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Accused murderer Graham Veitch appears confused, exhibits bizarre behaviour in police interview footage

Graham Veitch, who reportedly killed a 55-year-old man in December 2017, has his trial set for 2019.
Graham Veitch during a previous court appearance. - SaltWire File Photo

'I was trying to protect my family'

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

There are 15 hours of video footage in total, recorded by police at RNC headquarters the night Graham Veitch was arrested in December 2016 and the following day.

Veitch had been arrested about two hours before the recording begins, having been charged with the attempted murder of his mother's partner, 55-year-old pharmacist David Collins. At that point, Collins was still in the intensive care unit at the Health Sciences Centre with life-threatening head injuries.

Shortly after supper at the family's home in Logy Bay on Dec. 18, 2016, Veitch had come barreling downstairs to the living room with a hammer, striking Collins multiple times in the head and face. While his mother and brother called 911 and attended to Collins, Veitch went on the run in Collins' vehicle, speaking to an RNC negotiator periodically. He eventually returned home, where he was arrested.

In the recorded video footage, RNC Sgt. Colin McNeil repeatedly asks Veitch, who had spoken briefly with a lawyer in private, if he's OK and if he understands his rights.

"Graham, you do not have to talk to me and if you do talk to me, I'm going to use that as evidence. Is that clear to you?"

"Yes," Veitch responds.

"OK, so what does it mean to you what I just told you?" McNeil asks.

"It means I'm just like talking. Like I'm saying, I'm just, that came out of nowhere, like, I don't know, like sounds, sounds. Sounds. No, but like actual sounds. There's sounds everywhere."

Shortly before 4 a.m., Collins died in hospital. McNeil is recorded informing Veitch, telling him that his charge was being upgraded to murder and reading him his rights again.

"It means I'm just like talking. Like I'm saying, I'm just, that came out of nowhere, like, I don't know, like sounds, sounds. Sounds. No, but like actual sounds. There's sounds everywhere." — Graham Veitch to RNC Sgt. Colin McNeil during questioning.

The court spent the entire day Wednesday viewing the video footage as McNeil took the stand at Veitch's murder trial in St. John's.

Now 21, Veitch stands accused of second-degree murder in connection with Collins' death. He had originally been charged with murder in the first degree, but the charge was withdrawn Monday by prosecutors Shawn Patten and Jennifer Colford, since the facts better supported the lesser charge.

Although Veitch has pleaded not guilty, an agreed statement of facts - signed by the prosecutors as well as by Veitch and his lawyers, Mark Gruchy and Jason Edwards - was read in court, describing what had happened the night Collins was killed.

Gruchy and Edwards say they plan to argue that Veitch is not criminally responsible for murdering Collins, on the grounds of a severe mental illness.

During his interview with McNeil, Veitch was seen pacing the room, taking his shirt, pants and shoes off and putting them back on, and doing sit-ups and push-ups. At times he's seen sitting with his hands in his lap, staring straight ahead, while at other times he's seen lying on a couch. He also reportedly made bizarre facial expressions and arm gestures as he looked about the room.

Veitch speaks in broken and run-on sentences, appearing confused. At times he is unresponsive to McNeil's questions, prompting the RNC officer to ask, "Are you doing OK?"

Veitch tells the police investigator in the video that he took the hammer from a bathroom in his home that had been undergoing renovations. He says he used it to strike Collins because he felt threatened.

"It was my only choice, man," Veitch tells McNeil. "I was trying to protect my family.

"He had it coming, though, man. I'm telling you. He was threatening me all the time."

In her interview with police, Veitch's mother said her son had previously indicated he felt threatened by Collins, but she felt his beliefs were completely unfounded. She described her partner as a "very passive" man.

"He had it coming, though, man. I'm telling you. He was threatening me all the time." — Veitch

After Veitch's arrest, police discovered the bloody imprint of a hammer on the seat of Collins' vehicle. When asked by McNeil about the weapon, Veitch is recorded telling him it had gone into the ocean in Outer Cove.

"I was standing by the cliff when I threw off the hammer and then, basically, I was driving for a while and eventually I got caught," Veitch explains.

The agreed statement of facts indicated Veitch had been suffering from depression and paranoia and had been hearing voices, having other hallucinations and exhibiting bizarre behaviour in the months leading up to Collins' murder, according to his family members, an ex-girlfriend, a friend and former employers. This behaviour continued in the Waterford Hospital after his arrest. Veitch has since been diagnosed with schizophrenia by three different psychiatrists, including Dr. David Craig at Her Majesty's Penitentiary.

The Crown is not expected to contest Veitch's not criminally responsible argument.

The court will finish viewing the recorded interview footage when McNeil is back on the stand in Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court Thursday morning. After that, lawyers are expected to make submissions on the facts of the case before presenting their evidence of Veitch's mental state.

Collins had managed a number of pharmacies throughout the province, and was regional pharmacy manager for Lawton's Drugs at the time of his death. Described as a compassionate man with a dedication to his work, Collins was recognized by Memorial University's pharmacy school earlier this year for his leadership within the local pharmacy community.

Twitter: @tara_bradbury


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