The family of a loving dad who was stabbed to death while he tried to jump-start his car on the way to work has called for justice, saying his killer Christina Anderson gave her victim no chance and destroyed their lives.
Gareth Kelly (38) had never met Christina Anderson (41) before she approached him and stabbed him five times, fatally injuring him. At a sentencing hearing today Mr Kelly’s partner Maria Murphy described the deceased as a loving dad with a “cheeky smile” who was adored by his children.
“We didn’t lose Gareth, Christina Anderson took him,” she said. “She caused us all this pain. Our kids will never see their daddy again, and he will never see his kids again, never read them stories or watch a movie, get a pizza, have parties or see his kids grow up. He will not be there to see his kids make their debs or do their leaving cert. He never had a chance to walk any of his daughters down the aisle.”
Anderson of Brownsbarn Wood, Kingswood, Dublin 22, stabbed Mr Kelly five times as he tried to start his car outside her home at about 7am on the morning of February 25th, 2020.
She was initially charged with murder and pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. In January this year, more than one month into her trial, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) accepted a plea of guilty to manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility due to a mental disorder.
The State accepted that Ms Anderson was experiencing a psychotic episode due to bipolar affective disorder but did not qualify for the full defence of a not guilty by reason of insanity verdict under the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act.
Ms Justice Karen O’Connor on Monday heard the first of two sentencing hearings during which members of Mr Kelly’s family made statements detailing the impact his killing has had on them and their community. The judge will hear pleas in mitigation by Anderson’s lawyers on May 22, before passing sentence.
In a statement read out on Monday by prosecution barrister Pat McGrath SC, Mr Kelly’s mother Noeleen Kelly said there are “no words to explain the loss and heartache I feel right now.” Gareth “lived and breathed” for his family and would do anything for anybody, she said.
He had two jobs and worked hard to “give the kids the life they wanted”.
She said she watched the CCTV footage, shown during the trial, of her son’s last moments. “He smiled at a passerby, not remotely aware of what lay ahead for him, just going to work.”
She said she is left forever with the memory of the expression on his face after Anderson stabbed him the first time. “Was he scared, was he frightened? My son lay dying on that pathway between two cars, struggling for his last breath. Why?”
She said the family is living a life sentence with each day bringing pain and sorrow and reminders of what they have lost. Due to the outbreak of Covid shortly after Gareth’s death, the family was unable to grieve together and Gareth’s father died alone in hospital 14 months after his son “with a broken heart and no answers or justice”.
Mr Kelly’s sister Lorraine Kelly said she felt a lump in her throat, an ache in her heart and tears in her eyes every time she heard her brother referred to in court as “the late” or “the deceased”. “He was my younger brother, one of the most intriguing people I have ever known and he was taken from this earth so horrifically.”
He was a great father, she said, and a loving partner to Maria. “He was always the life and soul of a gathering and cherished everything, even when life was not going his way.”
She said he embraced every opportunity to enjoy life and deserved to live and make more memories with his family and his children. “He loved celebrating everything with his children. He made sure he set traditions for his children to embrace life together,” she said. Every car journey with his children turned into a singsong and for his children’s birthdays he would wake them up with a birthday song.
“He put passion into everything he did in his life. He was always smiling his cheeky smile with the dimples. He loved life and he was doing it and smashing it. He would laugh at me stressing and tell me to slow down and enjoy life and never let it pass me by.”
She said the facts from the trial will be “forever etched on my mind”. She will forever remember the footage of her brother holding himself up at the side of the car before being attacked a second time. “Was he calling for help? I know he was in pain, I know that because of the evidence. Was he frightened? Yes. Was he scared? Yes. I can see his face and the look of confusion about what was happening to him. Seeing him fall to the ground, my brother Gar was in pain and I couldn’t do anything. My brother was hurt and I wasn’t there to protect him.”
She recalled seeing Ms Anderson returning to strike her brother “again and again and again”.
She said: “She took my brother and best friend, one of the most precious figures of our family, our community. We had to hear all the horrendous details before she finally put an end to it. She couldn’t spare us the details on top of what was already too difficult to comprehend without having to hear all the horrific details.”
