A spate of insane killings prompts review of Wellington's mental health services

The police cordon at the home of Kapiti nurse Cathy Stewart after her body was found there on February 14 last year.
FAIRFAX NZ

The police cordon at the home of Kapiti nurse Cathy Stewart after her body was found there on February 14 last year.

A spate of killings and other attacks by mentally ill people has sparked a review of Wellington's mental health services.

On Friday a 30-year-old man was found not guilty due to insanity of murdering Kapiti nurse Cathy Stewart in February last year.

He was the second person in the past two months to be acquitted of murder in Wellington on insanity grounds, while a third man has been acquitted of stabbing a stranger. 

Kapiti Coast nurse Cathy Stewart, who was killed in her home in Otaihanga on February 14 last year.
SUPPLIED

Kapiti Coast nurse Cathy Stewart, who was killed in her home in Otaihanga on February 14 last year.

Meanwhile, mental health issues have been raised in three other accused murderers' ongoing court cases.

READ MORE:
* Woman who killed a man in Johnsonville was insane

* Questions over woman's care
* Man who stabbed stranger had killed brother 13 years earlier
* The tragic and violent case of Richard Hawkins

* Insane killers need closer monitoring
* Cathy Stewart's killing a 'massive failure' of mental health services

* Man facing murder charge over teen's stabbing
* Family of Helen Silverwood "in shock"
* Murder charge after Wellington man dies

Capital & Coast District Health Board said it had initiated a "wider review" in light of such cases, with oversight by the Ministry of Health's mental health director, Dr John Crawshaw, who had reviewed its terms of reference.

Kapiti woman Adriana Carnihan welcomes a review into Wellington's mental health services. Her dad was killed by his ...
DAVID WHITE/FAIRFAX NZ

Kapiti woman Adriana Carnihan welcomes a review into Wellington's mental health services. Her dad was killed by his brother, Richard Hawkins, in 2002, but Hawkins was acquitted of murder on insanity grounds. He stabbed someone else last May, and was again acquitted on insanity grounds.

"We can't provide any more detail while the review is underway, but we may be in a position to provide comment when it concludes in the middle of the year," the DHB's mental health, addiction and intellectual disability service general manager, Nigel Fairley, said.

The review will include the case of Richard Hawkins, who was found not guilty due to insanity last month of stabbing a stranger at Waikanae train station in May last year, his second insanity acquittal because he was also found not guilty of his brother's murder.

His brother's daughter, Kapiti 22-year-old Adriana Carnihan had earlier called for mental health services to more closely monitor insane killers living in the community. 

"[The review] does need to be done and it's good it has come to their attention," she said.

Ad Feedback

The MInistry of Health's acting mental health director, Dr Anthony Duncan, said he believed the review was being led by a senior psychiatrist external to the DHB.

"This review has been commissioned by the DHB but the ministry expects the DHB to fully report its findings." 

Last August, Crawshaw invoked his statutory powers to inspect Waikato District Health Board's mental health and addiction services after a number of serious events in the first half of 2015. A report on his inspection last August was released three weeks ago, which found the Waikato services were well managed, but faced considerable pressure, and made a number of recommendations for changes.

However, Crawshaw had not taken such action over Wellington's incidents and intended to wait for results of the DHB's review, which he expected would be "both thorough and considered", Duncan said.

The Green Party has called for a nationwide inquiry into the pressures on mental health services in light of Waikato's review, although Duncan said that was not currently being considering.

Green MP Kevin Hague, previously a West Coast District Health Board chief executive, said he would be campaigning for an inquiry, and asking for the Mental Health Commission - which had been replaced by the Office of the Health and Disability Commissioner - to be reinstated.

Hague said he would like to see funding increased for mental health services, and for its under-resourcing issues to become a focus of political debate.

"The issue is this population of mental health clients are a particularly marginalised population which doesn't have much of a loud voice, they are not people who have great access to politicians. They are not the man wanting knee surgery and not getting it, or wanting a melanoma treatment and not getting it – and this is a great reminder to us politicians that we shouldn't focus on just the obvious ones, but ask who are the ones who need us the most?"

THE GRIM TALLY

* May 6: A 30-year-old man is acquitted on insanity grounds of murdering Kapiti nurse Cathy Stewart, 56, on February 14, 2015 at her home in Otaihanga. His name and details are permanently suppressed. He is also made a special patient, meaning he will be detained in a forensic unit at a psychiatric hospital. At the time of the killing, he had been on leave from his temporary community-based mental health accommodation under the care of Capital & Coast District Health Board.

* April 28: Richard Hawkins, 42, is made a special patient for a rare second time for stabbing a stranger in a random attack at Waikanae train station last May 26, after being found not guilty of the knife attack on insanity grounds in March. Hawkins, who has paranoid schizophrenia, stabbed his brother, Jason, in a fatal attack at his home in Paraparaumu and was also acquitted on insanity grounds. He was made a special patient at his first trial. That was lifted in 2010, and he was still under community mental health services when the second stabbing occurred.

* March 22: A 26-year-old woman is acquitted on insanity grounds of murdering a man, aged 67, in Johnsonville, Wellington, last July 1, less than an hour after she was discharged by Wellington Hospital's crisis assessment team. Four others were also wounded in the attack. All have permanent name suppression. The woman has made a special patient at a forensic unit at a psychiatric hospital. The Health and Disability Commissioner is investigating the case.

* There are at least three other cases before the courts where mental health issues are being considered.



 

 - Stuff

Comments

Ad Feedback
special offers
Ad Feedback