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Crown questions psychiatrist on not-criminally-responsible diagnosis for Graham Veitch
If Graham Veitch was so mentally ill that he didn’t know he was doing was wrong when he killed his mother’s boyfriend, why did he run from police and try to get rid of the weapon afterwards?
Those were some key questions Crown prosecutor Shawn Patten put to Dr. Nizar Ladha during cross-examination in Veitch’s second-degree murder trial at Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John’s Monday.
One of the province’s top forensic psychiatrists, Ladha testified that Veitch suffered from schizophrenia for months before the incident and, in his opinion, Veitch is not criminally responsible for what he did.
“He didn’t understand or appreciate the consequences of his actions …,” Ladha said.
“The evidence is very overwhelming … He did not believe what he was doing was wrong.”
Veitch has admitted to killing 55-year-old David Collins by striking him repeatedly in the head with a hammer at the family’s home in Logy Bay on Dec. 18, 2016.
Collins, a well-known and accomplished local pharmacist, died in hospital hours later.
According to the agreed statement of facts, 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.
Ladha, who prepared a final report on Veitch, told the court he made his conclusions after reviewing the evidence, speaking with Veitch’s family members and having assessed Veitch himself on December 2017.
Ladha said his family members reported noticing big changes in Veitch’s behaviour months before the murder. They said he was withdrawn and unable to complete simple tasks, like operate his cellphone, take out the garbage or do the dishes. He also wasn’t paying as much attention to how he dressed and he was smoking much more.
Ladha said Veitch imagined Collins was assaulting his mother and his brother and that their lives were in danger.
“He believed he did the right thing. He was unable to make the distinction between moral and legal right or wrong,” said Ladha, who said Veitch was not plotting against Collins months before he killed him.
However, Patten pointed out that Veitch threw the hammer in the ocean at Outer Cove Beach after he killed Collins and when police asked him why he did that, he answers, “To hide the evidence.”
“Did that not show he appreciated (what he did) and (that) there is that awareness that it was wrong?” Patten asked Ladha.
“In the concrete sense,” Ladha said, “but he didn’t see (Collins) as his mother’s partner. He saw him as someone who is going to kill his mother and brother.’”
He said the psychosis seriously affected Veitch’s behaviour before, during and after the incident.
The Crown plans to call prominent forensic psychiatrist Dr. Phillip Klassen of Ontario to the stand today (Tuesday). He’s the vice-president of medical affairs at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences and assistant professor in the departments of psychiatry and medicine at the University of Toronto.