National

WA murder acquittal due to ‘unsound mind’

By AAP Newswire

A man who stabbed a mental health support worker in the neck after she failed to reciprocate his romantic feelings has been acquitted of murder, with a Perth judge ruling he was of unsound mind.

Shannon Scott Westerman Smith, 38, stood trial in the WA Supreme Court charged with murdering Jacqueline Lynn Francis, 50, with a kitchen knife outside his Rockingham flat in October 2018.

The mother-of-three drove herself to a nearby cafe for help and was rushed to hospital where she died.

Smith, whose history of psychiatric illness dates back to when he was 19, has been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder.

Justice Bruno Fiannaca presided over the trial without a jury and said in his judgment on Friday that Smith's mind was acutely disordered at the time of the killing.

"Although it cannot be known precisely what precipitated the violent attack, I am satisfied that the accused was incapable of thinking rationally of the reasons which would lead ordinary people to consider the act right or wrong by ordinary standards, as opposed to the law," he said.

"He was deprived of the capacity to know that he ought not to do the act that resulted in the death."

Ms Francis worked for Neami National and Smith became her client in February 2018.

Smith later confessed romantic feelings for Ms Francis, saying he wanted to kiss her, but she did not reciprocate and said he would need to get a new support worker.

The court heard Ms Francis visited Smith's home on the day she died because she was concerned his mental health was deteriorating.

Smith later told his father over the phone that he did not know why he stabbed Ms Francis.

Justice Fiannaca described the case as tragic, saying Ms Francis had lost her life while acting with compassion and found herself in an "imperfect storm".

He made a custody order, which means Smith will be held indefinitely in a secure mental health facility.

Outside court, Ms Francis' cousin Scherri Davenhill said the family believed the system had failed them.

"We hope that changes can be made to prevent this from happening to any other family," she said.