The father of a mental health patient who ended up killing his flatmate 10 years ago sees parallels with a death this week and is calling for a public investigation into mental health services.
A 38-year-old man charged with the murder of Dean Andrew Clark on Tuesday night was sent for mental health assessments when he appeared in the Auckland District Court yesterday.
Judge Grant Fraser ordered his name be suppressed so members of his family could be told about the murder charge.
He was remanded to the Mason Clinic - a psychiatric hospital where it will be assessed as to whether he is fit to stand trial.
A forensic court liaison nurse said she recommended the man be given 24-hour care by trained professionals, rather than be sent to prison where he could not be given round-the-clock assistance.
The man, who appeared wearing a white prison-issue tear-resistant vest, was supported in court by his mother.
The man, who Auckland District Health Board said was known to them, was believed to be Clark's flatmate.
In 1999, Lachlan Jones was released from a psychiatric unit and began flatting with Malcom Beggs, who he then killed with an axe after he stopped taking medication.
Lachlan's father Owen Jones said he believed not enough had changed in the care of mental health patients since his son's case.
"It's always too little, too late," he said.
"After Lachlan had killed his flatmate, he phoned his mother and just screamed uncontrollably. He knew what he had done was wrong, but he also knew what he had to do. For anybody to get to that stage... it's impossible to believe you can get there and that the medical practitioners actually allow you to get there."
Jones said mental health carers need to be more open with families.
"The death came a year to the day that I was told that he [his son] had a chemical imbalance to the brain. Nobody ever said anything about schizophrenia. I gave them three ways of contacting me and they promised they would if anything ever happened. Things did happen and nobody contacted me. I'm sure that's happening today."
After Beggs' death, the Waitemata District Health Board held an internal audit and issued a full apology to the families involved.
An Auckland District Health Board spokeswoman yesterday said they were "aware of an incident yesterday [Wednesday] involving a person known to our mental health services".
"Our thoughts are with all those involved," she said.
"We will be undertaking an investigation into the circumstances and are assisting the police with their enquiries."
But Jones said it was not enough and any inquiries undertaken into the Auckland case by the district health board should be public and transparent.
"Those who are mentally ill say 'I don't want my parents to know, I don't want my family to know'. But we know if people have got cancer, we know if they've got a broken arm, we know if they've got kidney stones. Yet we're not allowed to be told what's happening with the mentally ill.''
A neighbour of Clark said she had seen the accused acting strangely and talking to himself in the days before the death.
The day before the killing she saw him lying down on the ground outside her kitchen window in the rain and cold and initially thought he was unconscious before she heard him talking to himself.
The woman said Clark had lived in the flat for about two years. She described Clark as "gentle-natured and really friendly".
The accused had moved in about five days previously.
Clark's landlord, Finlay Smith, said he believed Clark had met the murder accused at an Auckland halfway house and had offered him a place to stay- without knowing he was a mental health patient.
"It's just a sad case of a mental patient being out on our streets and having nowhere to live," Smith said.
"He can't get help. There's no permanent places where the mental patients can go."
"He had heaps of friends, there was always somebody knocking on his door."
The accused man will next appear in court in mid-July.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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