Marie Van Beers was allegedly murdered in her Tweed Heads unit in 2018. Photo: Facebook
Marie Van Beers was allegedly murdered in her Tweed Heads unit in 2018. Photo: Facebook

Man not 'impaired’ when allegedly stabbing ex, court hears

A TWEED Heads man accused of fatally stabbing his ex-partner displayed a level of control in the lead up to the alleged attack, a court has heard.

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

Mr Ryan is accused of fatally stabbing Ms Van Beers, 63, 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 argued throughout the trial his client was not in total 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.

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.

The court heard Ms Van Beers had started a new relationship with another man and had planned to move to be with him.


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


Forensic psychologist Professor Dr David Greenberg, who had assessed Mr Ryan about eight months after his arrest, said he believed the accused could understand his actions at the time of the alleged incident.

Mr Watts questioned Prof Greenberg about Mr Ryan's level of cognitive impairment in the weeks and months leading up to Ms Van Beers' death, which was evidenced by medical records of times the accused was hospitalised.

The court heard Mr Ryan, who was a chronic alcoholic and prescription drug abuser, did also suffer from a range of other medical issues, including long-term vascular disease which can impact brain function.

Mr Watts told the court his client's level of "confusion" over simple acts such as being unable to turn the television on without the assistance of Ms Van Beers, showed Mr Ryan's inability to control his actions because of his medical conditions.

But Prof Greenberg said it was difficult to separate Mr Ryan's intoxication from his cognitive impairment because he was reportedly always drinking.

"A person who drinks large amounts of alcohol over many years invariably has these abnormalities," Prof Greenberg said.

" … if he's abusing opioids, if he's abusing alcohol and he becomes confused it doesn't mean it's because of a cognitive impairment it may mean he's intoxicated.

"You cannot separate the two, you can't have a person who is a chronic alcoholic who has been drinking for a decade and say there's not secondary effects."

Prof Greenberg said Mr Ryan's level of cognitive impairment also hadn't improved "significantly" between his arrest and the medical assessment eight months later, where Mr Ryan had been sober while in custody.

Prof Greenberg said from his assessment of Mr Ryan, the accused's level of brain damage as shown by several CAT scans didn't correlate with his ability to function.

The court heard Mr Ryan had been discharged from hospital on at least two occasions in the weeks leading up to Ms Van Beers' death.

"He was deemed fit enough to go home… despite all his problems," Prof Greenberg said.

The trial will continue Monday in Lismore Supreme Court.