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Man who cut off wife’s head returned to CMH

A man who cut off his wife’s head during a cannabis-induced psychosis has been returned to the Central Mental Hospital for ongoing treatment.

Diego Costa Silva, 35, killed his wife Fabiola De Campos Silva, 33, on 4 November 2021 at their home in Charlestown Place, Finglas, Dublin 11.

At his trial earlier this month, he pleaded not guilty to murder. His trial heard that he believed he had to remove his wife’s head to kill a serpent that had possessed her. Two forensic consultant psychiatrists agreed that he was suffering from a mental disorder as defined in the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act 2006 and that he qualified for a finding of not guilty of murder by reason of insanity.

At a Central Criminal Court hearing today Dr Dearbhla Duffy, a consultant forensic psychiatrist at the CMH, said that Mr Costa Silva continues to suffer from a mental disorder and is in need of in-patient treatment. Prosecution barrister Edward Doocey BL outlined Dr Duffy’s report but did not reveal the psychiatrist’s current diagnosis of Mr Costa Silva.

Mr Justice Michael MacGrath ordered that Mr Costa Silva be returned to the CMH. His case will be mentioned before the court again on 29 July.

During the trial the jury heard that, after noting Mr Costa Silva was displaying a paranoid belief that his wife might hurt him, doctors at the Mater hospital asked the defendant to remain as a voluntary patient but he chose to leave the day before the killing. The court also heard Mr Costa Silva said he had recently confessed to his wife that he had been unfaithful to her.

Trial Garda Colin Miley told the trial that two days before the killing he was on bike patrol at about 3.20pm when he saw Mr Costa Silva running barefoot, wearing only shorts on Middle Abbey Street in Dublin. Garda Miley caught up with Mr Costa Silva near the Spire on O’Connell St and found him to be distressed and disorientated, while his eyes were bulging and he was sweating profusely. The garda noted cuts and grazes to his feet and said Mr Costa Silva told him he had jogged from Finglas to the city centre and that he liked to jog barefoot. When asked if he was “okay”, Mr Costa Silva said he was upset and depressed following an argument with his wife. He told Garda Miley that he had recently confessed to her that he had cheated on her by kissing another woman and he suspected his wife was having an affair or affairs as revenge for what he had done. Garda Miley detained him under section 12 of the Mental Health Act to be examined by a doctor.

Doctors noted Mr Costa Silva was displaying the early signs of a psychotic episode, including thought disorder, delusion and a paranoid belief that his wife might hurt him. Ms De Campos Silva came to the hospital and told doctors that she noticed a sudden change in her husband’s behaviour the previous Saturday but she said he had not smoked cannabis for several days. Doctors asked Mr Costa Silva to remain as a voluntary patient but he chose to leave the hospital the following afternoon, 3 November. His wife picked him up and drove him home.

In his garda interviews, Mr Costa Silva said he had a “fight” with his wife at about 6am. He said he was not feeling safe and told detectives he has “hurt on my mind, a sound or vibration in my ear and a voice in my head”. He later complained of having “something electronic in my ear” and of hearing “so many voices”. He said he did not argue with his wife but the “fight” started because, he said: “I just felt if I didn’t do it she could do it to me”.

When gardaí put it to him that his wife did not try to kill him, he replied that her behaviour “led me to believe she was going to try to kill me”. He described his wife biting him on the leg and scratching his shoulder with her nails before he struck her on the head two or three times with a cup. He said he then began choking her before putting his foot on her neck. She fainted, he said, and he stabbed her “in her heart” before cutting off her head. He added: “I took her head, I took a knife and I cut her head.” When asked why, he said: “How can I explain? Sometimes you have to behead somebody because this person is possessed.”

Mr Costa Silva’s trial heard that due to his mental disorder, he had come to believe that his wife was possessed by a serpent and that she would kill him. After he attacked her, by striking her on the head with a mug, strangling and stabbing her, he cut her head off believing that he had to do so to make sure the serpent was dead.

Two forensic consultant psychiatrists gave evidence that Mr Costa Silva was suffering from cannabis-induced psychosis with symptoms including paranoia, delusions and auditory hallucinations. As a result of his illness he did not know the nature and quality of his actions and did not know that what he was doing was wrong, the psychiatrists said. Barristers for the defence and prosecution told the jury that Mr Costa Silva was not legally responsible for his actions.

The jury of seven men and five women took two hours and 24 minutes to come to their unanimous verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.

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