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Psychologist reveals murder accused was 'anxious, depressed'

Lismore Court House. Photo Cathy Adams / The Northern Star
Lismore Court House. Photo Cathy Adams / The Northern Star Cathy Adams

A PSYCHOLOGIST who counselled murder accused Michael Martin jnr has told of his struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder sparked by an abusive childhood from his father.

Caboolture psychologist Rhonda Lawson also advised Martin to express his emotions through "cathartic" writing - which Martin says explains a letter to his wife in which he appears to confess to the violent crime.

Ms Lawson counselled Martin for the first time on March 10, 2014 - less than a month before he is alleged to have staged a home invasion that ended with his father in a critical condition - but after he took out three life insurance policies in his father's name worth a combined $2.5 million.

Her final session with Martin was a year later on March 12, 2015, days before his arrest by police for his father's alleged murder on July 13, 2014.

"When Michael first came to me he was highly stressed, quite anxious, and somewhat depressed," Ms Lawson told the court on Friday.

"My understanding from Michael was that he had a terrible abusive childhood relating to his dad."

Martin's problems were not just confined to psychological struggles with the past, either. He was going through marital difficulties, his youngest daughter was unwell in hospital and he was under a "huge amount of stress at work".

Ms Lawson said one of the ingredients of her treatment plan was encouraging him to write.

"The writing exercise is a cathartic exercise, it's just allowing the emotions to write... there's no rhyme or reason to the writing, it's just pure purging," she said.

"It's never meant to be judged or read, it's just meant to be destroyed basically... so we can move forward in dealing with his trauma.

"Often when we write emotionally we can say all sorts of things which can be misconstrued.

"It was Freud himself who recommended purging, who recommended cathartic expression, and research has been done of late showing the benefits of it."

The Crown maintains that the so-called Dearest Candace letter, which Martin says was written as therapy, is a literal confession to the murder.

The letter, which was later seized by police from Martin's workplace, has become a key piece of evidence in the prosecution.

In it, Martin reflects on the couple's relationship history, from its beginnings in 2005, through the time the relationship started to collapse in late 2013.

Martin wrote that around that time the couple had a "bright idea to free our lives up more".

"I wouldn't have to work so hard and therefore worry less," he wrote.

But later he wrote "our guilt has stuck since the moment we concocted our bright idea."

The Crown has argued that the letter was meant to be read by Candace Martin because the accused was trying to reignite the couple's failed relationship, which collapsed in early 2015 when she moved out of the family home.

The court has also heard a text message on March 3 sent by Candace Martin to her estranged husband said: "I got your letter and read it."

Crown prosecutor Brendan Campbell asked Ms Lawson if "apart from that type of (written) purging people can actually write letters to someone for them to read?"

"That's always recommended after the first lot of writing," Ms Lawson replied.

"And you knew the accused was desperate to rekindle' his relationship with his wife?" Mr Campbell asked.

"Yes he was," she said.

The trial continues.

Topics:  michael martin murwillumbah murder northern rivers crime samurai sword murder


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