Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Mum 'killed daughter she believed was the devil'

A mother killed her daughter in a frenzied knife attack because she believed she was the devil, a court heard yesterday.





Mary Prendergast (49) told gardai during interviews that Our Lady told her to kill her daughter through water dripping in the toilet bowl.



Ms Prendergast, of Glenna Cottages, Commons Road, Cork, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to the murder of Jessica Prendergast (21) at that address on July 29, 2006.



She had been released from a psychiatric unit just 19 days earlier.



Gardai found Jessica covered in blood at the foot of the stairs. She had been stabbed 44 times.



The Central Criminal Court jury heard that, on the way to hospital after the attack, Mary Prendergast said "something to the effect that her daughter was possessed by the devil".



Garda Deirdre Murphy observed that Ms Prendergast was in a "shocked state, crying, shaking, grinding her teeth".



"There was blood on her left cheek, forehead, hair and left eye."



Gda Murphy took notes of some of what Ms Prendergast said. Ms Prendergast said that the baby -- Jessica's two-year-old son -- told her that Jessica was "bad with the devil".



Ms Prendergast said that she "killed Jessica with a knife".



She said that she "wanted the baby because the baby was Jesus and she wanted to save the baby".



She said that the baby made her kill Jessica: "He told me she was the devil."



The court heard that State Pathologist Marie Cassidy found 44 stab wounds and more than 30 puncture wounds on Jessica's body.



The pattern of injuries suggested that Jessica was attacked while she was lying in bed on her right side.



Collapsing



After she was stabbed, she made her way from the bedroom and down the stairs before finally collapsing at the bottom of the stairs.



The jury heard that Jessica's brother, Wayne, told gardai that his mother had been at the dentist in the days leading up to the killing.



"She thought that the antichrist had been injected into her at the dentist."



Jessica had texted Wayne on the day of the killing to say that their mother was "acting up".



Ms Prendergast had been released from psychiatric treatment at Cork University Hospital 19 days before the killing and had gone to stay with Jessica and her grandson.



Gda Supt Martin Shannon told the court:



"She believed she was getting messages from Our Lady from the water dripping into the toilet bowl."



Ms Prendergast said that Our Lady told her to kill Jessica and that she went downstairs and got a knife from the kitchen, then returned to bed.



"I said to her [Our Lady] when do you want me to do it. She said, 'I'll let you know, my love.' At half-five she said you can do it now."



Ms Prendergast went into her daughter's room and stabbed her in the chest in what was described as a "frenzied attack".



She then took Jessica's son, left the house and ran to the offices of Blue Cabs where she tried to get a taxi to the garda station. A member of staff there contacted gardai.



Consultant psychiatrist Dr Brian McCaffrey gave evidence on behalf of the accused.



He said Ms Prendergast had had illness of a psychiatric nature for about 19 years and had been admitted to psychiatric institutions on seven occasions before the killing.



He read a referral letter from Ms Prendergast's GP dated October 2001.



The letter stated: "This woman has severe paranoid delusions centred around the government trying to kill her. She is getting messages from the TV.



Suspicious



"She has confined herself to her house and is afraid to go out. She is highly suspicious. She spends her time switching off lights, the radio, the TV, etc."



Dr McCaffrey said that Ms Prendergast was "convinced that medication was given to her to damage or perhaps kill her."



The doctor diagnosed Ms Prendergast with paranoid schizophrenia with very fixed delusions.



"At the time of the events, she was suffering from an exacerbation of symptoms. They were actually worse that night," he said.



The jury will be asked to decide today whether Ms Prendergast should be acquitted by reason of insanity.