Parents said "unacceptable" that someone so dangerous and known to mental health services was living just a few doors from their "defenceless" son
The parents of a man beaten to death by a neighbour who was undergoing a psychotic episode have told the Central Criminal Court that it is "unacceptable" that someone so dangerous and known to mental health services was living just a few doors from their "defenceless" son.
It emerged during the trial that a psychiatrist previously had concerns that the man responsible for the killing was at risk of murdering someone due to his delusional beliefs.
Following a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity for Sligo man Richard McLaughlin, the deceased's parents Paula and Micheal said their son Jimmy had never had any contact with Mr McLaughlin before he "broke through Jimmy's front door and attacked him violently with a crow bar."
In a statement read to the court on their behalf they said: "To discover that someone so dangerous was living just a few doors down the road and known to mental health services in Sligo is totally unacceptable."
Mr McLaughlin (32), with an address at The Laurels, Woodtown Lodge, Sligo was yesterday (Tuesday) found not guilty by reason of insanity of the murder of Jimmy 'James' Loughlin (20) at Connolly Street in Sligo on February 24, 2018.
The court heard that Mr McLaughlin broke down the door of Mr Loughlin's home at 1.18pm and beat him to death with a crowbar while suffering from delusions brought on by paranoid schizophrenia. Pathologist Dr Linda Mulligan said the deceased died from traumatic head injuries sustained during an assault.
In their statement Mr Loughlin's parents said their son was born in January 1998 and the family moved to Sligo in 2002. They said: "Jimmy was the light of our life. He was so funny and always lived his life to the full, never looking further than the day ahead. We never thought that Jimmy's hopes, plans and future were soon to be taken away from him shortly after he had turned 20 years of age."
"Nothing can ever prepare you for the news that your only son has died."
When they heard their son had died Paula and Michael had the "terrible ordeal" of breaking the news to their daughters Grace, Rose and Kitty. They added: "Nothing can ever prepare you for the news that your only son has died. It became known to us shortly after Jimmy's death that a man called Richard McLaughlin carried out this barbaric and horrific murder. Mr McLaughlin broke through Jimmy's front door and attacked him violently with a crow bar. Defenceless and vulnerable to such an assault Jimmy was killed instantly."
Jimmy was due to start a new job the following Monday and was looking forward to his first holiday with his girlfriend to Poland. "Tragically, we had the terrible task of burying our poor Jim on the day he was due to go away," the family said.
They continued: "Jimmy's death has left a huge void in our lives that can never by healed. Our three lovely daughters now have to live their lives without their adored brother. His grandparents are left without a cherished grandson. Aunts, uncles and cousins are now without their funny and loving Jimmy. His many friends are now lost without their childhood friend."
Outside court family spokesman John O'Keefe said: "The family do believe there are questions to be answered with regard to the mental health services. They hope that at the coroner's inquest in October of this year those questions will be answered."
Brendan Grehan SC, on behalf of Mr McLaughlin, told the court his client's mother Mairead wished to express her "deepest sorrow" to the Loughlin family for the death of their "entirely innocent son". Justice Carmel Stewart said the Loughlin family's grief was "palpable" during the trial and "words are of little use". She noted the "sheer random nature of what occurred" and said she hopes their strength as a family will sustain them and that they will ultimately retain the happy memories they have of their child. She also extended sympathy to Ms McLaughlin who, she said, had also lost her son.
Justice Stewart then directed Dr Sally Lenihan at the Central Mental Hospital to draw up a report for the court regarding ongoing treatment for Mr McLaughlin which the court will hear on July 16.
Evidence in trial
During the trial the court heard from two psychiatrists called by the prosecution and defence who agreed that Mr McLaughlin's mental illness meant he did not know that what he was doing was wrong and he was unable to prevent himself from killing Mr Loughlin.
Consultant forensic psychiatrist at the Central Mental Hosptial in Dundrum Dr Anthony Kearns was called by the defence. He agreed with defence counsel Brendan Grehan SC that Mr McLaughlin's father had suffered from schizophrenia and that the disorder can run in families. "There is a significant genetic element," he said, adding that Mr McLaughlin was 17 years of age when he was first involved with mental health services.
In 2008 the accused's mood deteriorated and he expressed suicidal ideation, the psychiatrist said. Mr McLaughlin had used drugs from the local head shop regularly in his teenage years and was first admitted to St Columba's Hospital in Sligo in 2012 for four months when he presented with paranoia and delusions.
In December 2012, it was noted that Mr McLaughlin had not attended St Columba's Hospital for his monthly injection and he was advised about the importance of receiving his medication and abstaining from drugs, said Dr Kearns.
He was admitted for a second time to St Columba's in April 2015 for two months as the voices in his head were becoming more frequent and would not allow him to sleep, said Dr Kearns. Mr McLaughlin was discharged in June 2015 and moved to City Gate Apartments.
He stopped taking the "depot injection", smoked cannabis and read the bible all day, said the witness. In the months leading up to the attack, Mr McLaughlin began hearing voices and began to believe he was Lucifer, said Dr Kearns.
Dr Kearns said a letter of correspondence from consultant forensic psychiatrist Dr Paul O'Connell dated May 31, 2012 had been made available to him. The letter concerned an assessment by Dr O'Connell of Mr McLaughlin at St Columba's Psychiatric Hospital on May 28, 2012 when he was 26 years of age.
Concern about the future risk of McLaughlin murdering a woman known to him or of "stranger homicide"
Dr O'Connell recorded that the accused man had been taken by his mother and gardai to St Columba's Hospital on April 19 2012 and was described as paranoid and very deluded. Dr O'Connell expressed concern about the future risk of McLaughlin murdering a woman known to him or of "stranger homicide" in relation to delusional beliefs and he was concerned that he might kill some unknown person, said Dr Kearns.
The witness agreed that the accused did not always take his medication and he had not been totally candid with treating psychiatrists. In summary, Dr Kearns said Mr McLaughlin is suffering from a mental disorder, schizophrenia and did not understand that his action at the time was wrong and was unable to refrain from committing the act. He fulfills the criteria for the special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity, he said.
Dr Conor O'Neill, also a consultant forensic psychiatrist at the Central Mental Hospital, was called by the prosecution. He told Fiona Murphy SC for the State that Mr McLaughlin suffered auditory hallucinations and paranoid delusions about people being turned into clones. He had been psychotic over a period of time and continued to have hallucinations following his arrest on suspicion of Mr Loughlin's murder. Since being admitted to the Central Mental Hospital in June 2018 he has made some improvement which has allowed him to be placed on the second most secure ward in the hospital. He agreed with Dr Kearns that Mr McLaughlin suffered from a mental illness as described in the Criminal Law Insanity Act 2006 and at the time of the assault he did not understand that his actions were wrong and was unable to refrain from the attack.
Justice Carmel Stewart told the jury that they must make their decision based on the evidence they had heard. She said it was "technically" open to them to find Mr McLoughlin guilty of murder but she said she had to point out that there was no disagreement between the two psychiatrists and the jury is bound by their oath to come to a verdict based on the evidence they hear. She said the Court of Appeal has said that juries must have regard to the evidence and can't substitute their own views for the testimony they have heard. The jury spent 52 minutes considering their verdict.