the material time, but I felt his psychosis was caused by intoxication.”

During the trial, the State had called Professor Harry Kennedy, consultant forensic psychiatrist at the Central Mental Hospital, as a rebuttal witness who found no mental disorder present in Whelan.

Prof Kennedy said that Whelan’s symptoms were better explained by his poly-substance abuse, referring to “recurrent episodes of an intoxicated state with delirium”.

“In my view, intoxication is a sufficient explanation,” he said. “This remains the explanation whether or not Mr Whelan has any mental disorder. I cannot find any mental disorder," he said.

"Your opinion is that he did not have a mental disorder as defined by the Criminal Law Insanity Act?” asked prosecution counsel, Dominic McGinn SC.

“In my opinion, no,” Prof Kennedy said.

“He knew he was stabbing his son-in-law. He knew he was stabbing him with knives,” he said. Prof Kennedy argued that acting out of a mistaken or delusional belief that he was defending himself and his family, or out of revenge for an imagined act, “would not necessarily amount to not knowing what he was doing”.

“Dr Kelly was clear in his evidence that he was of the view that Mr Whelan did not know the nature and quality of the act, did not know it was wrong, and could not refrain from doing it,” said Mr Lynn, cross-examining Prof Kennedy.

“I respectfully disagree,” said the professor. “Mr Whelan very clearly knew he had taken two knives – two long knives. He had the capacity to form an intention. He didn’t take up a wooden spoon.”

After receiving the guilty verdict this morning, Ms Justice Burns adjourned the case to November 15, for sentencing and for the opportunity to consider victim impact statements.

EVIDENCE AT TRIAL

Dr Kelly had told Mr Lynn that Whelan first sought professional help at James Connolly Memorial Hospital in Blanchardstown in October 2011.

“He told me that he had been hearing voices in his head talking about him. These are false experiences and he told me he was paranoid as a result of these experiences,” said Dr Kelly.

On the day of the murder, Dr Kelly said, Whelan described waking around noon and hearing his late mother say to him: "Someone’s going to come in and shoot you.”

“He armed himself with two kitchen knives but threw these on the floor,” Dr Kelly said, before claiming to hear his mother again, saying: “You have to protect yourself.”

“He then had a vision… his son-in-law [Noel Whelan] ripping open his daughter’s abdomen to take the baby out,” Dr Kelly said. “The doorbell rang and he opened it and saw Noel Whelan pulling something out of his pocket.”

He told Mr Lynn that the defendant then “became alarmed” and returned to the room, took up the knives and “quickly and as a direct result” of his vision stabbed Noel Whelan.

“He told me that he remembers it very patchily and didn’t have a good account of it. When he tried to recall it, he said it was like he’d been in a dream and he was now devastated because of the consequences of what had happened,” said the doctor.

Whelan was transferred to the Central Mental Hospital a week and a half after he was remanded in custody and was kept initially in seclusion, Dr Kelly said.

He said his treating psychiatrist had “elicited psychotic symptoms” from Whelan including “auditory hallucinations of hearing his mother”.

During his time in seclusion, Whelan had been observed drinking his own urine “claiming it would make him younger”, and had been banging his head off the wall of his padded cell. He also damaged a television after being taken out of seclusion.

By June 2019, however, his psychotic symptoms had eased, Dr Kelly said. The working diagnosis at that time was of “delirium complicated by substance misuse”.

“I felt I could exclude major mental illness - schizophrenia, bipolar disorder etc - because these would normally present a bit earlier, and he didn’t present until 2011,” he said.

Dr Kelly told the court that "under Section 5 [of the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act 2006] I don’t think he knew what he was doing or knew the nature and quality of the act at this specific time… and I think because of the strength of his beliefs, couldn’t prevent himself from committing the act," he said.

“On that level, he meets the criteria for NGRI [not guilty by reason of insanity],” Dr Kelly said, but he added that the defendant “doesn’t meet the basic underlying criteria that there be an underlying mental disorder,” he said.

A pathologist told the court she found 18 knife wounds to the head, neck and trunk of Noel Whelan, who was found dead at the bottom of the stairs in the apartment at Castlecurragh.

Chief State pathologist Dr Linda Mulligan told Mr McGinn that one stab wound to the neck of Noel Whelan severed the carotid artery while another that entered through the front armpit penetrated his right lung. Both those wounds were potentially fatal while the pathologist noted a further nine stab wounds and seven incised wounds, which caused a loss of blood and contributed to death.

The cause of death, Dr Mulligan said, was multiple stab wounds with no other contributory factors.

Garda Dwayne O'Brien told Mr McGinn that he was on duty on March 30, 2019, when a call went out to gardaí at 6.10pm about a male discovered at Castlecurragh Heath with cuts to his throat and who was not breathing.

At 6.57pm, the witness was working in Finglas Garda Station's public office, when he saw a male in the public area with his hood up, acting in a "strange" manner and trying to open the internal station door, which requires the use of a key fob.

Gda O'Brien said that he approached the male and asked him if he was ok. The witness observed that the male had blood on his clothing, hands and had blood spatter on his face.

Gda O'Brien said that he asked the male, who was carrying a Lidl bag of clothing, for his name and was told "Mark Whelan". However, the witness said the male then became unresponsive to other questions.

While in custody, Whelan asked for a cup of tea and had a cigarette outside. When Gda O'Brien took the tea out to Whelan, the accused said: "Sorry to Noel. I shouldn't have done that; cutting the throat. It's me that you want. I'm the bastard. I did that. Come out to me. I will give you a hug."

Gda O'Brien said that the defendant continued: "You can stick the biggest blade in me. I love you and always loved you. I'm so sorry, Noel. Sorry for doing that and standing on your head. I'm such a fucking thick cunt. Sorry for stabbing you."

Sergeant Selina Proudfoot told Mr McGinn that as member-in-charge at the station, Whelan was in her care and that she regularly checked in on him with food and water during his detention. The witness said that Whelan's clothes were taken for testing and he was given a white boiler suit to wear.

Gda Sgt Proudfoot said that on one occasion when she checked on him, Whelan had the boiler suit open and had his erect penis out before she asked him to close the suit.

The court also heard from the accused man's brother-in-law, who said that defendant entered his flat soon after the murder while he was topless and bloodied and had kept repeating the phrase: "I have killed the last of the seven saints."

Mariano Parisella, who lived in Dromheath Grove near the defendant's home in Castlecurragh, gave evidence that he was on the couch on the afternoon of March 30, when he heard a knock on the door. Mr Parisella's wife is a brother of Whelan, who was let in.

Mr Parisella, who appeared by video-link from Italy, told Mr McGinn that the defendant had no top on and had "blood on his belly".

The witness said that the defendant, who also had blood on his tracksuit bottoms, was repeatedly saying: "'I killed the last of the seven saints'." "He kept saying it, he was making no sense," the witness added.

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