Paul Thomas Ryan is taken from Lismore Supreme Court and returned to custody. He is facing trial for the alleged murder of his former partner in their Tweed Heads unit.
Paul Thomas Ryan is taken from Lismore Supreme Court and returned to custody. He is facing trial for the alleged murder of his former partner in their Tweed Heads unit.

Mental impairments among ‘complex’ factors in stabbing death

A COURT has heard of the "complex" web of factors likely to have impacted the mental state of a Tweed Heads man charged with the stabbing murder of his former partner.

A final day of evidence has been heard in the judge-only trial of Paul Thomas Ryan, 66.

Mr Ryan has pleaded not guilty to the stabbing murder of Marie Van Beers, 63, at their Tweed Heads unit on November 12, 2018.

The defence team has conceded the elements of homicide but have raised the partial defence of abnormality of the mind.

A key focus of the trial has been whether Mr Ryan had a substantial impairment impacting his ability to control himself and to understand events.

He has maintained he has no memory of the stabbing, during which about 35 wounds were inflicted upon his former spouse.

Forensic psychiatrist, Dr Andrew Ellis, told Lismore Supreme Court on Tuesday the incident was consistent with "a frenzied attack", one that may be "consistent with someone who has an abnormal mental state".

"It's possible that it's consistent with a lack of control or a reduced amount of control," Dr Ellis told the court.

But Dr Ellis doesn't believe Mr Ryan experienced a "total" loss of control.

 

Marie Van Beers was allegedly murdered in her Tweed Heads unit. Photo: Facebook
Marie Van Beers was allegedly murdered in her Tweed Heads unit. Photo: Facebook

The day of Ms Van Beers' death, Mr Ryan attended court - an AVO was being taken out against him, to protect the deceased - and he visited the RSL twice.

Later at home, holding Ms Van Beers at knifepoint, he phoned her sister in a desperate and bizarre attempt to stop her from leaving him, the court heard.

The court heard Ms Van Beers was seeing another man; she saw their relationship as long since over but Mr Ryan saw this as an affair. 

Dr Ellis told the court Mr Ryan's neurocognitive and depressive disorders were "more than trivial"; both had required medical help, including hospitalisation, in the past.

But these weren't the only factors affecting him at the time of the alleged murder, he said.

"I don't think this impairment would adequately explain his behaviour at the time of the homicide," Dr Ryan said.

"The homicide also required his anger, his jealousy and his intoxication."

When asked whether Mr Ryan's conditions resulted in "substantial impairment" at the time of the attack, Dr Ellis was hesitant in his answer and could not definitively say whether or not the accused's cognitive issues were "substantial" to a legal standard.

He said his cognitive impairments and mood disorder "were important in his eventual behaviour", but so too were his "intoxication, anger and jealousy".

"I think it's very difficult to say with psychiatric certainty what his actual state of mind was," Dr Ellis said.

"There are a complex set of factors at play in his mental state at the time of the killing."



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