Psychosis fuelled hammer attack, not alcohol: Psychiatrist | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Psychosis fuelled hammer attack, not alcohol: Psychiatrist

November 19, 2014 - 5:24 PM
KELOWNA - The second of three psychiatrists who will testify in the trial of Conor Grossmith says manic psychosis, not alcohol, was the primary reason he attacked his mother with a hammer in 2012.
Dr. Stanley Semrau is a forensic psychiatrist who specializes in mental states and their influence on violent acts. He interviewed Grossmith on Vancouver Island in June of this year.
Grossmith is on trial for using a hammer to bludgeon his mother in the head as she lay in her bed the night of Sept. 13, 2012. She never regained consciousness and died in hospital days later.
Semrau said Grossmith was cooperative and straighforward in the interview and that he admitted to being a heavy drinker and occasional user of illegal drugs. His father, Harry Grossmith, says his son drank several litres of wine that night and had been "cycling up" - meaning he was becoming more manic.
"It's very common in individuals with major mental disabilities to have a coexisting substance abuse problem as well," Dr. Semrau told Justice Alison Beames in Kelowna Supreme Court Wednesday, adding that there is no evidence he had been high on anything except alcohol the night of the attack.
Despite his addiction to alcohol, Semrau says the driving force behind the vicious attack was not intoxication or anger but a form of psychosis that can look very similar to schizophrenia. Grossmith complained of hearing voices he thought belonged to the devil and feeling an almost uncontrollable anger towards anyone he thought was making his life more difficult.
Grossmith was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2009 and has been taking anti-psychotic medications regularly. It is unclear if he had been taking his meds the day of the attack but Semrau says even if he had taken them that day it is still possible for alcohol to negate their effects.
"He seemed pretty good at taking his medications but not as good at not taking (illegal) drugs," Semrau said.
Over the years Grossmith has seen several psychologists, health professionals and drug counsellors but was frustrated at Interior Health because he never saw the same therapist twice and was forced to try to relive a night he has very little recollection of.
He also told a local addictions counsellor that  prior to the attack he had been blacking out after drinking.
Defence laywer Joe Gordon says Conor has no memory of attacking his mother, and an audio recording police made shortly after his arrest seems to illustrate his confusion.
On the recording, Grossmith is at times charming and funny, even flirting with the female officer but switches to being angry and hostile often and quickly. At one point he asks the officer why he is there.
"You attempted to kill your mom," the officer told him.
"Well that's pretty vague. Did I choke her out?" Grossmith asked.
Grossmith also asked the officer to loan him her sidearm so he could kill himself.
"Just give me the handgun and ten minutes," he said. "I'm just tired of this shit."
Throughout the trial Grossmith has shown no emotion, closing his eyes for long periods of time or staring blankly ahead. His father, Harry Grossmith, who was in the house the night of the attack, has been in court every day since trial began, however Conor has never acknowledged his father's presence. Both the Crown and Grossmith's lawyer say the family were quite close. They ate dinner together, drank wine and played cards the night of the attack.
The trial is expected to conclude by the end of the week. If found not criminally responsible due to a mental disorder, Grossmith could spend the rest of his life in a psychiatric hospital subject to an annual review.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Adam Proskiw at or call 250-718-0428. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

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