Staff in Shellharbour Hospital’s mental health unit have told police a patient accused of murdering his roommate with a guitar had been displaying highly unusual behaviour before the incident, investigators have revealed.
Police allege Paul Hindmarsh, 31, fatally assaulted Joseph Gumley, 47, with the dead man’s own electric guitar sometime between 6.30am and 7.50am on Thursday in the hospital’s high dependency mental health ward.
Mr Gumley’s body was discovered by a worker after he noticed blood on the wall near Mr Gumley’s bed and went to inspect.
Staff told police in the hours before the alleged attack, Hindmarsh had been seen watching a female patient through the glass insert on her bedroom door - behaviour that was highly unusual for him, a police statement said.
At 6.30am nightshift workers conducted a routine inspection of the room shared by Hindmarsh and Mr Gumley, and reported both men appeared to be sleeping.
However, less than 90 minutes later Mr Gumley’s body was discovered sitting upright on his bed, with a blanket covering an injury to his head and an item described by police as ‘‘a blue coloured strap’’ wrapped around his neck.
Efforts to revive him were unsuccessful.
Hindmarsh, who by this time had run out of the room and into a nearby courtyard area, allegedly confessed to ‘‘attacking Joe’’ when questioned by a staff member, however did not respond when asked why.
It is alleged when Hindmarsh was being transferrred to a seclusion wing in the facility he called out ‘‘I love you’’ to the woman whom he had been watching earlier in the morning.
He was taken to Lake Illawarra police station where he was charged with murder.
Appearing in Port Kembla Local Court on Friday morning, Hindmarsh did not apply for bail and it was formally refused.
His lawyer, Angela Melouney, told the court Hindmarsh had been at the hospital as an involuntary patient for some period of time.
Police documents said both Hindmarsh and Mr Gumley suffered from schizophrenia and substance abuse.
Ms Melouney said it was likely that Hindmarsh’s mental health issues would play a large role in determining how the court matter proceeded in the future, flagging the possibility that he could be declared mentally unfit to enter a formal plea and face a trial.
Magistrate Michael Stoddart made a recommendation that Hindmarsh be referred to Justice Health while on remand.
A post-mortem will be carried out on Mr Gumley’s body to determine the exact cause of death.
The case will return to court on October 1.