'Frenzied violence' that drove Anne Norris to kill likely caused by mental illness, says psychiatrist

"I had no choice. I just couldn't stop," is what Norris said, Dr. Nizar Ladha told the 12-person jury.

Dr. Nizar Ladha says Norris didn't appear anxious when first recounting incident, unlike other people

Anne Norris, 30, appears in Supreme Court in St. John's on Feb. 13 for the 14th day of her first-degree murder trial. (Glenn Payette/CBC)

The psychiatrist who assessed Anne Norris after she was charged with first-degree murder told Supreme Court Tuesday that Norris said once she started hitting Marcel Reardon with a hammer, she couldn't stop.

She believed that assaulting Marcel was the right thing for her to do in her delusional state.- Dr. Nizar Ladha

"I had no choice. I just couldn't stop," Dr. Nizar Ladha recounted Norris telling him.

Ladha, who is the division head of forensic psychiatry at Eastern Health, was asked by Norris's defence team to conduct a psychiatric assessment after she was arrested for killing Reardon, 46.

Ladha's diagnosis is that Norris has schizophrenia and — at the time she killed Reardon on May 9, 2016 — was ill to the point that, in his opinion, she can't be held responsible for her actions.

"It is highly probable that Anne's uncontrolled frenzied violence that caused Marcel's death was as a result of her mental illness," Ladha concluded in his report on Norris.

Dr. Nizar Ladha is the head of forensic psychology at Eastern Health, and did the psychiatric assessment on Anne Norris at the request of the defence. He told Norris his findings would neither help nor harm her. (Glenn Payette/CBC)

"She believed that assaulting Marcel was the right thing for her to do in her delusional state at the time. She would not have comprehended the consequences of her actions."

But the Crown would begin its cross-examination of Ladha later on Tuesday, outlining a series of lies Norris is documented as telling to police about the night she killed Reardon.

Norris, 30, has admitted to killing Reardon on May 9, 2016, by hitting him repeatedly in the head with a hammer, as well as placing his body under the steps of Harbour View Apartments and disposing of the hammer by putting it inside a borrowed backpack and tossing that into the harbour.

Her defence says she's not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder. The Crown argues Norris knew the consequences of her actions, and planned to kill Reardon.

'Flatness' in tone when recounting

In Supreme Court on Tuesday, the 13th day of the first-degree murder trial, Ladha told the jury that he first met with Norris on June 1, 2016, for the first review. They met twice more in September of that year and a final time in December 2017.

It wasn't until the second interview that he asked Norris about the night she killed Reardon.

Anne Norris has admitted to killing Marcel Reardon, 46, by hitting him repeatedly in the head with a hammer. (Submitted)

He noted the lack of "appropriate anxiety," saying there was a "flatness" to her tone — not what you would typically expect when talking about a murder.

Ladha said psychopaths feel a lack of empathy and have an inability to feel anxiety the way other people do. However, he said that he did not suspect Norris was a psychopath — but rather, that there was something else going on.

In his series of interviews with Norris and after getting a history from her parents, he concluded she is not suffering from a personality disorder, but rather from a serious mental disorder: schizophrenia.

It wasn't until he spoke to her again in December 2017 that she said she was feeling better, safer, able to sleep. It was also the first time she cried when recounting her killing Reardon.

'I had no choice'

Norris told Ladha that Reardon was drunk in the early morning of May 9, 2016 and when they got a taxi to her apartment, he fell out on his face, breaking his nose, she suspected.

She went inside to her unit in Harbour View Apartments, leaving Reardon outside the back door.

Someone buzzed her door, Norris told Ladha, but she found no one there. So she grabbed the hammer she had purchased at Walmart earlier that night and went downstairs.

Ladha said Norris told him she hit Reardon several times — she couldn't recall how many — and moved his body herself.

She was angry at the years of abuse she alleged she was suffering, with no one believing or helping her, Ladha recalled. 

Norris told Ladha that she believed Reardon had previously sexually assaulted her, but was unable to prove it.

Anne Norris is seen here speaking with Jerome Kennedy, one of her defence lawyers, in Supreme Court on Jan. 23. It was the second day of her first-degree murder trial. (Stephanie Tobin/CBC)

"Did I believe he would hurt me? Absolutely," Ladha reported Norris telling him about Reardon.

Ladha said over the years, she had made similar claims about others — something he attributes to her delusional behaviour.

Not criminally responsible criteria

During cross-examination Tuesday, Crown Iain Hollett laid out the three criteria for someone being found not criminally responsible: does the person have a mental illness; is it symptomatic at the time of the offence, and are they unable to understand the consequences of the offence.

Ladha agreed with those three pillars, but said they need to be in context of the individual, and it doesn't necessarily mean there needs to be a complete break from reality.

Crown prosecutors Iain Hollett and Jeff Summers in Supreme Court in St. John's on Feb. 13, 2018. (Glenn Payette/CBC)

While Norris had been initially committed to the Waterford against her will in April 2016, Hollett pointed out she was de-committed and decided to stay in the facility until she felt good enough to leave — which she did on May 6, three days before killing Reardon. 

In addition, Hollett read out statements Norris made to the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary about the body found at her apartment building, and what she ultimately did or did not know about. 

When asked if reviewing those documents had changed his opinion, Ladha said no, that still in context of Norris's self-reported history, paired with family history, he did not question his diagnosis.

Previous medical history

Ladha said Monday he chose to begin his assessment of Norris in June 2016 before reading into her medical history.

He later learned that, for years, Norris had complained to police about sexual assaults in her sleep; of her involvement in the PIER — Psychosis Intervention and Early Recovery — Program; of her various admissions to psychiatric care and medical history. Ladha said all of that supported his diagnosis of schizophrenia.

Supreme Court Justice William Goodridge is presiding over the first-degree murder trial of Anne Norris. (Glenn Payette/CBC)

Jerome Kennedy and Rosellen Sullivan are representing Norris, and the Crown prosecutors in the case are Iain Hollett and Jeff Summers.

Justice William Goodridge is presiding the trial, which will now extend into the week of Feb. 19, jurors were told last week.

Follow the latest developments from inside the courtroom in our live blog.

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