A 26-year-old who strangled his mother in the bedroom of their Portavogie home during a psychotic episode will spend a minimum of five years in prison for her unlawful killing.
Viktors Arustamovs showed no emotion at Belfast Crown Court when he was handed the sentence by Mr Justice Treacy.
He killed his 52-year-old mother Lija Arustamovs in their Main Street home in the early hours of Saturday December 12, 2015.
Whilst strangling her as she lay in bed, Arustamovs took a break but resumed when he heard a voice in his head telling him ‘if you start, you have to finish’.
After listening to classical music and smoking cigarettes for around an hour, Arustamovs then called 999, confessing: “I think I killed my mum ... she just stopped breathing.”
Sentencing the Latvian man to serve a minimum tariff of five years before he is eligible for release, Mr Justice Treacy said: “At the time of the killing, the defendant ... was unfortunately suffering from an untreated psychotic illness.”
Mr Justice Treacy said he accepted the killing was not premeditated, that the defendant himself alerted the authorities, and that since Ms Arustamovs’s death, her son has expressed remorse.
Following admissions made both to police at the scene, and during subsequent police interviews, Arustamovs admitted a charge of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.
It was accepted that at the time of the unlawful killing, Arustamovs was suffering from a psychotic episode which “in all likelihood” was precipitated by the use of drugs.
At an earlier hearing, the court was told Arustamovs came to Northern Ireland in 2011 from Latvia, and had worked on the fishing boats in Portavogie until 2015, when his psychotic problems started to manifest.
Just prior to his mother’s death, Arustamovs had been living rough in Dublin and Belfast before returning to the Co Down fishing village.
Crown prosecutor Ciaran Murphy QC said emergency services received a 999 call from Arustamovs at around 1.16am on Saturday December 12, 2015, claiming he had killed his mother.
Describing the house as “downtrodden”, Mr Murphy said ambulance staff were the first at the scene and were led to a first-floor room by Arustamovs. They attended to Ms Arustamovs, who was lying in the bed with blood on both sides of her head.
A post-mortem carried out the following day revealed that Ms Arustamovs – described in court as five feet three in height and under nine stone in weight – had been manually strangled. A toxology report indicated she was moderately drunk at the time of her death.
When police arrived a short time later, Arustamovs told them he had strangled his mother, and made a gesture suggesting such with his hands. At this initial stage, he also spoke about his mental health.
Arustamovs was arrested and brought to Musgrave Park PSNI station in Belfast, where he made full admissions about strangling his mother.
During interviews, Arustamovs claimed that as his mother lay upstairs, he went up with her to watch TV, that he strangled her, then afterwards he sat and smoked cigarettes before calling 999.
When asked if he and his mother had argued prior to him killing her, he said they “argued all the time”, and that when she was drinking she would get on his nerves.
He also said that whilst he did take drugs, he didn’t have any on the evening in question as he had no money.
He also told police: “I took her by the throat and my heart starting beating so so fast I thought it was going to jump out of my chest.” In addition, Arustamovs said that when he had finished, a cold sensation went through his hands.
Despite confessing, he repeatedly told police he didn’t mean to kill her and at one stage said: “I don’t know what came over me ... I couldn’t even kill a cockroach.”
Prosecutor Ciaran Murphy said Arustamovs was a long-term substance misuser, he had a history of “serious mental illness”, and had also experienced neglect and abuse in his childhood.
Defence barrister Peter Irvine QC branded the situation as “tragic”, and told the court: “From a very early age this young man was the subject of an extremely chaotic lifestyle, from his early childhood and teenage years right up to this present moment in time.”
The defence barrister said the unlawful killing of Ms Arustamovs was not premeditated, adding his client had expressed remorse from the outset. Pointing out there was “immediate acceptance by him to what he had done when police arrived”, Mr Irvine said it was his client who called the authorities.
Jailing Arustamovs for a minimum of five years, Mr Justice Treacy said: “In prison, he will continue to receive the ongoing treatment, medication and supervision required to maintain progress.”