Insanity finding in stabbing murder case

High Court-panoply1A Spreydon man who killed his partner by stabbing her 26 times in a frenzied knife attack has been found not guilty on the grounds of insanity and ordered held in hospital as a special patient.

Stephen Mark Scipio, 55, who was previously known as Whittaker, was before the court for the murder of 47-year-old Bronwyn Mary Sadler at a house in Cobham Street on September 27, 2011.

Both Scipio and Miss Sadler had histories of mental illness, the High Court was told before Justice John Fogarty gave his decision. Health assessors reports had been prepared on Scipio ahead of the hearing, which was attended by Miss Sadler’s mother and sister.

Scipio had a long-standing diagnosis of schizophrenia which could include a sense of superiority and “command hallucinations”.

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

The clinicians, the Crown, and the defence were all agreed about the findings for today’s hearing.

Crown prosecutor Brent Stanaway said Scipio had stabbed Miss 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,” said Mr Stanaway.

Scipio had moved the body from the backyard to the driveway and placed a clean hunting knife under the hand, and had then told police, “The crazy bitch had a knife”, and 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 disshevelled, 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.

Mr 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 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 him to be detained in hospital as a special patient.

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

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