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Sunday 17 November 2019

Woman found guilty of attempted murder after slicing victim 'like a goat'

Laura Kenna said she sliced Ms Burke ‘like you would a goat’
Laura Kenna said she sliced Ms Burke ‘like you would a goat’

A woman has been found guilty of attempting to murder a civil servant by slashing her neck as she walked home from work in Dublin.

Laura Kenna (37) had argued that she was legally insane at the time and had attacked Fionnuala Burke in the context of delusions about death, vampires and cannibalism.

Kenna, of no fixed abode, was charged with attempting to murder Ms Burke on Lower Drumcondra Road on January 3, 2017, and assault causing serious harm to her on the same occasion.

She had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to both counts and went on trial at the Central Criminal Court.

Pushed

Kenna later admitted to gardai: "I sliced her like you would a goat."

The trial heard that Ms Burke was working for the Department of Social Protection, and was walking home when she noticed a woman sitting on a wall.

As Ms Burke approached, the woman, Kenna, sprang up and pushed her back on to a grassy area. Kenna did not say anything, but started to stab her.

Ms Burke could feel her face being slashed, before she felt a dramatic slash across her neck.

Kenna then spoke, telling Ms Burke that she would let her go if she handed over her bag.

The jury saw photographs of the large, deep cut across Ms Burke's neck. It had penetrated through muscle and cut through the thyroid gland.

She was operated on and treated in intensive care after the attack. She also had other injuries to her face and body.

The main issue for the jury to consider was Kenna's state of mind at the time; there was a conflict of opinion between experts on this issue.

A consultant psychiatrist engaged by the defence testified that she was suffering from a mental disorder, and so was entitled to the special defence of not guilty by reason of insanity.

Dr Stephen Monks, of the Central Mental Hospital (CMH), told the jury that Kenna was suffering from schizoaffective disorder.

He said she carried out the "frenzied and vicious" attack on Ms Burke with the intention of killing in the context of delusions about death, vampires and cannibalism.

He testified that Kenna did not know the nature and quality of her actions and could not stop what she was doing.

However, a consultant psychiatrist engaged by the State disagreed.

Professor Harry Kennedy, also of the CMH, testified that Kenna was not delusional at the time, but carried out the attack in anger and out of a "sense of entitlement". She told gardai she had needed money.

Prof Kennedy added that Kenna had "callous" and "unemotional" personality traits.

She told him that she had followed another woman that night "but let her go", which he said indicated that she knew what she was doing in selecting her victim.

Barristers for both sides delivered their closing speeches on Monday.

Barry White SC, defending, reminded the jury that both doctors had agreed that Kenna had fit the criteria for the special insanity verdict when she had attacked another woman a few weeks before this attack.

A jury in that case had later reached a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.

Mad

However, he pointed out that Prof Kennedy considered her to have a mental disorder after the Drumcondra attack, but not during it, and said the professor had "Ms Kenna going from mad to bad to mad".

"You heard from Dr Monks that this is highly improbable," he said.

Anthony Sammon SC, prosecuting, reminded the jury that he had said at the outset that this would not be an easy case.

"I did not tell you that this was a retrial and that another jury had struggled with this," he said, referring to a previous jury failing to reach a verdict, something the defence had disclosed in this trial.

The jury spent two hours and 23 minutes deliberating before reaching its unanimous verdict.

Justice Tara Burns adjourned sentencing until March 25 for a victim impact statement and a report from Kenna's doctor.

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