She finished by saying she hopes justice will “close this aspect of our grief and loss and allow us to focus on Gar, my brother Gar”.
Ms Justice O’Connor adjourned the matter until May 22 when she will hear pleas in mitigation from Anderson’s defence lawyers.
Following the accepted plea earlier this year, Michael O’Higgins SC, for Anderson, said the plea decision was taken “after lengthy consideration and appraisal of this case”. He said there were “ongoing difficulties on the defence side” arising from a report by consultant psychiatrist Professor Harry Kennedy and the decision to plead guilty to manslaughter was informed by those difficulties.
The court has previously heard that Professor Kennedy disagreed with Dr Brenda Wright, a consultant psychiatrist called by the defence, who said that Ms Anderson was suffering from bipolar affective disorder and as a result of her mental disorder she was unable to refrain from stabbing Mr Kelly.
Professor Kennedy, the court heard during cross-examination of Dr Wright, had written a report in which he said that Ms Anderson’s behaviour was better explained by cannabis intoxication. Intoxication cannot be used as a defence under the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act 2006.
Anderson was taken into custody at the Dochas women’s prison following her arrest and detention in February 2020 but was transferred almost immediately to the Central Mental Hospital. The court heard today that she has remained a patient at the Central Mental Hospital since then.
Opening the trial last December, Mr McGrath told the jury that Mr Kelly had parked overnight in a space belonging to the Anderson home, something that happened from time to time to the annoyance of Ms Anderson. Mr Kelly, who had never met Ms Anderson, was trying to start his car when she approached him and stabbed him before returning to her house. She then returned and stabbed him again.
The court heard from friends and neighbours of Ms Anderson and from her husband Mark Anderson that her behaviour had become increasingly erratic in the days and weeks leading up to the stabbing. In particular, she had become obsessed with what she falsely believed to be a criminal conspiracy among her neighbours involving gardaí and senior politicians.
Mark Anderson told the trial that he and his wife were cannabis users and would smoke two to three small joints to relax in the evenings after their children had gone to bed.
Because they were regular users, he said they had a high tolerance and found it relaxing.
From 2017 onwards there were times when Mr Anderson said he noticed that his wife’s energy levels and enthusiasm “spiked” and she would become “very eager”.
On occasion, she complained of feeling depressed and would go to a doctor. She began seeing psychiatrists at the Mary Mercer clinic in 2017. She was prescribed medication and never had any problem taking it.
On February 16th, 2020 Mr Anderson travelled to Canada for work. He didn’t notice anything wrong with his wife before he left but when he landed back in Dublin on February 23rd, two days before the stabbing, she “seemed to be delusional”.
He had never previously seen her act in a paranoid way, but she began telling him about a “criminal conspiracy” involving their neighbours and said she was in fear for herself and the children. She attached some significance to a photograph she had found of Bertie Ahern, a former Taoiseach, and said that their solicitor was going to come to the house with Michael Jackson, the deceased pop star.
The following day, a Monday, she was still delusional but had periods of clear thinking, he said, during which she was aware that she was not well and was willing to go to the psychiatric unit. Mr Anderson called Mary Mercer hoping to bring her in that day, but they said they didn’t have psychiatric services on a Monday. They agreed to bring her scheduled appointment for the following afternoon forward to 9am.
He couldn’t remember if they smoked cannabis that evening but said, “it’s likely, it would have been normal for us”.
They went to bed and the next morning Mr Anderson awoke when he heard the house alarm going off followed by a loud bang. He found that the alarm had been pulled off the wall and believed his wife had done it.
He did not know that his wife had stabbed someone until gardaí came to the house a short time later.
The defence also called Dr Johann Grundlingh, a toxicologist. He told the trial that the effects of cannabis typically last from one to three hours. He said that if it is true that Ms Anderson smoked her final cannabis cigarette at about 10pm the previous evening and stabbed Mr Kelly at about 7am, then it is “extremely unlikely she would still have been intoxicated with cannabis”.