NEWPORT MURDER TRIAL: Experts split on mind-set of accused

CONFLICTING opinions of the level of mental illness suffered by a man who shot dead his estranged wife in a Newport street last year, were aired at his murder trial.

A psychiatrist who assessed Christopher Parry in the months after he shot wife Caroline, 46, in Seabreeze Avenue on August 8 last year, concluded that at the time such was the abnormality of his mind, it "substantially impaired his responsibility for his act."

But another expert told Newport crown court he thought Parry's depression was not severe before the shooting, though his mental state would have been significantly affected afterwards.

Parry, 50, of Cwmbran, shot his wife twice in the back then shot himself in the head, but survived. He has pleaded guilty to her manslaughter, but denies murder.

Consultant forensic psychiatrist Dr Stephen Hunter assessed and treated Parry in the weeks after the shooting, and had already told the court of an "overwhelming probability" that when the shooting took place, the balance of his mind "was impaired in such a way he was not fully cognisant or aware of his actions and their consequences."

Fellow consultant forensic psychiatrist Dr Emma Clarke, who assessed Parry in March this year, and was aware of his history of mental illness, agreed.

Asked by defence counsel Roger Thomas QC if she thought Mr Parry "was suffering such abnormality of the mind that it substantially impaired his responsibility for his act," she replied "yes."

However Dr Philip Joseph, a consultant forensic psychiatrist who reviewed the case and interviewed Parry in May, did not agree he was severely depressed before the shooting - and believes Parry's mental illness last year was not as bad as a previous bout during 2001-03.

He said in the lead-up to the shooting Parry had continued to work, and there was no evidence he suffered symptoms such as feelings of guilt, worthlessness and self-blame.

"No-one suffering severe depression, for instance in this courtroom, would be able to work. They would not be here," he said.

Parry symptoms, he added, were "inconsistent with severe mental illness" but it was "mild-to-moderate."

Parry's 17-year-old son Marcus told the court he had been unaware of problems in his parents' relationship, and saw "a big difference" in his father after his mother left.

He said his personal hygiene was poor, the house was not cleaned, the garden became overgrown. Marcus often went to his grandmother's for meals as he did not want his father to cook for him and "he could not (anyway) because of how he was. He was very upset always."

Caroline Parry reported her husband to the police as she believed he had withheld her passport and driving licence. Marcus Parry told the court that once, his mother came to take him for a meal, and complained about it.

"I asked her to leave my dad alone because he was not well," he said.

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