Accused Surfers Paradise daughter murderer not guilty on mental health grounds


UPDATE: A father whose delusional beliefs led him to throw his baby into the Tweed River has been found not guilty of murder on the grounds of mental illness.

Justice Helen Wilson returned her special verdict to the Supreme Court on Wednesday saying the terrible tragedy was a result of the man “labouring under such a defect of reason” he did not know what he was doing was wrong.

He will remain detained in a mental health facility until he is deemed fit for release and not a threat to society or himself.

Earlier, the court heard the homeless man’s hallucinations about killing babies were first recorded 17 years before he tossed his nine-month-old daughter into the Tweed River, a judge has been told.

The reports included a hallucination of a man eating a baby, of voices telling him to kidnap and drown a baby, and of his becoming distressed in 2008 thinking he had murdered a child.

The 49-year-old man has pleaded not guilty in the NSW Supreme Court to murdering his daughter whose body was found on the beach at Surfers Paradise in November 2018.

The trial issue involves his mental state, as the defence accepts he carried out the act which caused his daughter’s death.

Tribute to baby who was thrown into the Tweed River (file image)
A man who threw his baby into a river had hallucinated about killing babies, a judge has heard. Credit: AAP

The father carried the baby girl through torrential rain and threw her into the river as his partner and young son sheltered in the Tweed Mall car park.

Currents and tides took the girl 20 kilometres north to the Gold Coast beach where she was found by a teenager attending schoolies week.

Giving evidence on Tuesday, forensic psychiatrist Professor David Greenberg said he believed the man was suffering from chronic schizophrenia and did not know his act was morally wrong.

Greenberg told the court the man was labouring under a defect of reason caused by a disease of the mind.

‘Preventable tragedy’

While he stated the baby’s death was a “preventable tragedy”, Greenberg said mental health workers tried “relentlessly” over the years to keep track of the man but he kept moving as part of his itinerant lifestyle.

The father said he had “sacrificed” his daughter as her upcoming first birthday “would have meant the end of the world”.

Greenberg considered voluminous material including medical records related to at least 35 hospital admissions, many referring to his delusional beliefs in relation to infants.

Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast.
Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast. Credit: DAVE HUNT/AAPIMAGE

Notes on a 2001 admission recorded auditory hallucinations and delusions telling him to kill a baby, while in 2008 he reported voices taunting him saying he was going to have his own unborn baby killed.

Notes of another admission said he claimed he was Jesus, that he was on a mission to save the world and he believed Britney Spears was his girlfriend.

The psychiatrist was asked about the difference in the father trying to give his daughter away hours before he threw her in the river when he said it was necessary to sacrifice her to save humanity.

‘Drug and alcohol’ abuse

Greenberg noted his chronic schizophrenia involved hallucinations, delusions and thought disorder which were exacerbated by his abuse of cannabis and alcohol.

This could have reached another level several hours after the attempt to give her away when he felt justified in his actions as he believed she was corrupt and evil.

Both the father and his mentally ill partner shared delusional beliefs about their daughter, he said.

Due to their homelessness and itinerancy, they had dropped off the radar of the mental healthy system despite workers “relentlessly” trying to keep a track of them and provide help.

If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

For further information about depression contact beyondblue on 1300224636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.

(Source)


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