Stephen Silver has told the Central Criminal Court, where he is on trial accused of the murder of Garda Colm Horkan, of mental health episodes he has experienced since the age of 19, on one occasion believing himself to be “the second coming of Jesus”.
he jury in the trial of Mr Silver (46), of Aughavard, Foxford, Co Mayo, also heard that earlier on the day that Gda Horkan was shot 11 times with his own gun, the accused said he was at a hotel where he met three men he believed were part of the SAS and he was so paranoid and scared that he checked under his own van for explosives.
Mr Silver has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Gda Horkan knowing or being reckless as to whether he was a member of An Garda Síochána acting in accordance with his duty at Castlerea, Co Roscommon, on June 17, 2020. He has pleaded guilty to manslaughter, and the jury have been told the main issue in the trial is Mr Silver’s state of mind at the time of the shooting.
Mr Silver gave evidence today to defence counsel Maurice Coffey SC that he had his first mental health episode when he was 19.
“I had unusual thoughts about druids and all kinds of stuff. I thought I was the second coming of Jesus,” he said.
He said that he started experiencing fleeting thoughts and did not sleep for seven days, which caused him to become sleep deprived. He said that he thought he was perfect but his mother and father realised something was wrong.
“I thought Armageddon was going to take place. I was on no medication at the time. I was then hospitalised in Roscommon Hospital and the guards brought me,” he said.
Mr Silver told the court that he was prescribed antipsychotics that made him very drowsy and lethargic. He said that the medication did not help in the beginning and it took a while for it to work.
“I had to take the medication. I felt depressed then. The fact I thought I was the second coming is not an easy thing to get over,” he said.
He said he was not able to work and his confidence was very poor. He remained on medication for over a year and then came off it himself. He confirmed to Mr Coffey that he was admitted to hospital 16 or 17 times.
“It would start with a lack of sleep and then my thoughts started racing, I was thinking things that weren’t realistic. There was an episode in September 2001 when I thought the water tank in the bathroom was a nuclear bomb and I was in charge of keeping it safe. My parents were called to collect me. I barricaded myself in the house and wouldn’t leave. The next day, they drove me up to the hospital,” he said.
He said that when he was not having an episode, he was a lot more talkative and hyperactive, with a lot more energy. He said that he was told that he had schizoaffective disorder.
Mr Coffey asked him about his use of alcohol and drugs. Mr Silver replied that he did not think he had a problem with alcohol and described himself as “a friendly drunk”. He said that alcohol would impact his mental health as it upset his sleep pattern.
He said that he smoked his first joint when he was 17 or 18. He said that the last time he took cannabis was 13 years ago.
“I was smoking with a friend of mine and I ended up hitting him for no real reason, I thought he was doing me bad. I stopped smoking it then,” he said.
He told the court that cannabis use impacted his mental health as it would bring on episodes. He also said that he would have episodes when not taking cannabis. He said that he was always placed on medication after having an episode.
Mr Silver told the court that he is currently on medication and feeling okay. He said that has spent eight months in the Central Mental Hospital and has been in custody since being charged with the murder of Gda Horkan. He said that he was “all over the shop” when he was charged.
“I knew I was there but I wasn’t comprehending it. I thought it was all too strange. The enormity didn’t hit me until I was in the mental hospital. I felt terribly bad to have killed another human being. I’m sorry for doing it,” he said.
Mr Coffey put it to Mr Silver that Gda Horkan had once escorted him to hospital after one of his episodes. Mr Silver replied that he did not recall this as he was in the throes of mania at the time, but he confirmed that the gardaí escorted him.
Mr Silver said that he had been attending Aware mental health support meetings, but these were stopped due to Covid.
He said that on June 17, 2020, he was at the Carlton Hotel in Tyrrelstown with a female companion. He said he “started getting suspicious of her”.
“They were not real thoughts, they were confused thoughts that she was a spy working for MI6. I thought my own wife was a spy at one stage,” he said.
He told the court that at one point, he was in a hotel room with the window open, and he thought the woman “was going to get me pushed out the window”. He also said that he was talking to English builders at the hotel who he thought were a bit suspicious.
“I thought they were SAS. I thought they were there in conjunction with (the woman). I didn’t feel good about it at all. I was paranoid and scared. I checked underneath my van because I thought there might be explosives underneath it. I thought someone was out to get me,” he said.
At the opening of the trial, defence counsel Dominic McGinn SC told the jury that there was no issue with the cause of death in this case, as it was accepted that Gda Horkan tragically died as a result of being shot a number of times.
Mr McGinn said that the accused’s responsibility is accepted, as Mr Silver admits shooting and killing Gda Horkan.
“The main issue is Mr Silver’s state of mind at the time,” said Mr McGinn.
The trial jury also heard that in the hours after his arrest, the accused refused an assessment from a psychiatrist, who told the court that Mr Silver showed “no evidence of an active mental illness” when he assessed him.
“I thought there was no evidence of an active mental illness. That didn’t mean he doesn’t have one,” Dr William Monteiro told the jury.
The trial continues tomorrow before Ms Justice Tara Burns and the jury of seven men and five women.