Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Newry man jailed for attempted murder of doctor

A mental health patient from Newry has been jailed for 10 years for attempting to murder a doctor and two mental health workers during two separate attacks which took place in the Bluestone Mental Health Unit last year.

Michael Larkin, from Altnaveigh Park in Newry, was convicted at the end of his trial earlier this year of attempting to murder the doctor and two mental health staff members with intent to inflict GBH and two counts of possessing weapons, a Stanley blade and a modified plastic handle, with intent to commit murder on the 3 and 5 of June last year.

The 26 year old had been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic in 2013 and was being held in the mental health unit at the Craigavon Area Hospital as a result of his ongoing difficulties. The court had previously heard how he used a hidden blade to slash Doctor Foster’s throat and attacked mental health workers, Mr McCabe and Mr McKillen, with a sharpened toothbrush.

Sentencing Larkin at Craigavon Crown Court on Wednesday, Judge Patrick Lynch QC said while he accepted that the defendant suffered from diagnosed mental health difficulties, “these are still grave charges and the sentence must reflect that”.

The judge said that although Larkin’s attempts to kill the men were different from the actions of a person “in full control of their faculties,” he deemed Larkin to be a dangerous offender who posed a significant risk of causing serious harm to the public in the future.

On June 3rd last year, after Dr Foster had just completed an assessment of the defendant before admitting him as an inpatient, Larkin attacked the doctor from behind, slashing his neck on both sides using the blade he had hidden.  A support worker intervened and eventually persuaded Larkin to surrender the blade. Two days later, mental health workers, Mr McCabe and Mr McKillen were on duty in the secure unit when Larkin requested a light for a cigarette. When Mr McCabe approached him, he was attacked with a toothbrush which had been sharpened to a point.  As Larkin attempted to slash at his neck, Mr McKillen intervened and was also attacked, receiving a gash to his neck.

Judge Lynch ruled that both attacks had been premeditated given the weapons were concealed and the latter weapon used had been modified beforehand. Additional investigations revealed that Larkin’s cigarette had been dampened so it would have taken longer to light and given him longer access to his victim and a search of his room uncovered an aerosol canister which the judge said could potentially have been used as a weapon.

Judge Lynch said it was part of the court’s duties to protect “those working in the NHS who are playing a vital role for the public” before imposing an extended sentence which means the Parole Commission will decide when Larkin is released and the terms of his release, which will also entail an extra five years of supervised licence conditions.