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A B.C. Supreme Court judge has found a Gibsons man not criminally responsible by reason of a mental disorder for the Dec. 27, 2020 killing of his mother with an axe.
Kevin Christopher Webster was charged with second-degree murder in the death of Moirin Gladys Webster, in her home on Sargent Road. He was arrested at the scene without incident, officers testified.
“I find that Mr. Webster was suffering from a mental disorder when he killed Mrs. Webster,” Justice Geoffrey Gomery said, as Webster family members looked on. “It is plain that Mr. Webster’s thinking at the time of the killing was seriously disturbed.”
Webster pleaded not guilty.
“This was clearly an irrational act driven by irrational beliefs,” defence lawyer Paul McMurray told Gomery May 5.
Without the mental disorder finding, the evidence would have resulted in a second-degree murder guilty verdict, Gomery said.
This case now goes to the B.C. Review Board to determine how Webster will be treated and the length of his detention in a facility.
The board makes and reviews orders for any accused where a court has rendered a verdict of not criminally responsible. It takes into account public safety of the public, the mental condition of the accused, the reintegration of the accused into society and the other needs of the accused.
Gomery read a portion of a letter from Moirin to her son’s caregivers. In it, she expressed concerns for the safety of people around Webster if he were left untreated — including members of his family.
“God forbid that anyone in the above scenarios should come to any kind of harm,” she wrote.
The judge noted Webster had a history of involuntary admissions to hospitals for mental illness. He said Webster had tried to be admitted to hospital on Christmas Day, two days before the attack.
“He was unable to say why he was there,” Gomery said. “The attack came two days later.”
Both Crown prosecutor Trevor Cockfield and McMurray agreed that Webster’s actions were driven by delusions brought about by persistent schizophrenia. Both lawyers suggested to Gomery that a finding of not criminally responsible was appropriate.
What that means in the Criminal Code is that the disorder has “rendered the person incapable of appreciating the nature and quality of the act or omission or of knowing that it was wrong.”
Cockfield said the evidence showed the offence had been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. He said it was Webster who called 911 shortly after the killing.
“He had admitted to the 911 operator that he had killed Moirin,” Cockfield said, noting Webster told RCMP Sgt. Chris Kelly “what he did and how he did it.”
Cockfield said Webster knew what he was doing.
The issue before the court, he explained, was whether or not Webster was “suffering from a disease of the mind at the time.”
He said an extensive psychiatric history and a report from a psychiatrist who interviewed Webster confirm that.
“Kevin Webster has been suffering from specific delusions since at least 2018 about family conspiracy to kill him or keep money from him,” Cockfield said. “This is clearly a disease of the mind.”
Cockfield said even after his arrest, Webster continued to be delusional.
He said Webster had killed his mother in order to go to jail or hospital where he could be safe from his imaged tormentors.
"'I was desperate. By killing her would be safe for a while,'" Cockfield quoted Webster as telling the examining psychiatrist. “He was paranoid for fear of his life.”
The resulting delusions, Cockfield said, led Webster “to perceive the taking of his mother’s life as right or justified.”
“I agree with my friend’s submissions,” McMurray said, saying the persistent delusions and lack of response to anti-psychotic medications were driving factors.
“Mr. Webster was suffering from a chronic illness — schizophrenia,” McMurray said.