Wednesday, March 01, 2023

Ryan Dunne

Stephen Silver thought that shooting dead Garda Colm Horkan was “all a hoax or a test to be in the special forces,” an expert medical witness told the Central Criminal Court on Wednesday as she gave evidence of his multiple admissions to hospital.

Dr Brenda Wright on Wednesday told the jury in the trial of Mr Silver (46), of Aughavard, Foxford, Co Mayo, that the accused told her he was “feeling strange” the day before the shooting and thought he would have to sign himself into hospital.

Mr Silver has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Gda Horkan knowing or being reckless as to whether he was a member of An Garda Siochana acting in accordance with his duty at Castlerea, Co Roscommon on June 17th, 2020.

He has pleaded guilty to manslaughter and the jury have been told the main issue in the trial is Mr Silver’s state of mind at the time of the shooting.

Dr Wright, interim clinical director at the Central Mental Hospital, gave evidence to defence counsel Dominic McGinn SC about interviews she conducted with Mr Silver in the months after the shooting.

She said that he described experiencing a sleep disturbance in the days leading up to the incident.

Alcohol consumption

His alcohol consumption increased, and he was drinking a bottle of wine or half a bottle of gin or five beers a night.

“Looking back, my mind wasn’t clear, my head was rushing,” Mr Silver told her.

Dr Wright said that two days before the incident, Mr Silver started getting paranoid about a female companion’s purpose towards him. Dr Wright said Mr Silver told the witness he was feeling strange the day before the shooting and thought he might be becoming unwell.

Dr Wright said the accused told her he thought he would sign himself into the hospital the next day.

Concerning the shooting of Gda Horkan, Dr Wright said Mr Silver told her that on the day, Gda Horkan “squared up” to him. She said he told her that a scuffle ensued in which he lost his prescription sunglasses, and he felt Gda Horkan had a gun.

He told her that he thought: “Oh f*ck, I’m wrestling for my life.” Dr Wright gave evidence that Mr Silver said he and Gda Horkan struggled for the gun and next thing it started going off.

He said he hit Gda Horkan on the head to loosen his grip on Mr Silver and then Mr Silver aimed and shot him.

Asked how he felt about the shooting, Dr Wright said Mr Silver told her he felt angry. “You’re going for a pizza, and now you’re in a shootout. If there was no gun there’d be no crime.

“If only he had told me he was a garda and shown me ID. He had no reason to grab me. I don’t know why he got out of the car. He’s after ruining my life. I thought he was a drug dealer,” Mr Silver told Dr Wright.

Dr Wright gave evidence that Mr Silver said he did not sleep for three nights after the shooting. She said he told her he thought it was “all a hoax or a test to be in the special forces”.

She said he told her that his uncle and father “would save the day with the cavalry”.

Mental health history

Dr Wright also gave evidence in the trial regarding Mr Silver’s mental health history.

She said that Mr Silver was brought to hospital by gardaí and admitted on an involuntary basis on January 19th, 2010, a year after his previous admission.

He had not been complying with his medication for seven months and was confused, mixed up in his thoughts and experiencing a “flight of ideas”. He was placed on a high dose of antipsychotic medication, Dr Wright said.

She gave evidence that he was again admitted on an involuntary basis on February 14th, 2010. He was very aggressive and violent, with a loss of energy and an elated mood.

He had stopped taking his medication and was in an unkempt state, and he was suspicious and talking in a raised volume.

Dr Wright said he displayed “ideas of reference”, which is a common thread of symptoms of schizophrenia. She said a person in this state may believe they are receiving messages from the radio, or if they are watching the news then they get the feeling the newsreader is trying to tell them something.

She said Mr Silver also had “thought insertion,” which is the feeling that their thoughts are not their own and must have come from somewhere else, put into their mind by an external agent.

She said he also displayed “thought interference,” which is the belief that thoughts are being taken out of a person’s head, and “passivity feelings,” which is the belief that an external agent is controlling how a person feels.

She confirmed to Mr McGinn that Mr Silver had believed people were out to get him, and he needed to protect himself by physical means. She said that his diagnosis at that time was a relapse of bipolar affective disorder.

Dr Wright went on to confirm to Mr McGinn that Mr Silver was again admitted to hospital on March 19th, 2010, after he was found dancing barefoot with no trousers on in the street.

He was aggressive and required restraint by the gardaí. At the garda station, he had conversations with himself and lacked insight. She said he had been non-compliant with his medication and had paranoid delusions.

She said that Mr Silver was again admitted on a voluntary basis on April 25th, 2010, after becoming acutely psychotic following alcohol consumption. He had persecution delusions and was suspicious of 25 people trying to follow and kill him.

The court heard that Mr Silver was not admitted to hospital again until February 9th, 2018.

Dr Wright confirmed to Mr McGinn that on this occasion, which was his 16th admission to hospital, Mr Silver self-presented to A&E with his wife, after he was verbally and physically aggressive to his wife since returning from a biking rally in Germany.

He had disturbed sleep, was highly agitated and had caused damage to property at home.

She said Mr Silver accused his wife of being a spy at this time. He had slurred speech and was talkative and anxious. She confirmed to Mr McGinn that Mr Silver tested positive for PCP, known as “angel dust”.

Dr Wright said that the last time the accused was admitted to hospital was September 2nd, 2019. Mr Silver presented to A&E with a friend as his family were concerned about his mental state.

He was threatening in nature, irritable, and displaying inappropriate behaviour.

He was paranoid about the nursing staff and was threatening staff and other patients. Dr Wright said that Mr Silver left the hospital and subsequently physically assaulted staff who went after him. He later presented voluntarily at the hospital.

The jury previously heard that Dr Wright interviewed Mr Silver three times after the shooting of Gda Horkan, on dates between August and September 2020.

“Having reviewed the information and having met with him and interviewed him on three occasions, my view is that at the time he was mentally unwell and as a consequence his capacity was impaired,” said Dr Wright.

She said that as a consequence of his mental illness, Mr Silver’s capacity was “significantly impaired” at the time of the shooting.

The trial continues on Thursday before Ms Justice Tara Burns and the jury of seven men and five women.

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