Central Criminal Court

Psychiatrist tells jury she is not satisfied Louth murder accused experienced "a dissociative reaction"


Alison O’Riordan


Alison O’Riordan

Jury considering their verdict in Dundalk taxi driver murder trial

Jury considering their verdict in Dundalk taxi driver murder trial

A psychiatrist has told a jury she is not satisfied that a woman experienced "a dissociative reaction" when she is alleged to have murdered her partner. 

Dr Sally Linehan, testifying on behalf of the prosecution today in the fourth week of the Louth woman's murder trial at the Central Criminal Court, also told the jury that the accused's behaviour on the night was influenced by her intoxication and not her mental disorder. 

The court has heard that the mother-of-three was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcohol dependency at the time she stabbed her boyfriend to death. 


Paula Farrell (47) of Rathmullen Park in Drogheda has pleaded not (NOT) guilty to murder but guilty (GUILTY) to manslaughter for the unlawful killing of Wayne 'Quilly' McQuillan (30) at Ms Farrell's home on New Year's Day 2014.

The mother-of-three testified last week that Mr McQuillan had tried to have sex with her, that she did not want to have sex and that he had started strangling her with his hands before she went to the kitchen for a knife. "I thought I was dying, I couldn't breathe," she told her barrister Caroline Biggs SC. Ms Farrell has accepted in her evidence that she stabbed Mr McQuillan with a knife four times but said she only remembered stabbing him twice.

Evidence has been given that Ms Farrell was sexually abused by a named man between seven and 14 years of age and that she started to drink heavily when she was 20 years old. 

Gerard Clarke SC, prosecuting, today called consultant forensic psychiatrist Dr Sally Linehan to the witness box. Dr Linehan told Mr Clarke that she had prepared two reports for the court based on Ms Farrell's medical records, the first in June 2015 and the second in July 2019.

In an interview in June 2015, Ms Farrell said she had not experienced a flashback of being sexually abused as a child at the time of the alleged offence, explained Dr Linehan. The witness said she had discussed the nature or meaning of "a flashback" with Ms Farrell and she was satisfied that the defendant knew what this meant. 

Dr Linehan said she did not recollect Ms Farrell telling her about having a row with Mr McQuillan prior to the incident in 2014. 

The witness said she was not satisfied that Ms Farrell had experienced "a dissociative reaction" at the time of the alleged offence. "This is a mental process where someone is disassociated from their memory and experiences an altered sense of reality," she explained. 

Dr Linehan said Ms Farrell told her that she had felt embarrassed to talk about her "sex life" in their interview in June 2015. The psychiatrist indicated that the accused told her that she had not given a full account of the offence in its aftermath as she had felt "numb and embarrassed". "She said her sex life was private and did not want to discuss it," added Dr Linehan.  

In summary, Dr Linehan told Mr Clarke that she was satisfied that the accused met the diagnostic criteria for PTSD at the time of the offence. The witness said Ms Farrell also had a long history of abusing alcohol which was consistent with her diagnosis of alcohol dependence syndrome. 

The witness pointed out that she had found no evidence that Ms Farrell had experienced any psychotic symptoms on the night and does not suffer from a psychotic illness such as schizophrenia. "Her behaviour at the time of the offence was influenced by her intoxication and not her mental disorder," she concluded. 

Under cross-examination, Dr Linehan agreed with defence counsel Ms Biggs that she had used a similar methodology to Dr Brenda Wright in order to come to her conclusions. 

Consultant forensic psychiatrist Dr Wright gave evidence yesterday (Mon) on behalf of the defence that Ms Farrell was suffering from PTSD and alcohol dependency when she stabbed Mr McQuillan to death in 2013. However, Dr Wright told the prosecution that PTSD had not played a "significant role" in the killing. 

Dr Linehan agreed with Ms Biggs that she did not disagree with anything that Dr Wright had said to the jury. "Our views are similar," said Dr Linehan, adding that she agreed that Ms Farrell suffers from PTSD and was suffering with it in 2013.

The witness agreed with Ms Biggs that PTSD can be linked to depression as well as states of panic and anxiety. She further agreed that Ms Farrell had difficulty regulating her emotions and behaviour as a result of being sexually abused as a child. 

Dr Linehan reiterated to Ms Biggs that the accused's intoxication with alcohol had primarily influenced her behaviour on the night and her mental disorder did not play a significant role. However, the witness accepted that Ms Farrell's illness could have played "some role" on the night. 

The jury has heard that Ms Farrell told gardai in her interviews that she and Mr McQuillan had started "tackling each other" in the kitchen on the night and "he had me by the wrist and neck and I got a bump on my head from him." She said Mr McQuillan "had me on the two-seater in the kitchen" and when she got up, she said, "I didn't want him to get the better of me. I got the knife then and I stuck the knife in him." She thought she stabbed him "towards the top of his chest" and a second time "a bit lower down", the court heard. 

Evidence has also been given by former Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis that he found four stab wounds on Mr McQuillan, one to the upper right arm, one to the front of the chest and two wounds to the left shoulder which were situated 1.1cm apart from each other and parallel. The expert witness told the jury that there could have been “potential survival with prompt medical intervention” for Mr McQuillan. 

The seven men and four women of the jury will hear closing speeches from the prosecution and defence tomorrow morning.