A man who bludgeoned to death a woman at Kempsey District Hospital last
year has been found not guilty of murder on the basis of a mental illness
blamed partly on chronic marijuana use.

Victor Trimarchi will not be released from a psychiatric institution until
the Mental Health Review Tribunal is satisfied he no longer poses a risk to
the community or himself.

The NSW Supreme Court was told there was no debate between the prosecution
and the defence that Trimarchi had a severe mental illness when he bashed
Eunice Benedek, 73, to death with a coffee table.

Psychiatric reports tendered for the case said Trimarchi was suffering
schizophrenia and in the middle of an acute psychotic episode when Ms
Benedek was killed on July 3 last year.

Trimarchi had shown severe paranoia and spoken of hearing voices. On July 2
he told his wife he needed to collect 11 apostles to help him save the
world and would start a sect called the Creators. Later he threatened to
kill her with a machete.

Accompanied by police to hospital later that day, he attacked two nurses
during the night before locking himself in a ward with Ms Benedek, and
killed her, believing she was obeying the devil, or an alien, the court heard.

Soon after, he terrorised a woman who lived nearby, ripping a security door
from her house and threatening to kill her.

Justice Graham Barr said Trimarchi had used marijuana since he was 14 and
had become a heavy user.
A Long Bay psychiatrist, Tony Mastroianni, said
Trimarchi had at least a seven-year history of schizophrenia, "exacerbated
by his chronic marijuana dependence disorder".

"It is as yet unclear whether his mental illness was caused rather than
only exacerbated by his marijuana abuse."

He had no criminal history and had not been treated for mental illness
before last July. His illness was against a background of "chronic low
self-esteem, anxiety and recurrent depression arising from chronic
childhood traumas", Dr Mastroianni said.

The case comes amid growing concern among doctors that the increasing trend
of regular, heavy cannabis use is linked to mental health problems,
including depression, psychosis and suicide.
The mother of Marcel Mitton, a
man who died at Bondi last month, claimed cannabis contributed towards his

One of the nurses bashed during Trimarchi's rampage called yesterday for
the Kempsey District Hospital's voluntary psychiatric unit to be reopened.
Authorities ordered it shut after Ms Benedek's death.

Val Hyland, 61, who has impaired vision in one eye and pain from multiple
facial fractures sustained when Trimarchi attacked her, said the unit was
badly needed. "It's a voluntary unit; it's needed by other people."

But the head of mental health services in NSW, Professor Beverley Raphael,
said the unit was neither safe nor appropriate.
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D

Newshawk: Joe Adams
Pubdate: Sat, 16 Feb 2002
Source: Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
Copyright: 2002 The Sydney Morning Herald
Author: Sarah Crichton and Mark Robinson