Tyrone man Sean Hackett ‘did not have a mental illness’ when he shot his father, court told

Sean Hackett with his solicitor
Sean Hackett with his solicitor

Former Tyrone GAA player Sean Hackett was capable of making rational judgements when he shot his father dead, a court was told yesterday (Tuesday).

Hackett is charged with murdering Aloysius Hackett last January.

A psychiatrist said that although the teenager was thinking abnormally, it was not an indication of serious mental illness.

The seventh day of the murder trial heard more details about the 19-year-old’s state of mind at the time he killed his father.

Dr Fred Brown said that while the defendant had shown significant symptoms of depression, they were not enough to diagnose what he termed “a depressive episode”.

Hackett admits shooting his 60-year-old father twice in the head with a high-velocity rifle outside the family home near Augher last January.

However, Hackett denies murder.

The trial has previously heard conflicting details of Hackett’s mental state in the weeks prior to killing his father on January 4 last year.

Asked yesterday by prosecuting counsel Ciaran Murphy QC whether the accused was capable of forming rational judgements, Dr Brown replied: “Yes, he was.”

Earlier, the consultant forensic psychiatrist said Hackett had told him he never thought about the consequences of killing his father. During cross-examination, defence counsel Jim Gallagher QC asked if Hackett’s behaviour around the time he carried out the shooting was irrational.

Dr Brown replied: “It’s certainly not normal thinking, it’s abnormal ... but certainly not indicative of mental illness.”

The psychiatrist was also asked if it was possible Hackett was developing schizophrenia.

“In my opinion there are a number of reasons to be alert to the position that Mr Hackett may be developing schizophrenia,” he replied.

However, he added: “I’m satisfied that at present there are not sufficient features to make a diagnosis of schizophrenia.”

Mr Gallagher QC referred to Hackett’s behaviour around the time of his father’s death, including a loss of interest in GAA, heavy drinking and suicidal thoughts.

The psychiatrist said the “overall picture” of depressive symptoms was not strong enough to make a depressive episode diagnosis.

Mr Gallagher QC put it to Dr Brown that he was “going to the book and seeing what boxes can be ticked”.

Dr Brown added: “My view is that he did not meet the criteria for a major depressive episode, even a mild depressive episode, but I accept he did have depressive symptoms.”

Questioned on Hackett’s suicidal thoughts, Dr Brown added: “One would not diagnose depressive illness on the basis of suicidal thoughts alone.”

However, the doctor conceded that some sufferers of depression, particularly young men, can mask their condition effectively.

After six days of testimony, the evidence has now finished in the trial. Prosecution and defence counsel will make closing speeches today, before the jury is sent out to consider its verdict.

The case continues.