Central Criminal Court
A Louth murder accused has testified that she feels she wouldn’t be in her current situation had she not been abused as a child. A forensic psychiatrist stated that she had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at the time she killed her boyfriend.
The evidence was given today on the eighth day of the Louth woman’s trial at the Central Criminal Court.
Paula Farrell (46) of Rathmullen Park in Drogheda has pleaded not guilty to murdering 30-year-old Wayne McQuillan, but guilty to his manslaughter at that address on New Year’s morning in 2014. She admits stabbing him four times.
The mother-of-three entered the witness box on Tuesday. She told her barrister, Caroline Biggs SC, that the deceased had tried to have sex with her, that she hadn’t wanted to have sex, and that he had started strangling her before she went to the kitchen for the knife.
She also explained that she had been abused as a child between the ages of seven and 14. She then disclosed the alleged abuse to an adult, who took steps to ensure her safety.
Ms Biggs asked her this morning if going to the gardai had been mentioned at the time, and she said that it had not.
“Would you have gone to the guards back then?” asked Ms Biggs.
“Me, yeah,” she replied.
Her barrister asked her why she had waited so long to go to the gardai.
“If it didn’t happen to me, I feel personally I wouldn’t be in this situation now,” she explained.
She was also asked about what she had told the Rape Crisis Centre about the incident with the deceased. She confirmed that she had used the words: “He wouldn’t stop.”
“He wouldn't’ stop. He wouldn’t get off me,” she added in court.
A consultant in forensic psychiatry also testified on behalf of the defence yesterday.
Dr Brenda Wright told Ms Biggs that she had interviewed the accused on a number of occasions and had also reviewed her mental health records going back over a decade.
She noted that Ms Farrell had told a Rape Crisis Centre counsellor in 2016 that, when the deceased was allegedly trying to rape her, she had felt the way she had felt when being abused as a child. She had felt ‘helpless like a child’, she’d said.
Ms Farrell had told the counsellor that she had resisted with all of her energy.
She had mentioned how heavy the deceased was and that she had felt so confused and unclean.
Dr Wright concluded that Ms Farrell had long-standing alcohol dependence syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), was hypersensitive, hypervigilant and emotionally unstable.
She added that self-loathing was part of her overall presentation and that she had difficulties regulating her emotions and response to stress.
The consultant agreed that Ms Farrell had ‘significant mental health difficulties’.
“She requires a very high level of support,” she explained.
“In summary, a background history of child abuse will have significantly increased her risk of alcohol dependence, PTSD and persistent emotional disregulation,” she said. “Chronic childhood trauma, in which the person is helpless, can lead onto developing PTSD.”
She explained that when childhood trauma was chronic and sustained, the PTSD picture could be more complex; there could also be depression, anxiety, self-hatred, aggression and problems with interpersonal behavior.
“In Ms Farrell’s case, it would be regarded on the severe end of the spectrum,” she said of the alleged child abuse.
She confirmed that her PTSD and depression were mental illnesses and that, in her view, her PTSD was related to childhood trauma. She was of the opinion that she had both illnesses at the time of the killing.
The trial continues on Tuesday morning, when the prosecution will have an opportunity to cross examine the witness.
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