A MAN strangled and stabbed his girlfriend to death at their home in South Tyneside because he thought she had been possessed by the devil, a court heard.
In the days leading up to the death of Gemma Finnigan, 24, her boyfriend Daniel Johnson’s behaviour had become increasingly bizarre, and culminated in him believing she had been taken over by Satan or some unnamed evil spirit.
Newcastle Crown Court heard the 33-year-old strangled Miss Finnigan until she lost consciousness, and then stabbed her with at least three knives in the belief he was somehow saving her and himself.
Miss Finnigan’s body was found in the bedroom of the home they shared at Church View, Boldon Colliery, on September 13 last year after friends and family became worried they could not contact her.
Johnson’s own sister described him as having a look of ‘pure evil’ in the days leading up to Miss Finnigan’s death, and the court heard even his pet dog would cower away whenever he came near.
Johnson is being tried by a jury on a charge of murder, which he denies by reason of insanity.
Prosecutor James Hill QC told the court that although Johnson has admitted he killed Miss Finnigan, jurors will be asked to come to verdicts of either not guilty by reason of insanity or guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.
The court heard three consultant forensic psychiatrists agreed Johnson was suffering from a serious mental illness, paranoid schizophrenia, and at the time of the killing he was psychotic and in a delusion state.
Mr Hill said: “The reasons doctors have come to this conclusion is that in their judgement the defendant’s illness made him believe that Gemma had been possessed either by the devil or some unnamed evil spirit.
“It appears that he thought he might actually be saving her and certainly saving himself by killing her.”
The court heard Miss Finnigan, who worked in a cafe in South Shields, had met Johnson in 2008 while he was on day release from an open prison.
They moved into the flat in Boldon in 2010.
The pair appeared to be a normal, happy couple until the days before Miss Finnigan’s death, when she told her family she was worried about his behaviour and even tried to get him to see a doctor.
Miss Finnigan’s mother Jennifer said in a statement that her daughter hadn’t seemed frightened of Johnson, but was more worried and concerned about helping him.
Johnson’s sister, Lindsay Bennett, said her brother had referred to Miss Finnigan as a ‘little diamond’ during a phone conversation just hours before the killing.
Miss Finnegan’s body was discovered after Johnson was arrested wandering around the school in Kenton, Newcastle, shirtless and confused just after the killing.
The trial continues.