Lockyer should not be held criminally responsible, say psychiatrists

Psychiatrists agree on state of Lockyer's mental health

Published on November 20, 2007

After the Crown took just one day to present its evidence against Neil George Lockyer, the defence has done the same, resting its case at the conclusion of the murder trial's second day Monday.

The 54-year-old Corner Brook man is charged with second-degree murder for killing Frank McKay, his daughter's 31-year-old boyfriend.

CORNER BROOK - After the Crown took just one day to present its evidence against Neil George Lockyer, the defence has done the same, resting its case at the conclusion of the murder trial's second day Monday.

The 54-year-old Corner Brook man is charged with second-degree murder for killing Frank McKay, his daughter's 31-year-old boyfriend.

McKay was stabbed to death in front of Lockyer's daughter and his two young granddaughters - ages four and six - at his daughter's city residence on the morning of Feb. 27, 2007.

Last week, Justice Richard LeBlanc and the six men and six women of the jury heard that Lockyer readily admits he stabbed McKay 19 times. However, they also heard that Lockyer, who suffered a serious brain injury in an industrial accident in 1989, had been enduring severe paranoia and delusions that the workers' compensation commission in British Columbia was spying on him and trying to expose him as a fraud.

The delusion got to the point that Lockyer even thought McKay was a spy planted by the commission to infiltrate his family, even though there was never any real suspicion Lockyer had been cheating the commission to get disability benefits.

When the trial resumed in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador in Corner Brook Monday morning, defence lawyer Peter Ralph called his only two witnesses - Dr. David Craig and Dr. Nisar Ladha of St. John's - both of whom testified as experts in forensic psychiatry. A report from a third psychiatrist, Dr. Lisa Ramshaw of Toronto, was also read into the court records.

All three of the psychiatrists came to the conclusion that Lockyer was suffering from symptoms of a mental disorder at the time of the murder and should not be held criminally responsible for McKay's death.

Craig, who has conducted psychiatric assessments of inmates in this province's adult and youth correctional facilities on numerous occasions, first met Lockyer at Her Majesty's Penitentiary in St. John's in May 2006. During a third visit about a month later, Craig said Lockyer was upset over memories of the offence and overwhelmed by what he had done and what the consequences might be. Lockyer even told Craig he wanted to change his lawyer and change his plea to guilty.

Based on conversations he had with Lockyer's daughter, and a letter from her, Craig - who said he immediately contacted Ralph - learned that Lockyer was even suspicious that the court system was part of the conspiracy against him and he would get a lengthier sentence if he pleaded not guilty.

Since his incarceration, Lockyer has been treated with anti-psychotic medication and drugs for depression. Craig said Lockyer's level of suspicion has been generally resolved since then and, although he is still reluctant to say much, he is no longer worried that almost everyone around him is out to get him and is fit to stand trial.

Craig said there is a difference between being fit to stand trial, or being able to understand court procedure and co-operate in his own defence, and being held criminally responsible of an offence, which involves the state of an individual's mind at the time the offence was committed.

Craig said it is quite clear Lockyer was in the deepest throes of his mental illness the morning he killed McKay, launching a vicious attack moments after he had been sitting between his two granddaughters watching cartoons. He said Lockyer incorporated the belief McKay was a planted spy into his progressing delusional system and that Lockyer would either have to kill himself or kill McKay to remove the threat he perceived to himself, his daughter and her two children.

That opinion, said Craig, is backed up by the videotaped statement Lockyer gave to police in the hours after the killing, in which a distraught Lockyer admits to killing McKay, but still urges the police to protect his daughter and grandchildren. Craig said Lockyer is clearly distressed about some sort of continuing threat, more than he is about the fact he has just killed someone.

Ladha, a forensic psychiatrist in this province since the 1970s and who conducts psychiatric assessments at the Waterford Hospital, diagnosed Lockyer as being schizophrenic. Although the exact cause of this particular kind of mental illness is typically unknown, Ladha said Lockyer's case is different in that it can be pinpointed to a specific medical condition, namely the injury to the left side of his brain.

"After his injury, Neil Lockyer changed as a person," said Ladha. "He was not the Neil Lockyer he was before. He was not the father he was before."

Ladha said an examination of Lockyer's life since his accident in 1989 shows a steady progression of his disorder. He said his illness continued to affect more parts of his life and also began to include more people, as shown through his ever-intensifying insistence that spies were following him and bugging his house.

Unfortunately, said Ladha, Lockyer's irrational thought processes got to the point where Frank McKay became the biggest threat to him and the family he loved. In Lockyer's mind, said Ladha, killing McKay was the right thing to do to protect his family.

"It was this distorted psychotic rationale that led to Frank's death," he said.

Both Ralph and Crown attorney Jennifer Colford will present their closing arguments to the jury this afternoon.

Justice LeBlanc is not expected to give his instructions to the jury until Wednesday morning, at which time they will begin deliberating Lockyer's fate.

gkean@thewesternstar.com