Killer socially awkward with few friends

NOT GUILTY: Akshay Chand has been acquitted of the murder of Christie Marceau, on the grounds of insanity.
NOT GUILTY: Akshay Chand has been acquitted of the murder of Christie Marceau, on the grounds of insanity.

Shut in his room reading Karl Marx and playing video games, Akshay Chand plotted the death of the only girl who'd ever really been kind to him.

Succumbing to the voices in his head who told him Christie Marceau had turned into the devil, Chand took a kitchen knife and went to her house, where he stabbed the 18-year-old in the face and neck until the blade was so bent it was useless.

Afterwards, he smiled and listened to Radiohead on his iPod as though, one witness said, "he had achieved his purpose".

Yesterday at the High Court in Auckland, Chand was found not guilty by reason of insanity of the murder of the young woman who tried to help him when others wrote him off as "weird" and "creepy". He will now be confined indefinitely in a psychiatric ward as a special patient to protect public safety.

Two psychiatrists told the court Chand, 19, had schizophrenia and may never recover, therefore, he may never be free again.

At the time of the killing Chand was on bail for an earlier incident in which he'd kidnapped Marceau, inviting her to his house and threatening to rape her. He will be sentenced on those charges today, but will likely serve his time concurrently in the security of the Mason Clinic in Auckland.

The court heard yesterday how Chand's mental state deteriorated from that of a healthy, intelligent young man to a point where he believed he had cervical cancer and could hear the voice of a girl named "Pauline" in his head.

Born in Fiji, Chand moved to New Zealand with his parents aged  four. At eight, the family moved to Wales. A year later, Chand returned to Auckland with his mother and sister when his parents separated.

In his younger years Chand was an outstanding student, excelling at English and maths. He was always socially awkward, however, with few friends.

Dr David Chaplow, an expert forensic psychiatrist and the former Director of Mental Health, said Chand told him he'd become depressed aged 13 or 14, and had withdrawn.

By the time he demanded Marceau come to his home and remove her clothes at knifepoint in September 2011, Chand had failed his last year at school, lost serious amounts of weight and spent most of his days in his room playing video games.

He gave money away, including large amounts to Marceau. Friends said he was strange, "inappropriate", would wait about hopelessly to see Marceau and would write her "long, weird messages."  Generous, kind, and known for helping those a little bit different, Marceau put up with the weirdness.

At the same time, Chand had also quit is job after reading the Karl Marx book Das Kapital and developing an obsession with capitalism.  "He said he couldn't reconcile government spending in the presence of starving children," Chaplow said.

Chand had also begun hearing voices. At first, he thought it was his co-workers talking out of earshot. While in prison awaiting trial on the kidnapping charges, the voices intensified.
Chand called the voice, "Loralei".

"Sometimes it was just humming and singing," Chaplow said. "It was always stronger in the mornings."

Eventually, Chand came to believe the voice was that of a former classmate in Wales named Pauline. Towards the end of 2011, she became more insistent. She told him Marceau was the devil and to kill her, to get "reprisal".

So Chand hatched a plan to get out of jail. He wrote a letter to the court expressing his remorse, saying he was not a safety risk, and he got bail to his mother's house in Hillcrest.

His sister and mother, fearing for his mental health, hid the kitchen knives.

It took only a month for the voices to push Chand over the edge. On the morning of November 7, he took a knife, a hammer and put them in a bag. At 7am, he walked to the Marceau house and knocked on the door.

Marceau's mother Tracey answered. She screamed. Marceau ran upstairs and Chand kicked her back down, and then chased her into the garden.

As she tried to unlock the lock on the gate, he stabbed her in the face, and kept stabbing. Marceau died in her mother's arms while Chand calmly waited for police to arrive.

When police asked why he was there, Chand said "reprisal". When asked why he was shaking, he said "it's not easy to kill someone is it."

In his police interview he told detectives he had an acquaintance that was going to kill two more people, but wouldn't give a name. In a later interview, the acquaintance was revealed as Pauline, the voice in his head.

It was this revelation that in part led the Crown's psychiatrist, Professor Graham Mellsop, to the belief Chand was not faking his symptoms - because why would he admit to an imaginary friend when he was trying so hard not to appear crazy?

Mellsop said there were other bizarre behaviours, such as in the hours after the killing when Chand listened to his iPod, boasted to police about how clever he was and then, while they were out of the room, groomed himself in the reflection of the camera, Mellsop said.

Mellsop said Chand was also indifferent, self-centred, delusional, irrational and lacked empathy - classic signs of schizophrenia when combined with the hallucinations.

He said the element of planning that went in to the crime did not detract from the "insanity" conclusion.

"If you are six foot six and have diabetes none of those things defines the whole you," Mellsop said.

"If you have a psychotic disorder it doesn't describe the whole of you. It's not at all unique for people with psychosis to plan."

Judge Helen Winkelmann agreed with the psychiatrists and found Chand was labouring under delusional concepts and accepted he was insane at the time of the killing, to the extent where he did not know what he was doing was morally wrong.

She found him not guilty on reason of insanity, essentially acquitting him of the crime, and placed him under a special order. 

As the verdict was read out, Marceau's mother and sister sobbed in the witness gallery. Chand frowned, briefly, then went back to staring straight ahead.

Outside court, Crown prosecutor Simon Moore said he was as satisfied as could ever be possible in the situation.

"There are no winners in a case like this."

MARCEAU FAMILY: Tracey and Brian Marceau arrive at the Auckland High Court this morning for the start of the trial of the man accused of murdering their daughter.
MARCEAU FAMILY: Tracey and Brian Marceau arrive at the Auckland High Court this morning for the start of the trial of the man accused of murdering their daughter.

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