Psychiatrist who thought Lionel Desmond had ‘paranoia’ about his wife testifies at inquiry

The Desmond fatality inquiry hopes to answer why an Afghanistan veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder was released from hospital after he arrived in distress two days before he would kill his family and himself. 

While Judge Warren Zimmer heard last week from two of the doctors who saw Lionel Desmond at St. Martha’s Regional Hospital in Antigonish, N.S., Zimmer will get another point of view Monday from the psychiatrist who saw Desmond in the fall of 2016.

Dr. Ian Slayter’s assessment of Desmond noted that he found the veteran seemed aggressive toward his wife and showed “paranoia” because he was having nightmares about her cheating on him.  

Desmond, 33, arrived at the emergency room on Jan. 1, 2017, after a fight with his wife, Shanna Desmond. He told doctors that Shanna had asked him to leave after he’d spent much of New Year’s Eve yelling and slamming furniture, which frightened their daughter, Aaliyah. 

He told the emergency room doctor that he had PTSD and that he was struggling. Although he was kept overnight, the psychiatrist who released him told the inquiry that there were no signs he would harm himself or anyone else. 

The psychiatrist who released him, Dr. Faisal Rahman, read Slayter’s assessment of Desmond and he asked the veteran to follow up with him. 

But evidence already presented suggests that the nurses may have seen a different version of Desmond, one of who slept poorly and had a bad night in hospital. They wrote about that in his chart, but Dr. Faisal Rahman — the psychiatrist who saw him — didn’t read the chart before Desmond was released. 

A day later, on Jan. 3, 2017, Desmond shot his wife, his 10-year-old daughter and his mother, Brenda, before he turned the gun on himself.

The inquiry will hear about the events leading up to those deaths, to see if public policy changes could save others.

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