A Barrack Heights woman who attacked her friend’s elderly grandmother because she thought she was a vampire has been found not guilty of the assault due to mental illness.
Two treating psychiatrists agreed mother of two Donna Lewis, 41, was ‘‘acutely psychotic’’ when she turned up at the 79-year-old’s Lake Illawarra home twice in the early hours of May 3 last year and threatened to kill her.
Brandishing a knife, Lewis forced her way into the home, slashing the flyscreen door before using the aluminium frame it sat in to repeatedly assault the elderly woman.
The frenzied attack ended as abruptly as it had begun, with Lewis all of a sudden stopping and walking from the house.
When police arrived a short time later, Lewis told them, ‘‘I killed her. I killed the vampire. I just stabbed and killed the vampire.’’
Wollongong District Court judge Paul Conlon yesterday found Lewis not guilty on two charges of aggravated break and enter (with assault) and damaging property, accepting the psychiatrists’ evidence that she was mentally ill at the time.
He said he was also satisfied that Lewis no longer posed a threat to the public, provided she continue taking prescribed medication and see her treating psychiatrist.
The court heard Lewis had a history of mental illness, having suffered a breakdown in 1998 and post-natal depression in 2004.
She had smoked cannabis for about two years but had increased her consumption in the six months prior to the assault following distressing incidents at her workplace.
Lewis’s husband said she had become increasingly agitated and irrational in the days leading up to the psychotic episode, and went to stay with her friend, the victim’s granddaughter, only hours before she committed the crime.
Judge Conlon was yesterday given written reports from psychiatrists Olav Nielssen and Bruce Westmore, who assessed Lewis in January and March, respectively.
Dr Olav Nielssen suggested Lewis suffered from either a relapsing psychotic illness or a schizo-affective disorder, which he said at the time he saw her was in partial remission.
He believed her daily abuse of cannabis at the time probably contributed to triggering the psychotic ‘‘episode’’ she experienced.
Dr Westmore said he was of the opinion Lewis was ‘‘suffering from a disease of the mind which totally deprived her of the capacity to know that she ought not do the act which led to the current charges’’.
‘‘She was acting on delusional beliefs and influenced by auditory hallucinations,’’ he said.
Lewis’s matter will return to court later this month where final orders will be made regarding her future treatment.
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