A sister of murder accused Stephen Silver has told a jury that she knew her brother was “very unwell” the day before the shooting and that her family planned to have him admitted to a psychiatric hospital.
Marian Bruen told the murder trial jury that she “knew immediately” Mr Silver wasn’t himself during a phone call on June 16th, 2020 and said there were numerous “red flags” during the call.
The court also heard today that Mr Silver told “a fib” to a psychiatrist when he said he didn’t know whether Garda Horkan had said “Arda” or “Garda” as he got out of the car. The accused also told Professor Harry Kennedy that his wife knew not to “rock the boat” because he was “very anti-medication”.
Mr Silver (46), a motorbike mechanic from Aughavard, Foxford, Co Mayo has pleaded not guilty to the capital murder of Garda Horkan (49) knowing or being reckless as to whether he was a member of An Garda Síochána 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.
Giving evidence to defence counsel Maurice Coffey today, Ms Bruen, who works as a primary school teacher, said she had a 15-minute phone call with Mr Silver on June 16th, 2020.
“I knew immediately almost on the phone call that he wasn’t himself. As any family member of someone with mental illness knows you have to be adept at spotting the signs and that phone call had numerous red flags for me,” Ms Bruen said.
She said Mr Silver told her he was in Dublin, and she noted his tone of voice and his turn of phrase were not usual for him.
Ms Bruen said the topics of conversation “changed erratically” and he sounded relaxed one moment and “really, really stressed” the next. She said the accused also referenced seeing dead rats in Dublin and warned her not to come to the capital.
She said she knew he was “very unwell” and needed to go to hospital and that as a family they needed to do whatever they could to get him there.
She said she spoke to her mother, and they made a plan to convince him to go to hospital once he came home from Dublin.
Earlier today, under cross-examination, prosecuting counsel James Dwyer SC put it to Dr Brenda Wright, interim clinical director at the Central Mental Hospital, that Mr Silver had told “a fib” when being interviewed by consultant psychiatrist Professor Harry Kennedy.
Mr Dwyer noted that whilst being interviewed by Professor Kennedy, Mr Silver told the doctor that when Garda Horkan got out of the car “he said garda, but I thought he said Arda because I asked him where he was from, but it makes sense now that he said garda”.
Counsel said in his direct evidence to the jury, Mr Silver agreed that what he said to Professor Kennedy at that point was, in fact, “a fib”.
He said Mr Silver appeared to have been well when he said it.
“The fact that Stephen Silver has apparently told Mr Kennedy a fib, does that cause you a concern in relation to the narrative he has given you?” counsel asked.
Dr Wright said that when assessing a patient she would look for collateral information because sometimes the narrative received from the patient can be inaccurate. She said there could be a number of reasons for this including illness, inaccurate memory or the possibility that that patient is deliberately misleading the interviewer.
“That is something I would have to consider,” she said.
Book of evidence
The psychiatrist said she was not aware that Mr Silver said the confusion of “arda” and “garda” was a fib. “While that is of note, it goes back to the practice of gathering as much information as possible,” she said, adding this includes medical records, the book of evidence and accounts given by witnesses. “All of that has to be taken into consideration.”
When pressed by Mr Dwyer who asked if it would not be “of concern” that Mr Silver had “told a fib to a psychiatrist”, Dr Wright said it would be of concern if that was all the information available.
She said in considering Stephen Silver’s mental state and medical history she reviewed a large amount of data and “taking it on balance, it doesn’t change my view of the diagnosis of Mr Sliver’s mental state at the time of the shooting”.
Mr Dwyer put it to Dr Wright that many of the incidents in her report, including Mr Silver’s report of his “head rushing”, him not sleeping and thinking the woman he was with was in MI6 were all reliant on Mr Silver’s own account.
The psychiatrist said that while this was true of his time in Dublin, there were more accounts available from closer to the time of the shooting, including from witnesses and gardaí at the scene.
She said patterns described by both his own account and witness accounts, including increased talkativeness, unusual ideas about being involved in the military and persecutory ideas, in the hours preceding the shooting were all very much in line with Mr Silver’s presentation when he had been mentally unwell over the years.
That evidence was very much in keeping with Mr Silver’s psychiatric history and his admissions to hospital, she added.
Mr Dwyer said Mr Silver had told Dr Wright that he had not consumed drugs for 10 years but two years prior to Garda Horkan’s shooting he had tested positive for PCP following a bike trip to Bavaria which led to a profound deterioration in Mr Silver’s mental state and a relapse of his illness.
“In his evidence to this jury, Mr Silver gave evidence that he denied he had taken PCP and suggested he might have been spiked,” Mr Dwyer said.
Dr Wright said Mr Silver had not been obtuse about his drugs and alcohol history and “didn’t attempt to conceal it”. “At interview he did not mention the PCP and I became aware of that subsequently when I looked at his records,” she said.
“At the time I couldn’t say whether he had deliberately not told me or didn’t recollect it being taken. On the basis of his evidence in court Mr Silver is obviously of the view that something he ingested had been spiked with PCP. That’s the fullest evidence I have about that.”
The psychiatrist also told Mr Dwyer that she disagreed with Professor Kennedy’s view on purposeful action and that Mr Silver’s ability to carry out a complicated sequence of actions could lead to an inference that he had the capacity to form purposeful intent.
She said patients who are psychotic or mentally unwell are capable of carrying out quite complex actions. While it was clear that Mr Silver had fired the gun this “doesn’t allow us to assume that his capacity was intact”.
“My view is Mr Silver was mentally unwell at the time of the shooting and as a result his thinking and judgement were impaired.”
Dr Wright agreed with Mr Dwyer that during garda interviews Mr Silver had the capacity to be alert and to stand up for himself, however she said she was also behaving in quite a bizarre and incongruent manner at times.
Counsel said when James Coyne’s account was being read to the accused, and it is suggested he must have known Gda Horkan was a garda, Mr Silver immediately turned around and said “that’s an assumption”.
Mr Dwyer said this demonstrated that while the accused was looking out the window and appeared to be disinterested he is “very alert to what is being said” and had intervened in what he perceived to be “an important evidential matter”.
Failed outpatient appointments
Dr Wright agreed that Mr Silver had failed to attend a number of outpatient appointments over the years and had stopped taking his medication on numerous occasions, sometimes very shortly after being discharged from hospital following a relapse of his illness.
Mr Dwyer said Mr Silver’s final admission to hospital was in September 2019, and following his release, Mr Silver told doctors he had stopped taking his medication because he felt it was “slowing his mind” and said he did not believe “medication is the answer”.
Dr Wright agreed that Mr Silver’s decision not to take his medication was down to a dislike of the side effects and that at times he comes off his medication soon after his discharge from hospital.
She said his relapses were frequently a result of a combination of his non-medication and his use of alcohol and drugs.
Mr Dwyer said in his report, Dr Kennedy describes Mr Silver saying that his wife knew “not to rock the boat” because he was so anti-medication. Dr Wright agreed that Mr Silver appeared to describe himself as anti-medication and said in 2018-2019 it seemed to be about wanting an alternative way to be treated.
The trial continues on Tuesday before Ms Justice Tara Burns and the jury of seven men and five women.