Accused’s depression drug ‘may be behind killing’

The High Court in Edinburgh. Picture: Greg Macvean
The High Court in Edinburgh. Picture: Greg Macvean
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A GRANDMOTHER may have killed a friend in a “prolonged and brutal attack” with a hammer because she had been over-prescribed a drug for depression, a court has heard.

Marlene Torlay, 61, bludgeoned Marie McCracken, 59, to death in her home in East

Kilbride as they sat having a cup of tea and a chat.

Psychiatrists found that Torlay, a widow, had not been fully responsible for her actions, and reported to a judge that she had been suffering from depression.

Her QC, Ian Duguid, told the High Court in Edinburgh that Torlay had been prescribed an anti-depressant drug, citalopram, but in twice the normal dosage. It had acute withdrawal symptoms, including confusion and aggression, which could be brought on after missing a single dose. It was believed she had not taken her medication on the day she killed Mrs McCracken.

“It is not for me to comment that the wrong dosage explains or goes to explain the violent conduct of Mrs Torlay, but clearly there is some issue which might properly have been investigated as to whether or not she was being correctly treated for a depressive illness,” said Mr Duguid.

Torlay, of East Kilbride, was charged initially with murdering Mrs McCracken by throwing scalding water on her, and striking her repeatedly with a hammer and a knife-sharpener on 24 October last year. Her plea of guilty to the lesser offence of culpable homicide, because of her diminished responsibility, was accepted by the Crown.

Advocate-depute Jonathan Brodie, QC, said Mrs McCracken visited Torlay’s home about 10:30am. In later disclosures to psychiatrists, Torlay said they discussed the funeral of a neighbour, and she recalled her husband’s funeral and became very uncomfortable.

“There is some evidence she may have missed a dose of her medication,” said Mr Brodie.

Torlay boiled a pan of water, and when Mrs McCracken said she had to go, Torlay fetched it from the kitchen and threw it over her. Mrs McCracken told her to take a tablet, and tried to leave but the door was locked. Torlay attacked Mrs McCracken, and stopped when she “saw there was blood everywhere”.

Later, Torlay went out with her son but became very upset when they arrived home that night. She confessed to “hitting and hitting and hitting” Mrs McCracken and offered no explanation other than she had “lost it.” The body was found, covered by a throw on the dining room floor.

Mr Brodie said the police investigation revealed “a prolonged and brutal attack” – Mrs McCracken had suffered more than 22 cuts to the head – but psychiatrists reported that Torlay’s ability to control her conduct had been substantially impaired by depression.

Judge Lord Jones said Torlay should remain in a psychiatric unit for further assessment.