REM star 'knew what he was doing', says psychiatrist

Click to follow
The Independent Online

When the REM guitarist Peter Buck announced that he wanted to "go home" and tried to walk out of a plane at 35,000ft, he was simply drunk and not suffering from a drug-induced condition, a psychiatrist said yesterday.

The 45-year-old, who is accused of running riot through the first-class cabin of a transatlantic flight, claims he was suffering from non-insane automatism brought on by a mixture of medication and wine. Medical experts for the defence say he would have appeared conscious but would have been unable to control his actions or form criminal intent.

But Nadji Kahtan, a psychiatrist, told Isleworth Crown Court in west London yesterday that Mr Buck's attempts to leave the plane proved he had an ability to process information. Dr Kahtan, from West London Mental Health Trust, said this was one of several incidents which pointed to red wine being the real culprit, not the sleeping tablet the musician says he took.

"He was clearly forming the appropriate behaviour of it being a door but highly inappropriate behaviour in the fact it was on an aeroplane," Dr Kahtan said. He added: "I don't think there is a divorce between his actions and his mind on the evidence presented. It is very clear he was able to form the intent and act on his thoughts."

The court has been told that Mr Buck consumed 15 glasses of wine in three hours. Having failed to bribe the cabin crew into giving him more alcohol, he tried to steal it from the galley. Dr Kahtan said Mr Buck's alleged attempt to get more alcohol after being told he had had enough was further proof that he had an ability to process information. So, he said, was the prosecution's claim that Mr Buck threatened to blame cabin crew for the violence.

The prosecution alleges that, during the 10-hour flight from Seattle to Heathrow in April last year, Mr Buck assaulted staff, overturned a trolley, smashed crockery and attempted to steal a knife by putting it up his sleeve. The guitarist insists he remembers nothing of the flight after swallowing an Ambien sleeping tablet.

He denies one count of being drunk on the plane, two charges of common assault on cabin staff and one of damaging British Airways property. The trial continues.