'Witchcraft' behind alleged attack on neighbour
A MAN who believed his neighbour was practising witchcraft has been found not guilty of an armed home invasion by way of mental illness.
The 71-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, faced a special hearing before Lismore District Court on Monday.
The court heard he broke into his neighbour's Tweed Heads West home on May 28, 2018 and assaulted her while armed with an replica pistol.
While he pleaded not guilty on the basis of mental illness, defence barrister Ben Cochrane conceded "the basic elements of the offence are established" and Judge Dina Yehia accepted the full version of events alleged.
The court heard two psychologists agreed the man was mentally ill.
The psychologists differed in their exact diagnoses, but Judge Yehia said she was satisfied the man suffered from a "defect of reason" as a result of a "disease of the mind".
The court heard one psychologist found the man had chronic schizophrenia while the other reported he had a "delusional disorder" which was "characterised by a fixed, persecutory belief that he has held for many years, that the complainant has been practising witchcraft and black magic and has tried to harm him".
The Crown prosecutor said the man's neighbour was outside, washing her car, on the afternoon of the incident when he entered her home through a closed, but unlocked, screen door.
He said the man hid inside her pantry and when the woman returned inside, he appeared and pointed the replica gun at her.
She screamed, and he grabbed her by the hair and struck her with the replica gun.
During the struggle, the woman bit him on the finger and struck him with a bread knife, the court heard.
She fled to the garage and screamed for help before another neighbour phoned 000.
The man returned home, changed out of his bloodied clothes and hid the replica gun in his car, where police later found it.
The woman was left with an array of injuries while the man was treated for high blood sugar and puncture wounds to his finger.
Mr Cochrane asked Judge Yehia to find his client not guilty by reason of mental illness. The court heard his client was "unable to recognise his actions were morally wrong".
He was found not guilty.
The court heard his current treatment included medication which would not quash his existing symptoms - which were specific to his delusions about his neighbour - but would reduce his risk of acting upon them and would reduce the likelihood of new delusions and would therefore pose less risk to the community.
The man was given a conditional release order, which included conditions that he not go within 100km of Tweed Heads and must comply with a treatment plan.
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