Simonne Kerr: Ex-soldier with history of depression claims diminished responsibiliy for stabbing Wembley mum

Simonne Kerr with her son Kavele Picture: NHS Blood & Transplant

Simonne Kerr with her son Kavele Picture: NHS Blood & Transplant - Credit: Archant

A Wembley mum’s killer may have been experiencing war flashbacks as he repeatedly stabbed her to death, a court heard today.

Dawn Butler withSimonne Kerr, her son and family (Pic ture: Sickle Cell Society)

Dawn Butler withSimonne Kerr, her son and family (Pic ture: Sickle Cell Society) - Credit: Archant

Desmond Sylva is pleading not guilty on grounds of diminished responsibility after stabbing Simonne Kerr "more than 70 times" in the Battersea flat they were sharing on August 15.

The 41-year-old, a former Royal Fusilier who had served two tours of Iraq and one in Kosovo, initially claimed he had been defending himself during a row with Simonne, and suggested she had been the one who first brandished a knife.

Consultant psychiatrist Professor Neil Greenberg, who works within military mental health defence, interviewed Sylva on November 29 while he was in custody.

Sylva told him Simonne had come round to the flat in Grayshott Road, Battersea, in the early morning after he'd come off a night shift as a security guard. While he wanted to sleep, she didn't and had come in to the room with a knife, he'd said.

He told the Old Bailey: "I don't give a lot of weight to what he told me about the event. [In my profession] I'm used to people who don't tell the truth."

He also said that it was "very clear" Sylva had a history of depression that pre-dated his time in the army.

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While at university he slashed his own neck with a knife.

In 2010, he spoke to military mental health teams for the first time, and was diagnosed with an "adjustment disorder" as "he did not meet the criteria for post-traumatic-shock syndrome".

The same year he tried to strangle his mother and two years later he was discharged from the army on medical grounds.

Questioned by defence lawyer Rebecca Trowler QC, prof Greenberg told jurors at the time of the killing "he was suffering from a moderate depressive episode without psychosis".

His "irritability" and "aggressiveness" were consistent with PTSD symptoms, it was said.

The court earlier heard that Simonne "didn't stand a chance" when Sylva came at her with an 8-inch kitchen knife.

She and Sylva had broken off their relationship in February last year but they were back in touch in early July, around a month before her death.

The 31-year-old haematology and oncology nurse at Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital was a dedicated campaigner raising awareness of sickle cell disease.

Her six-year-old son Kavele tragically died from complications with the disorder in October 2015.

She also appeared on Britain's Got Talent as part of the fundraising B Positive Choir.

Sylva denies murder. The trial continues.