Details of 'frenzied' knife attack released

DAVID CLARKSON
Last updated 11:56 26/06/2012

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Nine months after he stabbed his partner to death in a frenzied attack, Stephen Mark Whittaker finally realises that she is dead and that he was responsible.

Because of his mental state, the 54-year-old will not stand trial for the murder of Bronwyn Mary Sadler, 47, who was found dead at their home in Cobham St, Spreydon, on September 27.

In the High Court in Christchurch today, Justice French ruled that he should be detained as a special patient under the Criminal Procedures (Mentally Impaired Persons) Act.

Reports on Whittaker described him as posing a chronic risk of harm to others and to himself, Justice French said as she made the order at the end of the series of hearings on the killing and his mental state.

She lifted the name suppression Whittaker has had since his first court appearance. The media have not been allowed to report the nature of the psychiatric hearing until today.

Whittaker has been diagnosed with schizo-affective disorder characterised by mood disturbances and hallucinations. Reports from a psychiatrist and psychologist indicate he was likely psychotic when he killed Sadler.

His chronic psychiatric illness has only partly responded to treatment.

"He has a long history of non-compliance with his medication regime, and multiple hospital admissions as a result," the judge said.

Defence counsel Craig Ruane said the contents of the reports were accepted, and the making of an order for Whittaker's detention as a special patient would be in the best interests of Whittaker and the community.

Whittaker was originally charged under the name Scipio because he was apparently deluded that he had Italian connections. He has been dealt with as Whittaker since soon after his arrest.

Justice French said both health assessors had reported an improvement in Whittaker's mental health in the past few weeks.

"It appears that for the first time he is aware of the fact that his partner is dead, and the role he played in that," she said.

Police described the murder as having "violence at an extreme level".

Sadler was stabbed 26 times. It was a frenzied attack, police said.

Ruane pressed for the suppression to remain because Whittaker was before the court only because of his mental disorder, but Crown prosecutor Kathy Bell opposed the order.

Justice French said the defence argument would mean that everyone would have suppression if they were detained as a special patient under the act. That was not the law, and there was no medical evidence on the effect of publication on Whittaker's health.

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- The Press

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