Court hears how woman told gardaí she "sliced" civil servant "like you would a goat"

By Ruaidhrí Giblin

A woman arrested on suspicion of slicing a civil servant’s throat told gardaí that she “did it” because the Department of Social Protection were supposed to “look after people”.

Laura Kenna (35), of no fixed abode, is charged with the attempted murder of Fionnuala Bourke as well as assault intending to cause serious harm to the same woman on Lower Drumcondra Road, Drumcondra, Dublin 9 on January 3, 2017.

Laura Kenna

Arraigned before a jury at the Central Criminal Court on Monday, Ms Kenna pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to both counts.

Opening the case today, prosecuting counsel, Anthony Sammon SC, said the central issue in the case was the state of mind of Ms Kenna at the time.

Mr Sammon told the jury they would hear evidence from two consultant psychiatrists from the Central Mental Hospital. He said there would be a conflict in the opinions of both doctors and it was for the jury to decide which is more likely to be correct.

He told the jury that Ms Bourke, a civil servant, was walking home from work around 5pm on the day in question when she was attacked by Ms Kenna with a knife. Mr Sammon said Ms Bourke’s “throat was slit”, she suffered “severe facial scarring” and it was a “dreadful thing to happen”.

Giving evidence, Detective Sergeant Ken Hoare told Mr Sammon that Ms Bourke was walking along Drumcondra Road away from the city centre on the side of the roadway where traffic was running counter to her.

Det Sgt Hoare said Ms Bourke passed the junction of Clonliffe Road and what is known locally as “The Bishop’s Palace” when she noticed a woman, Ms Kenna, sitting on the wall outside one of the houses on Lower Drumcondra Road.

As Ms Bourke approached, Det Sgt Hoare said Ms Kenna “sprung up” and pushed Ms Bourke backwards onto the grassy area between the footpath and traffic. He said Ms Kenna was on top of Ms Bourke and that Ms Kenna started to stab her.

Det Sgt Hoare said Ms Bourke could feel short, sharp stabs going into her upper body. He said she could feel her face and neck being slashed and she thought she was going to be killed.

The detective said Ms Kenna didn’t ask or demand anything from her immediately prior but later said words similar to: ‘If you give me your bag, I’ll let you go’.

Det Sgt Hoare said Ms Bourke managed to free herself and was at the front of the Bishop’s Palace trying to stop traffic. She was screaming that she had been mugged, that her bag had been taken and that she had been cut.

Central Criminal Court

He said an ambulance arrived at the scene and Ms Bourke was observed as having a large, deep cut across the front of her neck. It was 8cm in diameter and had penetrated through the muscle. It had cut through to the thyroid gland and there was a suspicion of damage to the oesophagus. Following a medical procedure, Ms Bourke spent time in the Intensive Care Unit.

Det Sgt Hoare said Ms Kenna was arrested the following day in Tallaght for allegedly “making a nuisance of herself” in Tallaght garda station. She had been identified from CCTV footage in Drumcondra Rail Station and gardaí were seeking her as “the only suspect”.

Upon her arrest in Tallaght, Det Sgt Hoare said Ms Kenna was found to have blood on her clothing, a knife and items of property belonging to Ms Bourke.

The detective said he arrested Ms Kenna on suspicion of assault causing harm to Fionnuala Bourke. Upon being cautioned, he said Ms Kenna replied “I’m guilty. Yeah, I fucking did it. Is she still alive? Yeah I did it, I sliced her like you would a goat. You couldn’t have stitched that up, I cut through her like butter.”

Det Sgt Kenna said he cautioned Ms Kenna again so she understood everything she was saying could be used as evidence. He said Ms Kenna told him: ‘She took my house away from me, that’s why I killed her. Fuck her, from the Department of Social Welfare (sic), she’s meant to look after people”.

Counsel for Ms Kenna, Barry White SC, said the defence accepted the injuries sustained by Ms Bourke constituted serious harm.

Under cross examination, Det Sgt Hoare accepted that Ms Kenna’s comment in relation to the Department of Social Protection was likely to have come from an analysis of documents in Ms Bourke’s handbag, after the incident. “That’s the conclusion I would have come to, yes”.

He told Mr White that the gardaí had enquired into Ms Kenna’s comments regarding the Department of Social Protection to ensure the alleged attack was not related to the injured party’s line of work. Det Sgt Hoare said the gardaí had found no evidence that Ms Kenna ever had any dealings with Ms Bourke.

He said there was “nothing conclusive” to suggest the Department of Social Protection or any State agency had previously taken property from Ms Kenna.

When asked by Mr White whether he was aware of the medical evidence that would be heard in the case - that Ms Kenna suffered from a form of schizophrenia, that she was delusional and paranoid - the detective sergeant said he knew there history of mental health in respect of Ms Kenna.

When asked whether Ms Kenna’s suggestion about State agencies taking property or a home from her indicated some delusional belief on Ms Kenna’s part, the detective sergeant said “that would be a bit of a stretch”.

He said Ms Kenna was in receipt of social welfare payments and “she may well have had her issues with that Department over the years”.

Mr White asked the detective whether he was aware Mr Kenna was involved in another incident, two weeks before the incident involving Ms Burke, where Ms Kenna stabbed another woman which resulted in a jury returning a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity. “I believe so,’ the detective sergeant said.

The trial continues tomorrow before Mr Justice Robert Eagar and a jury of seven men and five women.

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