‘Body in boot’ murder trial: Mental illness ‘could have been key’ — (Coventry Telegraph)

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Coventry Telegraph

16 Nov, 2012

MENTAL illness could have been “a key driver” in causing a Nuneaton man to kill his girlfriend, a court has heard.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Nicholas Kennedy was giving evidence for the prosecution at the trial of Aaron Mann, who has denied a charge of murder on grounds of diminished responsibility.

A jury at Coventry Crown Court has already heard that Mann, aged 32, had confessed to causing the death of 38-year-old Claire O’Connor, whose body was found in the boot of a car on a Nuneaton housing estate on January 2.

She died as a result of “sustained pressure” to her neck after being attacked by Mann at the home they shared in Church Road, Stockingford, in the early hours of New Year’s Day.

The court was told that the defendant was on medication for depression after a suicide attempt in December and – after admitting to his parents that he had killed Miss O’Connor – said he had been hearing voices in his head.

Taking the stand yesterday, Dr Kennedy explained that in May he had conducted a face-to-face assessment with Mann, when the conclusion was that his behaviour did not amount to psychotic illness.

But the medical expert went on to say that he had now changed his opinion, in light of a report from another psychiatrist, prepared on behalf of the defence and only produced on the opening day of the trial.

Dr Kennedy said: “From reading this latest information, it is now my view that abnormality of mental function did impair his capacity for rational judgement and was a key driver for the killing.”

Following the statement, Judge Griffith Jones addressed the jury over the circumstances of the defence psychiatrist’s report, which had delayed the start of the case for legal submissions.

He said that because of the change of stance from a key prosecution witness, the prosecution was now “quite understandably” instructing another psychiatrist, who is currently in America but is expected to be back to give evidence next week.

The judge adjourned the trial until Monday, after asking prosecution barrister Simon Edwards to call the pathologist into court to give the post mortem evidence in person, rather than having it read out.