A man has been found not guilty of murdering his grandmother as well as a retired policeman, by reason of mental illness.
Murray Deakin was charged over the deaths of his grandmother Gail Winner, and retired police officer Michael Horne as well as causing grievous bodily harm to his grandfather, Thomas Winner.
The 20-year-old was also found not guilty of grievous bodily harm to his grandfather.
The charges date back to 2018 and involved a brutal stabbing of his grandparents with a pen-knife and the clubbing of Mr Horne with a claw-hammer.
Significant expert evidence from psychiatrists was tendered in the proceedings before a judge found Deakin 'not guilty'.
On 1 June 2018, Mr Deakin was staying with his grandparents at their property in Bega, on the NSW Far South Coast.
The agreed facts set out a shocking rampage whereby the Accused first stabbed his 71-year-old grandfather with a five-centimetre penknife, before stabbing his 69-year-old grandmother four times.
Mr Winner then struggled with his grandson over the knife before sustaining five further wounds. Mrs Winner later died.
Following this, the accused took off in a vehicle. He led officers on police pursuit chases twice - first near the Bega CBD and then on the Princes Highway.
Mr Deakin's dangerous driving was seen by retired police officer Michael Horne who was driving with his wife.
Horne followed Deakin to nearby Bournda and approached the 20-year-old. Deakin snarled at the former police officer when asked what he was doing, telling Mr Horne to "follow the code".
Deakin reacted to another question by sighing, before removing a claw hammer from his backpack and striking Horne in the back of the head.
Mr Horne's wife had to watch as husband passed away, moments before seeing Deakin drive away in the couple's car.
"Clearly Psychotic" Murray Deakin Charged with Murder
A doctor assessed Mr Deakin shortly after his arrest at gunpoint on 1 June 2018. He was deemed to be "clearly psychotic" and obsessed with ideas of "thought injection, mind reading and . the matrix".
To this point, Deakin said he'd thought Mr Horne was a demon and his grandparents were vampires.
Deakin has pleaded not guilty by reason of mental illness to murdering Ms Winner and Mr Horne and seriously wounding his grandfather, Thomas Winner, with intent to murder.
The Evidence in Court
Justice Robert Beech-Jones presided over the trial at the NSW Supreme Court. Throughout the course of proceedings he received expert evidence and witness statements.
In total, there were three psychiatrists who assessed Mr Deakin. All came to the same conclusion - that the Accused had experienced a "psychotic episode" and was suffering from a "disease of the mind", namely schizophrenia.
The psychiatrists accepted that Deakin was showing signs of mental illness for years prior to June 2018. They also detailed a familial history of mental illness as Mr Deakin's uncle was also diagnosed with schizophrenia.
There was some evidence that Deakin had cannabis in his system on 1 June 2018. He had also consumed LSD.
Prosecutors ran the trial seeking to cast doubt on the medical evidence that supported the mental illness defence.
However, the experts all said that Deakin's slow recovery and response to antipsychotic medication would not have occurred if his psychosis was drug-induced.
Crown prosecutor, Neil Adams SC, conceded that, "Having heard and teased out the evidence, the Crown is not in a position to cast doubt on that evidence."
This came on just the third of the trial. Ultimately, the prosecution accepted that the offences were likely due to a schizophrenic episode, rather than being caused by the use of prohibited drugs such as cannabis and LSD.
As such the court was left with no option but to accept that the defence of not guilty by reason of mental illness was made out on the balance of probabilities.
Court Delivers Judgement
Justice Beech-Jones labelled the allegations as "brutal and senseless acts" and "terrible events", which "devastated two families and traumatised a community".
He went on to say that his judgement would bring "no comfort" to the victims' families.
He said Deakin's grandparents were "devoted to their family" and "assumed the burden of looking after their grandson in their advancing years" and that Mr Horne was only "following his instincts".
Justice Beech-Jones said the victims "deserved not to be defined by how they died, but how they lived".
What Happens Now?
Following the verdict, Mr Deakin was ordered to be detained in a correctional facility and be reviewed by the Mental Health Review Tribunal until deemed fit for release.
He will be required to comply with treatment and will only be released once it is determined that it is safe to do so.
Relative Gives Forgiveness for Murder
An unnamed grandchild of Murray Deakin expressed forgiveness for him during the trial.
Speaking at the NSW Supreme Court, he said, "It's ingrained in your DNA but I forgive you . because that's what (Grandma) would have wanted.No court decision will change the fact you killed, and in that moment . at some point, you had a choice."
However, he went on to say that his 71-year-old grandfather is now dying, "a slower and more painful death you tried to give him, while he sits forever thinking that he didn't save his wife".
Despite the court finding that Deakin's actions were due to his schizophrenia, his relative said that he "chose" to possess prohibited drugs and consume them, refuse medical advice, build his muscles and arm himself with a knife.
"No family history can absolve you of these decisions," she said.
Mental Illness Defence Argument By Murder Lawyers
Once the psychiatric evidence was settled, Murray Deakin's murder lawyers made legal arguments on why their client had the mental illness defence open to them.
The decision of R v Falconer (1990) 171 CLR 30 at 39 explains that there is a presumption that an Accused acted voluntarily and was sane.
In order for a mental illness defence to be successful, an accused must rebut the presumptions of sanity and voluntariness on the balance of probabilities.
The M'Naghten Rules are commonly recognised as the test for whether an accused is not guilty of an offence by reason of mental illness. The rules require an accused to establish that they were:
- Labouring under a defect of reason, from a disease of the mind, and
- Due that this disease of the mind, the accused either:
- Did not know the quality and nature of the act they were doing, or
- Did not know that what they were doing was wrong.
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