Man who killed his mother with a hatchet found not guilty by reason of insanity

An autistic man who bludgeoned his mother to death with a hatchet after an argument over an iPhone has been found not guilty of her murder by reason of insanity.

At the Central Criminal Court on Friday morning, a jury of seven women and five men delivered the special verdict to Mrs Justice Ellen Ring at 11.10am after deliberating for three and a half hours in the case of Patrick Dunne, who had pleaded not guilty to the murder of his mother, Susan Dunne, in County Kerry in 2013.

Expert psychiatrists had told the court that Mr Dunne, who admitted killing his mother but denied it was murder, was unable to understand or control his actions at night and suffered from a disorder mental.

The lawsuit heard that Mr Dunne told Gardaí in interviews that he “lost it” over a disagreement over the purchase of an iPhone which Mrs Dunne deemed too expensive. Ms Dunne died after suffering six ax blows to the head as she lay in bed.

The jury heard psychiatric evidence that Mr Dunne had ‘little understanding of the act or its consequences and was unable to refrain’ from killing his mother. They also learned that Mr Dunne felt his mother controlled him and felt that she was preventing him from having an independent life.

The 28-year-old autistic man admitted to killing his mother ‘without any legal justification’, but prosecution and defense psychiatrists agreed the defendant was insane, as defined by law , at the time of his mother’s death.

Mr Dunne, of Ballingeragh, Lixnaw, Co Kerry, pleaded not guilty to the murder of his mother, Susan (62), between 26 and 27 November 2013, both dates inclusive, at the same address.

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At around 3:30 p.m. Thursday, the jury broke off deliberations and delivered a note to the judge asking if he could inspect the hatchet, which he took to the jury room and returned minutes later.

A pathologist told the court that Ms Dunne died after being struck six times in the head by a sharp-edged weapon while in bed.

On Friday, the jury told the clerk it was unanimous in the not-guilty verdict.

Mr Dunne was returned to the Central Psychiatric Hospital under Section 5(3) of the Criminal Act (Insanity Act).

Madam Justice Ring commended the jury and excused him from jury service for seven years.

She adjourned the case to November 4, for a medical update on Mr Dunne and for the preparation of a victim impact statement. She described the case as “difficult”, “especially when Susan Dunne’s life ended in such a violent way”.

More soon…