'Traumatised' ex-ADF soldier Robert Ennew avoids jail over Wollongong stabbing

A traumatised army veteran who repeatedly stabbed his neighbour’s boyfriend after listening to the pair’s “relentless” domestic disputes has avoided time behind bars.

Former Australian Defence Force soldier Robert Kevin Ennew was suffering from service-induced post-traumatic stress disorder and experiencing flashbacks to a traumatic childhood when he launched a “frenzied” attacked on the victim out the front of the Kembla Street apartment block on November 2 last year.

Ennew had confronted the man and accused him of trespassing, prompting a violent struggle that ended with Ennew slashing the man on the arm, ear and finger with a small black knife.

The victim later underwent surgery in hospital.

Ennew was arrested and charged with reckless wounding, to which he pleaded guilty.

He told a psychologist ahead of his sentencing hearing that he had grown increasingly concerned for the welfare of his female neighbour and was in a heightened state of fear in the months leading up to the stabbing.

He said he had reported the couple’s altercations to authorities multiple times and even tried to intervene himself but his actions had proven fruitless in protecting the woman.

He said the couple’s constant arguing gave him flashbacks to the domestic violence he had witnessed as a child and described the woman’s partner as a “carbon-copy” of his own father.

He also admitted to having trouble adjusting to civilian life after his time in the army.

However, the court heard even that experience had taken a heavy toll on his mental health, as he struggled to deal with the suicide death of a fellow soldier, as well as claims of bullying and humiliation from superior officers while on deployment in East Timor.

“PTSD and associated traumatic memories have contributed significantly to the offender’s use of significant force to protect himself and others during this incident,” the psychologist report concluded.

Imposing a 20-month suspend sentence, Judge Mark Marien said he accepted there was a “causal link” between Ennew’s mental health and his offending.

He also found Ennew had good prospects of rehabilitation and was at a low risk of re-offending.