Marie Van Beers was allegedly murdered in her Tweed Heads unit in November, 2018. Photo: Facebook
Marie Van Beers was allegedly murdered in her Tweed Heads unit in November, 2018. Photo: Facebook

Impaired accused knew ‘killing was wrong’, court hears

WHILE he lives with a form of brain damage, a “manipulative” man charged with murdering his former partner would have still understood it is wrong to take a life, a court has heard.

Paul Thomas Ryan, 66, has pleaded not guilty to the stabbing murder of Marie Van Beers, 63, in their Tweed Heads unit on November 12, 2018.

The pair had been together for 37 years and separated two years prior, but remained living in the same Brett St home.

During Mr Ryan’s trial, the Supreme Court in Lismore has heard the elements of murder have been conceded by the defence.

But Mr Ryan’s barrister, Jason Watts, has raised the partial defence of substantial impairment by abnormality of the mind.

That defence hinges on whether the accused had the capacity to understand certain events, to distinguish right from wrong and to control his behaviour.

On Monday, the court heard continued evidence from forensic psychiatrist, Professor David Greenberg, a prosecution witness.

Professor Greenberg recalled Mr Ryan saying he “loved opioids” and that he had been “abusing prescription medication”.

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

The court heard Mr Ryan was admitted to The Tweed Hospital twice in October, 2018.

At one point, he threatened to take his own life if Marie left him, a threat Prof Greenberg described as “manipulative”.

During a recorded phone conversation in the time leading up to her death, Mr Ryan told her: “I’ll f---ing smash your f---ing face, I mean that Marie” in an argument about her new partner.

The court heard Mr Ryan attended court in Tweed Heads for a matter involving an AVO application to protect Ms Van Beers, the day of her death.
“He had been to court that day, appeared in front of Magistrate Dunlevy,” Prof Greenberg said.

The court heard Mr Ryan then took a taxi to the RSL, socialised and played on the pokies.

Prof Greenberg said the accused could recall various events that day “until … the knife dropped on the floor”.

When asked about Korsakoff syndrome, caused by thiamine deficiency and associated with alcohol abuse, he said there was no evidence Mr Ryan had this condition.

Another forensic psychiatrist, Dr Andrew Ellis – who was called as a defence witness – found Mr Ryan has “chronic memory problems”.

Dr Ellis said scans of Mr Ryan’s brain were “consistent with chronic cerebral vascular disease”, which could be associated with “memory problems” and issues “with comprehension and understanding”.

Dr Ellis told the court Mr Ryan was, at one point, held in the unit for older inmates requiring more assistance at Long Bay Correctional Centre and experiences “impairment over and above the impairments of intoxication”.

Prof Greenberg told the court Mr Ryan had “some impairment” in all three areas that are subject to his defence.

Dr Ellis said, however, the “capacity to know right from wrong is much more absolute”.

“None of the impairments he has, in my view, would have led to him not knowing that killing was wrong,” Dr Ellis said.

The trial continues.


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