Consultant psychiatrist says murder accused suffering with schizophrenia when he killed son in Kildare in 2001

Retrial of man for murder of infant is ongoing this week

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Consultant psychiatrist says murder accused suffering with schizophrenia when he killed son in Kildare in 2011

Central Criminal Court

A consultant forensic psychiatrist has told a murder trial that a man, who admits causing fatal injuries to his infant son over eighteen years ago, was suffering with schizophrenia at the time and fulfils the criteria for a special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.

The expert witness told the Central Criminal Court that 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.

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.

He subsequently spent 16 years in jail before 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.

Professor Keith Rix was giving evidence yesterday 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.

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 today, Prof Rix told defence counsel Barry White SC that he had never interviewed the accused. However, the witness said he had seen transcripts from evidence given at his trial in May 2003 as well as expert reports and medical reports from when Mr Abdi was a patient in the Central Mental Hospital (CMH) following the incident. 

Prof Rix said he knew that Mr Abdi was paranoid about gardai and had accused his wife of telephoning his friends to say bad things about him or cause rumours to be spread. The witness said the accused had locked himself in the house and insisted on having the curtains drawn so no one could look in. The court heard it took from April 2001 until January 2002 for Mr Abdi to tell his treating doctor at the CMH, Professor Harry Kennedy, about his state of mind at the time. 

The witness said Mr Abdi displayed depressive symptoms such as weight loss and insomnia and these factors had been recognised by doctors who assessed him in 1998. He also displayed post-traumatic stress disorder in that he reported flash backs, where he relived some of his experiences from Africa, said Prof Rix.

Prof Rix said the accused had also told several doctors that he was hearing voices and went on to describe a lot of factors, which were attributable to schizophrenia.

In conclusion, Prof Rix said Mr Abdi was suffering from what one now knows to be schizophrenia when he killed his son and there were several features from the accounts he gave to doctors, which reflect his psychotic state at the time. 

The first account was that Mr Abdi believed he was being controlled from the outside and was no longer the master of his behaviour, explained the witness. The second feature was hearing voices, with Mr Abdi telling one doctor that he heard a voice saying 'take the child', Prof Rix said. Another feature was disorientation as Mr Abdi had described an experience of not really knowing where he was to doctors and getting messages from the television. The final feature was Mr Abdi telling a doctor that he believed his son was the devil and he was going to kill him.

When one puts all of the factors together, Prof Rix said he was satisfied that Mr Abdi was in a psychotic state at the time he killed his son, which he said gave the accused the basis for the defence of insanity. 

The witness said he was also satisfied that the accused was suffering from a mental disorder at the time but knew the nature and quality of his act. However, Prof Rix said it was probable that he did not know what he was doing was wrong and was not able to refrain from doing the act.

Earlier, Detective Inspector Murt Whelan told prosecution counsel Seamus Clarke SC that he conducted three interviews with the accused on April 17, 2001. In the interviews, Mr Abdi told gardai that he had taken Nathan to the living room as he wanted to spend some time alone with him as he had not seen him in two weeks. He said that he remembered Nathan falling on the back of his head onto the floor. The accused said he did not set out to cause his son's death and what happened was a terrible accident. In cross-examination, Det Insp Whelan agreed with defence counsel Mr White that the accused was very quiet and withdraw in the interviews. 

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. 

In his opening address, prosecution counsel Seamus Clarke SC said Mr Abdi was tried before the Central Criminal Court in 2003 for the murder of his son where a jury found him guilty by a majority verdict.

Dr Damian Mohan, a consultant psychiatrist at the Central Mental Hospital (CMH), had given evidence on behalf of the prosecution at Mr Abdi’s trial in 2003 and was not of the view he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, said Mr Clarke.  

In February 2019, his appeal was heard in the Court of Appeal and a retrial was ordered on the basis of newly discovered facts, outlined Mr Clarke. Mr Clarke said these newly discovered facts were that when Mr Abdi was imprisoned for this offence in 2001, he was later brought to the CMH on a number of occasions, where in October 2013 Mr Abdi was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

“In the meantime, Dr Mohan has looked at the case and is of the view that Mr Abdi had early signs of paranoid schizophrenia in 2001,” emphasised Mr Clarke, adding that the jury will hear evidence that the accused was legally insane in 2001.  

The trial continues today before Mr Justice Alexander Owens and a jury of seven men and five women.