The victim Michael Corkhill has been described in court as ‘a capable, caring and very professional employee and a gentle person’.
The victim Michael Corkhill has been described in court as ‘a capable, caring and very professional employee and a gentle person’.

Killer not guilty due to insanity

MENTAL HEALTH worker Michael Corkhill died violently at the hands of a mentally ill client in Lismore who bashed, then stabbed him with a knife and a broom handle before stomping on him.

Mr Corkhill's killer, David Regan Rodriguez, of East Lismore, has been found not guilty of murder by Supreme Court Justice J Johnson on the grounds of his mental illness under the Mental Health Act (Forensic Provisions).

In the judge-alone Sydney trial, the Justice ordered Rodriguez to be detained (indefinitely) in Long Bay Prison Hospital. His case will be reviewed periodically by the Mental Health Review Tribunal.

Rodriguez, then aged 28, pleaded not guilty to the murder on June 27 last year, and elected through his lawyer Hugh van Dugteren to be tried by Judge alone.

After consulting the findings of two psychiatrists, who both held the view that at the time of the murder Rodriguez was experiencing delusional thoughts and disordered beliefs, the Justice found he suffered a psychiatric illness, namely a schizo-affective disorder, dating back to 1998.

He had at least 13 admissions to various psychiatric hospitals, 11 of which have been to Lismore Base Hospital.

Rodriguez was a client of HASI, which is part of the services provided by On Track Community Programs Inc, a not-for-profit organisation that provides services and support to people with disabilities and mental health issues.

Since 1998 Rodriguez's treatment also included electro-convulsive therapy and he has a history of illicit substance abuse including amphetamines, LSD and cannabis.

On Track also ran the Mental Health Accommodation Rehabilitation Service (MHARS) that employed Mr Corkhill.

Justice Johnson stated that with a diploma in theology Mr Corkhill was regarded by his employer and peers as 'a capable, caring and very professional employee and a gentle person'.

His Justice said it was important that the community understands the effect of the findings and orders.

He ordered Rodriguez be held under the supervision of the Mental Health Review Tribunal.

His Justice said he would not be released until the tribunal was satisfied that his safety or that of any member of the public, would not be seriously endangered by his release.

Mr Corkhill's murder took place just four days after Rodriguez was released from Richmond Clinic (the Adult Mental Health Inpatient Unit at Lismore Base Hospital) where he had been a patient for four weeks.

It was reported that just before the admission Rodriguez was fighting with a neighbour, not sleeping, and had struck a person in the street with a cricket bat. He was also expressing paranoid thoughts about his girlfriend's infidelity, a woman also affected by mental illness.

Mr Corkhill died about 8pm on June 27 last year at Rodriguez's home in Marlyn Avenue East Lismore, a unit provided by North Coast Community Housing.

Mr Corkhill went to Rodriguez's home that night to give his girlfriend her medication.

In his finding, Justice Johnson said: "The evidence demonstrates clearly that the accused was in an exceptionally poor mental state.

An argument began between him and Mr Corkhill and neighbours could hear his raised voice and a woman screaming.

The accused, in a delusional state, believed Mr Corkhill was there to kidnap his girlfriend.

His confused allegations concerned Mr Corkhill's sexuality and the perception that Mr Corkill aimed to abduct the woman..

On the front porch the accused punched Mr Corkhill in the face and body a number of times.

The attack included fist blows, then Rodriguez stomped on Mr Corkhill as he lay on the ground.

He then used a broom handle and a knife to stab Mr Corkhill.

Court evidence states the man's distressed girlfriend took a taxi to the refuge and told a nurse her boyfriend 'has attacked Michael'.

At 8.20pm Mr Corkhill's killer walked to a house in Paunelle Avenue and knocked on the kitchen window.

He told the residents (who he did not know) that there was a dead body down the road.

"Tell the police there is a guy trying to take my girlfriend," he said.The post-mortem identified the cause of death as 'blunt trauma to head and stab wound to chest'.

It was also evidence before the Supreme Court that Rodriguez had only just begun a new 'recovery program' on June 25, according to a statement from Peter Mitchell, a Mental Health Support Worker with HASI.

Rodriguez had been prescribed a fortnightly injection of antipsychotic, Haldol and two daily doses of mood stabiliser, lithium.

Justice Johnson said a police interview with Rodriguez provided 'stark and near contemporaneous evidence of the thought processes' present soon after he had killed Mr Corkhill.

"That his thought processes at the time were delusional is borne out by the words spoken by him," His Justice stated.

His Justice found: "I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that each of the elements of the crime of murder have been established in this case. I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the accused intended to kill Mr Corkhill."

He found the defence of mental illness had also been established.

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