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Killer unlikely to ever walk free again after beheading his mother

By Michael Donnelly

Published 15/12/2012

A man who cut off his mother’s head in a frenzied attack has been warned he may spend the rest of his life in jail.

Paranoid schizophrenic John Charles Coburn (35) launched the assault with a steak knife on Mother's Day last year after hearing voices telling him that his mum was trying to murder him.

While he was told that he would spend a minimum of five years in prison, Mr Justice Burgess warned Coburn, who still hears his mum Lynn talking to him through his television, that he “may never be released”.

Mr Justice Burgess explained that “for all intents and purposes it is equivalent to a life sentence”, and that university educated Coburn's “release back into the community will be determined by the Parole Commissioners should they consider it safe to do so”.

He had originally been charged with murdering his 53-year-old mum, but the charge was dropped when Coburn pleaded guilty to her manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

Antrim Crown Court heard: “Death was due to decapitation and multiple stab wounds to the head, neck and chest.”

The court also heard that Coburn's 32-year-old brother Andrew was also injured in the savage attack at their mother's Rossburn Manor home in the quiet Co Antrim village of Connor and Kells on April 3 last year.

Defence lawyer Denis Boyd, said the judge, revealed that although symptoms of a clear psychotic illness first began to show as far back as 1996, Coburn had done little to help his own situation and, according to doctors, had not only failed to properly engage with them, but at the same time experimented and tampered with his own medication.

Mr Justice Burgess said while Coburn's attack on his mother was unprovoked, he had also taken into account that this was a spontaneous attack which, while unprovoked, did not evidence a history of violence or a course of violent conduct on this particular day.

During the earlier hearing, prosecution QC Frank O' Donoghue said that moments before Coburn turned on his mother for no apparent reason, his brother Andrew, who had been taking a nap after preparing their special Mother's Day turkey dinner, had heard the pair chatting in the kitchen.

He had overheard his mum talk of buying John new clothes and of taxing his motorbike, before hearing his mother screaming in pain.

He thought she must have burnt herself while checking the turkey in the oven, but when her screams did not stop he rushed downstairs.

Mr Justice Burgess said that by the time Andrew got downstairs to the kitchen “the screaming had stopped”, and to his

horror found his brother John kneeling on top of their mum strangling her whilst she fought in vain to protect herself.

“Andrew saw the defendant had a knife, that he was stabbing his mother and there was blood,” added the judge.

“Andrew asked the defendant for the knife. He remembers the defendant saying: ‘She was trying to kill us, you know'.

“The defendant then attacked Andrew,” said Mr Justice Burgess.

Fearing that he, too, was about to be killed, he grabbed the phone and ran outside to raise the alarm.

Coburn was arrested at the scene, but it became apparent he was mentally unwell, and chronically so. Although it was said doctors also suspected he may have been taking illegal drugs in the days leading up to the attack.

But Mr Justice Burgess said while Coburn had admitted he didn't know what illegal drugs he had taken, “the dominant influence” operating on Coburn at the time of the killing was “paranoid schizophrenia”.

Frenzied onslaught was like scene from horror film

By Deborah McAleese

WHAT started out as a pleasant Mother’s Day in April last year ended up like a scene from a violent horror movie.

Lynn Coburn was relaxing with the Sunday papers as she waited for a turkey to cook in the oven for Mother’s Day dinner with her two sons.

As her 32-year-old son Andrew napped upstairs before dinner, Lynn chatted with her other son, 35-year-old John Charles Coburn.

Lynn (53) spoke with Coburn about buying some new clothes and taxing his motorbike and then asked him to turn down the heat of the oven for her so that the turkey would not burn.

What happened next horrified the small Co Antrim village where Lynn lived.

Without warning, Coburn lifted a steak knife and frenziedly began to stab his mother in the head, neck and chest before cutting her head off while shouting “she is trying to kill us”.

As she lay helplessly on the ground with her son kneeling on top of her, both strangling and stabbing her, Lynn battled in vain to protect herself.

When Andrew, who had run downstairs on hearing his mother’s screams, pleaded with his brother to put down the knife Coburn then turned on him and stabbed him in the side.

Andrew grabbed the phone and ran outside to raise the alarm.

At the time of the attack Coburn was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and it is suspected he had also been taking illegal drugs in the days prior to his mother’s death. Coburn continues to show signs of serious mental illness.

Belfast Telegraph

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