Insanity finding in stabbing murder case

DAVID CLARKSON
Last updated 11:29 07/11/2013

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A Spreydon man who killed his partner by wounding her 26 times in a frenzied knife attack has been found not guilty on the grounds of insanity and ordered to be held in hospital as a special patient.

Stephen Mark Scipio, previously known as Whittaker, was before the High Court in Christchurch for the murder of Bronwyn Mary Sadler, 47, at a Cobham St house on September 27, 2011.

Scipio, 55, and Sadler had histories of mental illness, the court was told before Justice John Fogarty gave his decision.

Health assessors' reports had been prepared on Scipio before the hearing, which was attended by Sadler's mother and sister.

Scipio had a longstanding diagnosis of schizophrenia that could include a sense of superiority and "command hallucinations".

"This can give a person a sense of belief in the right of what they are doing even when what they are doing is incredibly ghastly and violent," the judge said.

The clinicians, the Crown and the defence were agreed on the findings for today's hearing.

Crown prosecutor Brent Stanaway said Scipio had stabbed Sadler 26 times with a large hunting knife, inflicting wounds to various parts of her body.

"While the Crown has acknowledged that a verdict of not guilty on grounds of insanity is appropriate, there are a number of counter-indications to that verdict, but that is not unusual," he said.

Scipio had moved the body from the backyard to the driveway and placed a clean hunting knife under the hand, and told police, "The crazy bitch had a knife", and that she had tried to kill him.

He seemed deeply disturbed to the police officers who attended the scene, and in his video interview he appears dishevelled, confused and constantly blinking.

When the officer leaves the room, Scipio continues talking and gives untrue details about his life, including being born in Italy in 1961.

Stanaway said Scipio's efforts to arrange the scene to provide himself with a possible defence had been "clumsy and unconvincing".

After the killing, Scipio telephoned the police, who found him lying on a bed "in a non-responsive state". He then appeared to have some kind of seizure.

Defence counsel Craig Ruane said Scipio appeared to be deeply disturbed when he saw him in the cells at court the day after the killing.

Justice Fogarty said: "I am confident that the correct verdict in this case is not guilty on the grounds of insanity."

He noted that both clinicians who had examined Scipio, and the Crown prosecutor, were of the view that the proper disposition of the case was for Scipio to be detained in hospital as a special patient.

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He made that ruling, thanked counsel and all those involved in preparations for the hearing, and expressed his personal regrets to the family.

- The Press

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