Deirdre Morley believed it was morally right to smother her three children as she believed she had “irreparably damaged” them and “had to put an end to their suffering,” a psychiatrist has told her murder trial.
The expert witness told the Central Criminal Court that the accused was suffering with bipolar affective disorder at the time and fulfils the criteria for a special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.
The witness also said that the accused woman, who was a highly trained nurse specialising in renal care at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin, did not know her actions were wrong as part of her psychotic state and would have been unable to refrain from them at the time.
Consultant forensic psychiatrist Dr Brenda Wright from the Central Mental Hospital was giving evidence today for the defence in the trial of Ms Morley, who is charged with murdering her three children over a year ago.
The 44-year-old clinically trained nurse, of Parson’s Court, Newcastle, Co Dublin, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to the murder of her sons Conor McGinley (9) and Darragh McGinley (7) and her daughter Carla McGinley (3). The children’s bodies were discovered at the family home just before 8pm on January 24 last year.
Yesterday, the court heard that Ms Morley had unsuccessfully attempted to drug her three children on the previous evening, having formulated a plan to then suffocate them in their sleep. She crushed six to eight morphine tablets to put in the boys cereal and put a Tylex tablet containing codeine in her daughter’s sippy cup. However, the accused told gardai in her interviews that the boys spat it out when they tasted the food and Carla had not consumed much of the drink.
In what the State said was “a desperately sad case”, the jury heard that on the next day Ms Morley used tape, plastic bags and cushions to smother the children, two of whom were killed in a play tent.
On the second day of the trial today, Dr Wright told defence counsel Michael Bowman SC that she interviewed the accused on three occasions at the Central Mental Hospital following the killing of her three children. She diagnosed her with suffering from bipolar affective disorder, which is characterised by a depressive episode with at least two hyper manic episodes.
Dr Wright said that Ms Morley had between 1998 and 2017 experienced anxiety symptoms in response to the stresses of life and work, bullying at work and adapting to parenting.
The expert witness said Ms Morley developed significant depressive symptoms in 2018, which persisted and deteriorated in October of that year, and she was put on antidepressants.
In 2019, Dr Wright said the accused experienced depressive themes in her thinking and described being overwhelmed. She felt she was inadequate in her role as a wife and mother and was concerned that her own mental health problems were impacting negatively on her children, said the witness.
During the middle of 2019, Ms Morley began experiencing suicidal ideation, which led to her first psychiatric admission and her mental health deteriorated again from November of that year, she said. “Her illness continues and she expressed a belief that her illness was damaging her children,” she added.
Dr Wright said the accused displayed recurring thoughts of death and had a passive death wish in the months prior to the killings and began to think about suicide. She had experienced suicidal ideation and felt the plan to kill herself and her children was necessary and urgent and could identify no alternative, she added.
To meet the verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity, the jury must find that Ms Morley was suffering from a mental disorder such that she should not be held responsible for the killings because she did not know the nature and quality of her actions, or she did not know what she was doing was morally wrong, or was unable to refrain from committing the act.
The witness said Ms Morley had a mental disorder, specifically depression, and she knew the nature and quality of her actions and that it would result in the deaths of her three children.
However, Dr Wright said that the accused did not know that her actions were wrong as part of her psychotic state and believed they were morally right.
“She believed she had irreparably damaged her children and had to put an end to their suffering,” she said. Dr Wright said Ms Morley was unable to refrain from her actions as a result of her depressive psychosis and fulfilled the criteria for a special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.
In her opening address, prosecuting counsel Anne-Marie Lawlor SC said the jury’s primary concern would be the accused’s mental state on January 24th and there was no issue in the case as to what happened to the children and how they died.
Detailing the evidence that would be heard, Ms Lawlor said the accused’s mental health had deteriorated very significantly and she suffered a breakdown in July 2019 and was admitted to St Patrick’s Hospital in Dublin as an inpatient for four weeks. “In the days before the children’s deaths, there was a belief that her mental health had improved significantly and psychiatrists will assist you in that was not the case,” she indicated.
On the day of the killings, the eldest boy Conor McGinley told her “Stop Mammy” as she suffocated him by putting a plastic bag over his head and she had replied “I’m sorry”, the jury also heard.
The Central Criminal Court was also told that her husband Andrew McGinley discovered the bodies of his three children in the house, two of them upstairs in his bedroom and one downstairs in a play tent.
Two notes written by the accused had been left in the house, one at the bottom of the stairs, to urge whoever came through the door of the family home not to go into the front room or upstairs and to phone 911 instead.
The court was told that the accused was suffering from a mental disorder when she caused the deaths of her three children and believed their best interests would be served by taking their lives as she had damaged them.
Mother tried to poison her three children the day…
Ms Morley told gardaí that she wanted to save her children from the “pain and suffering” she felt lay before them because of her shortcomings as a parent, and that she had intended to kill herself after she had killed her children.
Evidence was given that she had been struggling with her mental health in the year leading up to the tragedy and Clondalkin Mental Health Services and the Swiftbrook Medical Centre had also written to St Patrick’s Hospital requesting that Ms Morley be readmitted to inpatient psychiatric care due to concerns about her mental health.
Ms Morley, the court heard, had been finding it difficult to cope with stress at work and had taken the loss of a child in her ward particularly badly.
The trial continues this afternoon before Mr Justice Paul Coffey and a jury of ten men and two women.