FIVE months before the death of Alison Connolly, Charice Gassmann told doctors she could ‘kill someone if they upset her’, and had thoughts of stabbing people, a court heard.

Diagnosing the 19-year-old with emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD), consultant forensic psychologist Dr Caroline Bradley said the response from health care professionals at the time was ‘concerning’.

Charice had been told to stop smoking cannabis, given advice on diet and sleep, and referred back to a voluntary service she had already seen.

The jury at Bristol Crown Court heard that Charice had seen her GP and the LIFT psychology team on numerous occasions since February 2014, before stabbing 49-year-old mum Alison on May 12 this year.

She had been seen by doctors in March and April of that year, but had not followed their advice of an online course or been offered further help.

“Then she said she could hurt others, and this was worrying her,” said Dr Bradley.

“She had recently come off a tag following a previous incident, and seemed to give the impression to the nurse she did not care what she did. Her sister felt she was out of control.

“She was referred to a counselling service to deal with her anger. She was asking for help. She told her counsellor she was using cannabis to control her anger, and it was starting to make her feel paranoid.

"She was having thoughts of stabbing people who had angered her, which frightened her; she did not want to act on those thoughts. She had thrown a sword at someone in the past, but it had missed.

“She was frightened she would not care if she hurt someone when she felt angry. She was sending a clear message she needed help. She was frightened of what she was capable of doing, and didn’t want to go to prison.

“Without cannabis she can’t control herself."

Dr Bradley told the court there were three ‘chronic’ emotional stresses to trigger her condition on May 12, the death of her maternal grandfather the day before, the prospect of being kicked out of her flat, and the break-down of a relationship in March.

She had not had any cannabis that day, the court heard, after smoking ‘industrial’ amounts on a daily basis.

Dr Bradley said Charice was likely to have suffered from an abnormality of mental function, and two ‘voices’ had taken control.

After stabbing Alison, one of them said ‘I told you to do that’, as the other replied, ‘no she didn’t, she didn’t do anything’.

“The core features of EUPD are people can’t regulate their emotions in the way most people can, and have an abnormal sensitivity to upsetting things,” said Dr Bradley.

“Once the response has been triggered, it is much higher than the situation warrants. Whereas many of us might have episodes of annoyance and forget about it, someone with EUPD that could go on for hours.

“They have got this turmoil of emotions they can’t manage and they try to manage that maelstrom by using drugs.”

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Charice saw a high-intensity therapist in November 2014, who wrote she had ‘three different parts’ “She had episodes of disassociation from the world,” added Dr Bradley.

“These parts are being developed to help her survive. Intense emotions overwhelm the person so they retreat into a different world in their head. It is a bit like being on auto-pilot.”

In December 2014 Charice went to a family care liaison service for assessment. She described having a ‘long-standing history of emotional instability and anger management problems’.

“These were problems which ended in violence,” said Dr Bradley. “She told them she had three different personalities. In extreme forms that is like having different people inhabiting your body.

“Psychotic symptoms are quite common in these cases, describing having other personalities, and the voices are part of those symptoms, particularly at times of stress.

“You could be born with a vulnerability to this. She has got significant family history of mental illness. Her father’s mother had schizophrenia, and her mother has had depressive episodes.

“In December 2014, she stated without cannabis she could potentially kill someone if they upset her.”

Dr Bradley said Charice was given advice to stop taking cannabis, given advice on diet and sleep patterns, and referred back to the LIFT service she had previously seen.

“When you take cannabis away she loses that coping mechanism,” added Dr Bradley.

“She was given contact details for stress management courses, and a leaflet on voluntary organisations. She didn’t take that advice but did go back to her GP.

“It is a bit concerning that she told them she could hurt someone, spoke about having evil thoughts about hurting others, and was identified as having traits of unstable personality disorder, but they did not make a formal diagnosis and sent her back to the voluntary services. I would have taken it more seriously.”

Dr John Sanford, consultant forensic psychologist appearing for the prosecution, gave Charice a different diagnosis of a Cluster B personality disorder with aspects of emotional instability and anti-social tendencies.

“There is no evidence of a major mental illness such as schizophrenia or manic depression,” he said.

“There is a failure to conform to social norms or lawful behaviour, and aggressiveness. There is inappropriate intense anger or difficulty controlling her anger.

“At the time of the incident there is nothing to show she was suffering from symptoms of a significant mental illness. She does have an abnormality of mental functioning. She wasn’t hearing voices due to a neurological problem.

“This is quite clearly related to her personality. She has a long history of problems managing her anger. There is evidence of a number of behaviours which imply someone who is at least in control on some level.

"Having been assaulted, she was in control of herself enough to leave the shop, and go to her sister’s rather than back to the flat.

“If she wasn’t who she is, this probably would not have happened. This is her personality.”

The court heard the amount of time which elapsed between the head-butt in the shop and the stabbing was eight minutes.

"In my opinion at the time, she was not suffering from an abnormality of mental functioning other than intense anger," added Dr Sanford. "She experiences intense emotions. It could be that she is intolerant to feelings of anger.

"We all get angry, it is how we manage that anger. We might write a letter, or we might pick up a knife and stab somebody."

Charice and older sister Amberstasia, 23, both deny murder, while the former admits manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

The trial continues.

Symptoms of emotionally unstable personality disorder

  • A marked tendency to be in conflict with others
  • Liability to outbursts of anger or violence with an inability to control, resulting in behavioural explosions
  • Difficulty in managing any course of action that offers reward
  • Unstable manner
  • Disturbances and uncertainty about self-image
  • Liability to become involved in intense and unstable relationships, leading to emotional crises
  • Recurrent threats or acts of self-harm
  • Excess efforts to avoid abandonment