Psychiatrist found not guilty of murdering her daughter — (The Irish Times)

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The Irish Times

A psychiatrist who drowned her teenage daughter in the bath to save her from what she believed would be a hopeless life of anorexia has been found not guilty of murder by reason of insanity.

Lynn Gibbs (47) who killed her daughter Ciara (16) at their home in Killure, Gowran in Co Kilkenny between November 25th and 26th, 2006, will remain in treatment at the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum until an order is made by the State for her release.

The jury of nine women and three men took 21 minutes to return the verdict in the Central Criminal Court at Dublin.

Based on evidence from consultant psychiatrists given during the trial, Mr Justice Paul Carney told them before they retired, if they returned any other verdict than not guilty by insanity, they would effectively be saying “all in psychiatry was bunkum”.

Consultant psychiatrists for the defence and prosecution agreed Mrs Gibbs actually thought that by killing Ciara she was helping her daughter escape a hopeless life ruled by anorexia and said she was absolutely powerless to stop herself carrying out the act.

During the trial the doctor’s family history was outlined including her mother Iris Hutchinson’s depression and suicide at the age of 49 , Mrs Gibbs’s own suicide attempt at the age of 20 and her own obsession with her weight three years before that.

The court heard from Mrs Gibbs’s younger sister, Kathleen Deely, yesterday who said she noticed a difference in her sister from October 2006. She had lost weight, was not sleeping and was extremely preoccupied and worried about Ciara’s weight loss that had also shocked her.

“I was quite shocked she had lost an awful lot of weight and looked gaunt and drawn. I definitely thought she had an eating disorder.”

Her stepmother, Anna Hutchinson, said the family were so concerned they had planned to meet on November 26th, the day Mr Gibbs found his daughter dead and wife unconscious from an overdose and bleeding after she cut herself with a meat-cleaver.

“She was getting thinner by the day and I felt I could see she had less energy as the days went by. She seemed always under pressure,” Mrs Hutchinson said. She knew Mrs Gibbs’s mother, Iris, but her suicide was “never discussed”.

Mr Gibbs returned home with the couple’s son, Gearóid, from staying at his mother’s house in Tipperary on the morning of the 26th to find his daughter lying in the en-suite bathroom. His wife was lying slumped in the bedroom semi-conscious.

A friend of Mrs Gibbs, Dr Marese Cheasty, said she called to the Gibbs house on the night of the 25th. She told the court her friend had become absolutely depressed and preoccupied with Ciara. Mrs Gibbs had been prescribed three different anti-depressants since September that year but none of them agreed with her and she stopped taking all of them after a week or so, she told the court.

While she did not believe her friend met the criteria to become an involuntary in-patient she told the court she had planned to call Mr Gibbs the following day to discuss getting his wife into hospital. “If I ever felt she was in danger I would have stayed the night myself or asked Gerard to come home,” she said.

Mrs Gibbs told her that night she was worried about finances because she did not think she would work again and said she thought about taking her own life from time to time but she would never do it.

“She talked about the terrible prognosis for anorexia and how she felt Ciara would never have a career or family because of the anorexia.”

She told the court she believed her friend was telling the truth when she said, that night, she would not harm herself.

Dr Deirdre Dowdall, also a friend, said Mrs Gibbs confided in her and being a psychiatrist Mrs Gibbs felt guilty she had not seen the signs in Ciara.

In the summer of 2006, Ciara was on an exchange to France that she said seemed to have sparked her eating disorder. The French family was very formal, especially at meal times, and Ciara did not like it so absented herself from meals.

It was then, Mrs Gibbs told her friend, that her daughter discovered she could go without food.

Dr Dowdall visited Mrs Gibbs in hospital after the killing saying her eyes were wild, she was making involuntary movements and she appeared deranged.

Consultant psychiatrist and friend Dr Maura Horgan treated Mrs Gibbs in St Luke’s Hospital, Kilkenny, after the killing. Her friend had confided in her months earlier about Ciara’s problem, the normally intensely private woman breaking down into tears, Dr Horgan said.

Brendan Grehan SC, for the DPP, declined to make a closing speech. Patrick Gageby SC, for Mrs Gibbs, told the jury the case had been put before them as the law required, but also to show Mrs Gibbs was not being done any favours because of her profession.

After the verdict Prof Harry Kennedy, director of the Central Mental Hospital, who has been treating her for the past 10 months, told the court the best place for Mrs Gibbs was in a secure designated facility where she will receive ongoing treatment.

Mr Justice Carney made the order for her to remain in the Central Mental Hospital under Prof Kennedy’s care until a further order was made under section 13 of the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act 2006 for her to be released.