A consultant psychiatrist has told a murder trial about a “harrowing” interview he conducted with a man accused of killing his two-year-old son.
Dr Alexander Quinn assessed the mental state of Lukasz Czapla after his son Julius was found dead at a property in Muirhouse in Edinburgh in November 2020.
Czapla denies murdering the toddler in his home in November 2020.
He previously offered to plead guilty to the lesser charge of culpable homicide, but this was rejected by the Crown.
Evidence given so far heard Czapla said he could not remember the events of the night the toddler was killed in his own flat.
But at the High Court in Edinburgh on Wednesday, Dr Quinn spoke about a third interview he had with the accused after it emerged he could remember more detail about his son’s death.
In a statement read out to the 15-strong jury, Dr Quinn described the interview as “harrowing”.
“Taking an account of someone killing a child doesn’t come along very often,” he told the court.
“It’s not something you do regularly in your career and you approach it with trepidation and caution.”
The court heard Czapla told the psychiatrist that he had tried to end his son’s life by shooting the toddler in the head with a BB gun, but failed.
Upon seeing his child in a “distressed manner” and “handicapped”, Czapla then told Dr Quinn he proceeded to stab and smother Julius.
The psychiatrist said the accused’s experiences of “seeing his son suffering” are why Czapla “perhaps acted in the way he did after he shot him”.
Dr Quinn said it was difficult for Czapla at the time to make sense of an event that involved the “build-up that was traumatic then the three stages that led to the killing of his son”.
He explained the accused was unable to articulate some of what had happened, but could “gesticulate through actions what had occurred”.
Czapla’s lawyers have lodged a special defence which states he should be acquitted of murder because he had diminished responsibility at the time of Julius’s death.
Dr Quinn told the court he has “made it clear” that the accused was suffering from a “depressive illness” at the time of his son’s death.
An opinion statement written by the psychiatrist after interviewing Czapla was read out in court.
It said: “It would appear that Mr Czapla’s depressive illness had a substantial role to play in the events which led to the killing of his son.
“It’s my opinion that his depressive illness would have played a substantial impairment in Mr Czapla’s ability to control his conduct.”
A second consultant psychiatrist, Dr Khuram Khan, who also interviewed Czapla in the months after his son’s death, was called to give evidence.
He told the court from his assessment of the accused that Czapla “most probably” suffered from an Emotional Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD).
Dr Khan said during several interviews, Czapla told him about stresses of the pandemic and of the fraught relationship with his ex-partner, Patrycja Szczesniak.
In a statement read out in court, the psychiatrist said with the symptoms Czapla was showing, he “most probably started to detach from reality”, but noted the accused was not suffering from psychosis – a loss of reality.
Mr Khan said: “This culminated to such internal emotional turmoil that at the time of the killing of his son, he was in an altered state of consciousness.”
Previous evidence heard Czapla said he took an overdose of medication and drank alcohol the night his son was killed in an attempt to take his own life.
Dr Khan said the accused’s “abnormality of mind was compounded by alcohol and the misuse of psychoactive substances as well as prescribed medication in heavy doses.”
In a statement read out before the jury, Dr Khan said he initially believed voluntary intoxication had played a critical role in Julius’s death rather than Czapla’s potential EUDP diagnosis.
But the court then heard Dr Khan changed his mind after a third interview with Czapla in April 2021 in which the two discussed Julius’s death and the accused’s symptoms at greater length.
Dr Khan’s statement following this interview read: “I now believe, on the balance of probabilities … that EUPD played a significant major role in the criminal act than what I previously thought.
“For now I am not in a position to confidently opine that the defence of diminished responsibility cannot be engaged in his defence.”
Dr Khan said whether diminished responsibility played a role in Czapla’s alleged murder of Julius is “ultimately one for the jury to decide.”
The trial, before Lord Beckett, continues.