Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Pink Floyd star paying for psychiatric treatment for British hacker with Asperger's, while he fights extradition to USA

From The Express in the UK:

Pink Floyd star David Gilmour is paying for psychiatric treatment for troubled Gary McKinnon after he was suddenly refused NHS funding while he fights extradition to the US on charges of hacking into military computers.

The renowned guitarist, who supports mental health campaigns, decided to step in after the Asperger’s Syndrome sufferer became a victim of budget cutbacks at a London NHS Trust.

Glasgow-born McKinnon, 45, faces up to 60 years in a US jail for breaking into Nasa and Pentagon computers in 2001 and 2002 while looking for evidence of UFOs. Until last month he had been receiving treatment from Asperger’s expert Professor Jeremy Turk, who believes he will become a suicide risk if forced to go to America to face trial.

The intervention comes at a crucial time for Mr McKinnon. His mother, Janis Sharp, is preparing to disclose new evidence of mental illness in the family that could be used to stop the case against her son. Speaking to the Sunday Express, Ms Sharp praised the Pink Floyd star for his help, and insisted their fight against extradition would continue.

She said: “When I heard about the funding for Gary’s psychiatrist being refused I was shell-shocked.

“The world economy is worse than people realise and people in this country are going to be hit by the cuts that haven’t even fully kicked in yet. What will happen to other people with psychiatric problems if their funding is cut off?

“I’m so grateful to David Gilmour for helping Gary at such a crucial time.”
While the legal battle continues, Ms Sharp has disclosed confidential family medical information about her son which suggests he was showing signs of mental disorder when he was a teenager.

On his 17th birthday she had deep concerns about his sudden mental deterioration and took him to a London neurologist, thinking he had a brain tumour. She has also told the Sunday Express of uncovering a history of mental illness in the family that may help in the attempt to stop extradition to the US.

Mr McKinnon’s great-grandmother, Christina Macleod, who was born in 1882, was committed to Woodilee Mental Hospital in Lenzie, near Glasgow, where she remained for 50 years until her death, aged 95. Ms Sharp said: “She became increasingly detached from the world around her and never recovered her mental health.”

The hacker’s grandmother Margaret Totten, born in 1922, also suffered from depression and was mentally ill for most of her life. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia and died in March 1999 in Greenfield Park Nursing Home at Carntyne, Glasgow.

In the past, many people with Asperger’s or other forms of autism were wrongly diagnosed as having schizophrenia.

Ms Sharp said: “This proves that mental illness in Gary’s family goes back generations and that Gary had pre-existing mental health difficulties.”
A report by Professor Declan Murphy, who served in the Home Office last year, said there are fears about how Mr McKinnon would cope with a trial in the US.

It stated: “Gary has greater risk factors to suffer anxiety and stress combined with depression. They will be more severe because of pre-existing Autistic Spectrum Disorder and history of anxiety, which pre-date any legal difficulties.”