Mum death accused was lying 'to save own skin', murder trial told
A man accused of murdering his ex-girlfriend could have opted not to strangle her, according to a mental health specialist.
Consultant forensic psychiatrist Dr Richard Bunn, giving evidence on behalf of defendant Eric Locke, accepted he did not believe Mr Locke's account that he felt "outside his body". Nor did he believe the accused "couldn't stop".
Mr Locke (35) is charged with the murder of mum-of-one Sonia Blount, who was found strangled and suffocated in a room in The Plaza Hotel in Tallaght on February 16, 2014.
Mr Locke, of St John's Park East, Clondalkin, has admitted causing the death of Ms Blount but says he did not mean to kill her and is pleading the defence of diminished responsibility.
He used a fake Facebook profile to meet Ms Blount, whom he had briefly dated. The relationship ended in January 2014 after he called her a "slut" during a row. Dr Bunn interviewed Mr Locke in Cloverhill Prison on April 7. He said he was "looking for evidence of a mental disorder".
In his assessment, Dr Bunn told the Central Criminal Court he did not accept the accused was insane at the time of the killing and there was no evidence of a psychotic illness.
However, he said Mr Locke did fulfil the criteria for diminished responsibility. He said a "constellation of symptoms" led him to this finding, including Mr Locke's pervasive development disorder, his borderline personality traits, his adult ADHD. He was "clearly suicidal" at the time.
Dr Bunn said Mr Locke told him his relationship with Ms Blount was "like a breath of fresh air" and he felt she "understood him".
When she ended the relationship, he said he was "consumed with pain". He lost weight, was unable to focus and was drinking heavily.
He also "felt detached" and took comfort from planning his suicide and getting together a suicide bag.
Dr Bunn said Mr Locke told him Ms Blount was "oblivious to his pain" and cut off all communication with him.
Cross examined by prosecutor Remy Farrell, Dr Bunn accepted this was not true and in fact Ms Blount stayed in touch with Mr Locke and was "trying to do her best by him".
When he met Ms Blount in The Plaza Hotel, Dr Bunn said Mr Locke told him she said "I had a feeling you'd come". Mr Farrell said this comment was never made previously to gardai, and the first mention of it was only years later to Dr Bunn.
The psychiatrist accepted Mr Locke gave "a variety of accounts over a period of time" both to gardai, as well as to him and another defence psychiatrist, Dr Sean O'Domhnaill, but said he believed the "gross narrative was consistent".
He denied Mr Locke was a compulsive liar but accepted he was a "purposeful liar".
"He was lying for a good reason," he said.
"To save his skin," said Mr Farrell.
Dr Bunn agreed with Mr Farrell that Mr Locke could have exercised control at the time of the killing but did not do so.
He also agreed that Mr Locke could have chosen not to strangle Ms Blount with his hands and the mobile phone charger.
He could also have chosen not to stuff a top into her mouth.
Dr Bunn accepted, whatever Mr Locke's levels of anxiety, he had "clearly planned and carried out an elaborate false imprisonment" of Ms Blount.
He said he disagreed with Dr O'Domhnaill that Mr Locke's only purposeful act was dumping his mobile phone and the whole purpose of everything he did was to ensure Ms Blount was on her own in the hotel room.
The trial continues.