Paul Thomas Ryan, 66, is facing a judge-only trial before the Supreme Court over the alleged murder of Marie Van Beers.
Paul Thomas Ryan, 66, is facing a judge-only trial before the Supreme Court over the alleged murder of Marie Van Beers.

Accused may have deliberately repressed ‘horrific’ event

A COURT has heard it is not possible to determine whether a man charged with murdering his former partner genuinely has no memory of the incident.

Paul Thomas Ryan, 66, is facing a judge-only trial before the Supreme Court in Lismore over the alleged murder of Marie Van Beers, 63, on November 12, 2018.

Mr Ryan has pleaded not guilty to murder but has conceded manslaughter, with the partial defence of abnormality of the mind.

If that defence is made out, Mr Ryan could face a conviction of the lesser charge of manslaughter.

The court has heard Ms Van Beers was stabbed about 35 times in the pair's Tweed Heads unit.

 

Marie Van Beers, 63, was killed at Tweed Heads. Picture: supplied
Marie Van Beers, 63, was killed at Tweed Heads. Picture: supplied

 

The couple had been together for 37 years but had earlier separated.

Mr Ryan's defence involves the claim he has no memory of the stabbing.

Forensic psychiatrist, Dr Andrew Ellis, has told the court it is difficult to determine the reliability of that claim, or its origin.

"I think there's a number of possible reasons why he doesn't express a memory of the stabbing," Dr Ellis said.

"One is that he has a genuine amnesia of the event.

"That could be explained by him being intoxicated by alcohol at the time.

"Also, he has an underlying problem with memory because of (his) neurocognitive disorder."

Dr Ellis said it's also possible Mr Ryan was experiencing "psychogenic amnesia" because "it's such a horrific event that he does not recall it as a way to maintain his mental integrity".

He said it was also possible the accused was deliberately trying to repress the memory.

"It may be that he does remember but doesn't want to speak about it," he said.

"There's no way I can determine which one of these it could be."

The court has heard Mr Ryan has "vascular lesions in the brain", a result of long-term abuse of alcohol and prescription medication.

Dr Ellis told the court accused was "more vulnerable (to memory problems) … when other causes of confusion overlay on top of that".

"I think it's likely there's chronic levels of confusion, and then there's acute levels of confusion superimposed on that."

He said the latter could involve the "chronic ingesting" of alcohol and opioid medication.

"They're in the background all the time," he said.

The trial continues.


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