Marie Van Beers, 63, who was killed at Tweed Heads in 2018. Picture: supplied
Marie Van Beers, 63, who was killed at Tweed Heads in 2018. Picture: supplied

Man accused of killing wasn’t ‘cognitively impaired’

A FORENSIC psychologist who assessed a Tweed Heads man accused of fatally stabbing his ex-partner believes the accused was cognitively aware of what he was doing at the time of the incident, a court has heard.

Paul Thomas Ryan, 66, is before a judge only trial for the murder of his ex-partner, Marie Van Beers, at the Lismore Supreme Court.

Mr Ryan is accused of fatally stabbing Ms Van Beers in their Brett St unit, Tweed Heads, on November 12, 2018.

Mr Ryan has pleaded not guilty to the murder charge but pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

The Crown Prosecution has ultimately rejected his manslaughter plea.

Mr Ryan's defence barrister, Jason Watts, has said his client was not totally in control of himself at the time of the incident, as a result of issues with his cognitive behaviour brought on by medical conditions and alcoholism.

Ms Van Beers, 63, had recently told Mr Ryan she had met someone new and would be moving out of their shared unit in Tweed Heads.

Despite still living together, the pair, who had been together for 37-years, had separated about two years before Ms Van Beers' death, the court heard.

Forensic psychologist Professor Dr David Greenberg told the court he had assessed Mr Ryan about eight months after his arrest.


Marie van Beers snuggled in a blanket in 2015. Picture: supplied
Marie van Beers snuggled in a blanket in 2015. Picture: supplied


Prof Greenberg said from his assessment while Mr Ryan did have a level of cognitive impairment, he could recall key details of the weeks and months leading up to Ms Van Beers death which indicated he was aware of his actions.

"There's no doubt he has some cognitive impairment, but he certainly has some capacity to remember events both in the short term and the long term," Prof Greenberg said.

"A person with major neuro cognitive impairment most likely has problems recalling events … because they're memory is defective.

"The fact he can remember these sorts of details once he sort of sobers up eight months later, and even eight hours later when he can give these same details ….it goes to the fact he doesn't have this significant impairment."

Prof Greenberg said Mr Ryan was able to indicate key details about the apprehended violence order placed upon him by the courts the same day as Ms Van Beers was killed.

He also said Mr Ryan's knowledge that Ms Van Beers held concerns for her safety after she was threatened by him indicated he also registered the impact his actions had on her.

"He had actually voiced thoughts about harming her, this is not a person who is completely brain damaged … they have the capacity to understand future events and are able to control themselves," Prof Greenberg said.

"The question is how impaired is he … it's about his functioning in the weeks and months prior to the offending …

"Mr Ryan was always able to function; the problem was he was always drunk.

"In the last six months, he says he was drinking every day and he was taking prescription medication."

The trial will continue today (Friday) in Lismore Supreme Court.