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The Dominion Post
Last updated 07:42, March 31 2016
A 67-year-old man was killed and four others injured in a multiple stabbing in Johnsonville on July 1, 2015.
Four times, a young mentally ill woman refused to take her pill.
The fifth time, under the watch of two mental health specialists, she appeared to have a change of heart.
About 8pm, on July 1 last year, the crisis assessment team, satisfied she had swallowed her anti-psychotic medication, discharged her from Wellington Hospital.
Within half an hour, she had stabbed and killed a 67-year-old man, who had spent the day trying to help her.
She also injured four more people, including a young boy, then tore off through Johnsonville’s streets into the night, stopping only when she was felled by bites from police dogs.
The dead man’s family have asked for an investigation into the care of the 26-year-old woman, who has been found not guilty of his murder by reason of insanity.
They have asked the Health and Disability Commissioner to investigate, while Capital & Coast District Health Board continues its own review. Suppression orders prevent the woman and her victims being identified.
What is known is that, earlier on the day of the killing, the woman had twice thrown the water and pill her doctor proffered to the floor, throwing punches at him.
He asked the hospital to commit her to its acute psychiatric ward overnight. She was taken to the emergency department about 3pm.
At that point, according to the psychiatric ward’s hourly log, only one spot on Wellington’s 32-bed acute unit was free. By the time she was discharged at 8pm, there were three.
About 7pm, two members of the crisis assessment team saw her and tried to persuade her to take medication, but she was suspicious.
She had refused medication for three months – believing she was being poisoned – but the final time she was offered a quetiapine pill that day, she appeared to swallow it.
When she was blood-tested after being bitten by the police dogs, no trace of quetiapine was found in her system.
By the time police found the stabbed man dying, an alert went out to psychiatric staff warning that Wellington’s acute ward was going “over numbers” as a suicidal man had arrived at hospital.
CCDHB general manager of mental health, addiction, intellectual, and disability services Nigel Fairley noted patients in the discharge process were still counted as occupying a bed.
“If a patient needs to be admitted to our service, we will always find them a bed, as we have the ability to flex up our beds numbers.”
The family said they had trusted the professionals.
“We need the experts to exercise correct judgment, based on the facts presented.”
They hoped people would reflect on cases such as theirs and that of Richard Hawkins, who was declared criminally insane after he killed his brother in 2002, then slashed another man’s face at a railway station last year.
“Why does this keep happening so often?”
They questioned why a severely mentally ill young woman had control in her treatment.
“You have a person who believes they do not or no longer need to be medicated making unilateral decisions that impact their life and those around them.
“Do we have the balance right between individual patient rights, the family, patient confidentiality, family and public safety?”
Fairley declined to comment on the case, saying the DHB review was still being finalised.
“However, I can assure the public that our staff constantly consider the safety of our clients and the community.”
The woman’s lawyer, Mike Antunovic, said he had been involved in “many” similar cases.
He asked: “Are there better ways to deal with these patients in terms of what to do when they stop taking medication?
”[The man she killed] was one of her closest allies. If he could do anything for her, he did everything he could to help her. It’s just incredibly sad.”
The man’s family continue to visit the woman. “There is no blame towards her or wanting her to suffer. There’s none of that feeling at all.”