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Graham Veitch's lawyers to argue for not criminally responsible verdict

Graham Veitch, who reportedly killed a 55-year-old man in December 2017, has his trial set for 2019.
Graham Veitch during a court appearance in 2018. - Telegram File Photo

21-year-old suffered from severe mental health issues, court hears

The lawyers representing Graham Veitch intend to prove the 21-year-old is not criminally responsible for murder due to a severe mental illness, as his trial gets underway in St. John's this week.

Veitch, who has pleaded not guilty to a charge of second-degree murder as well as charges of assaulting his mother, brother and a police officer, stealing a vehicle and fleeing police, has schizophrenia and told police he had no choice but to kill his mother's partner in December 2016, according to an agreed statement of facts read in court by the Crown Monday morning.

Prosecutors are not expected to contest the not criminally responsible argument.

Veitch had originally been set to go to trial before a jury on a charge of first-degree murder, but people summoned for jury duty were dismissed before court began. The charge was downgraded because the facts better support the second-degree charge, prosecutors said.

Lawyers will begin calling evidence in the case — including police officers, Veitch's family members and forensic psychiatrists — Tuesday morning.

According to the facts of the case, Veitch, then 18, was at home with his brother, mother, and his mother's partner, 55-year-old David Collins, the night of Dec. 18, 2016. Veitch had gone upstairs to his room after supper, while his mother and Collins sat in the living room.

Suddenly, Veitch came barrelling down the stairs with a hammer. His mother later told investigators she had originally thought Veitch was up to some kind of joke, but then he began hitting Collins with the tool. When his mother tried to intervene, Veitch growled at her, she told police, while holding the hammer as if he was going to hit her with it.

Veitch's brother told investigators he was in the garage and had heard his mother screaming before she came running in to tell him what had happened. When he went into the house, Veitch had a "crazy look in his eyes" and was still wielding the hammer, the brother said.

"He looked like he was ready for someone to come at him, ready to swing," he said.

Veitch fled in Collins' vehicle while his mother called 911. Police attempted to negotiate with him on his cellphone, asking him if he needed medical help and attempting to convince him to pull over or turn himself in, but he told them he "could not do that." He eventually returned home in the vehicle.

As an officer approached the vehicle with his gun pointed and yelling at Veitch to get out of the car, Veitch rammed into him, albeit not at a fast speed, sending the officer onto the hood of the vehicle.

"Male looked at me in the eyes. Looked like a zombie. Emotionless. Looking through me," the officer later noted.

Collins, a well-known pharmacist, died hours later in hospital due to his injuries. An autopsy revealed he had been struck in the head and face about a dozen times.

Veitch told police he had felt threatened by Collins.

"It was my only choice, man. I was trying to protect my family," he said to police. "It had to happen."

Veitch told investigators the hammer had "gone into the ocean" at Outer Cove.

Veitch's mother told police Veitch had spoken previously about feeling threatened by Collins, but that she felt the claim was unfounded. She described Collins as "very passive."

Veitch was described in the statement of facts as depressed, paranoid and antisocial, as well as hearing voices and exhibiting bizarre behaviour, which continued in the Waterford Hospital after his arrest.


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