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9 July 2012
Antidepressants may have contributed to a killer’s loss of control when he shot his wife, a court has heard. David Leeman, of Higher Cowley Farm, Parracombe, Devon, shot wife Jennie, 44, five times at close range last September.
A pharmacologist told the court Mr Leeman’s symptoms were consistent with an adverse reaction to antidepressants.
Dr Andrew Herzheimer said Mr Leeman’ feelings of being out of control and his sense of confusion were probably caused by his medication.
Mr Leeman had been taking a sedative anti-anxiety drug called Lorazepam for many years and had more recently also been prescribed the antidepressant Citalopram.
Citalopram, Dr Herzheimer said, was a drug closely linked to the controversial medication Seroxat, which has been blamed for sudden changes in behaviour in some users.
He said Mr Leeman’s medical notes showed his dosage of Citalopram had been increased from 40 to 60 mg just six days before the killing, when he complained of anxiety over his marriage break up.
“He described feeling as if he was splitting in two and that is what is known as de-realisation and is consistent with a reaction to medication,” the pharmacologist said.
Both the drugs Mr Leeman was taking would have caused confusion, he said, acting “a bit like alcohol” by decreasing inhibitions and increasing impulsiveness, recklessness and allowing more primitive and uncontrolled feelings to emerge.
But prosecution expert Professor Robin Ferner told the jury the increase in Mr Leeman’s dosage was not enough to lead to “drastic and sudden” behavioural changes.
He said the medication was designed to reduce his anxiety and tension and should have calmed him down and made him able to cope with his wife’s departure.
Mr and Mrs Leeman, who had four children, separated after Mr Leeman admitted a historic affair. Mrs Leeman then began an affair with 40-year-old Norman Laramy, whom Mr Leeman wrongly thought was a paedophile.
Devon and Cornwall Police investigated Mr Laramy, but found no evidence of sexual offending.
Six days after learning of the affair, Mr Leeman killed his wife using an illegal semi-automatic pistol at almost point-blank range.
Mr Leeman claimed he lost control and shot his wife after she refused to listen to his warnings about her new lover.
The trial continues.