Man on trial for NSW health nurse's murder

Greta Stonehouse
·2-min read

A Sydney man who stabbed his community health nurse to death was suffering from a longstanding mental illness, a court has heard.

Peter John Kemball, 41, has pleaded not guilty on the grounds of mental illness for the murder of Stephen James Douglas on November 28, 2019.

The 62-year-old registered nurse and had been assigned as Kemball's case manager while working for the Camperdown Community mental health team.

Police officers arrested Kemball in his Balmain East home after he stabbed Mr Douglas "a large number of times", crown prosecutor Pat Barrett told the NSW Supreme Court on Monday.

Kemball appeared via video link from Silverwater's mental health ward and has remained in custody since the attack.

Two separate psychiatric reports concluded Kemball was in the throes of either schizophrenia, or schizo-affective disorder, preventing him from understanding his conduct was both legally and morally wrong, Mr Barrett said.

Kemball was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in his 20s, and has undergone a number of community treatment orders over the years before his latest expired at the beginning of 2019.

His defence lawyer said there was no dispute of the physical elements of the offence, and the only issue was determining if Kemball was suffering a disease of the mind at the time of the assault.

Helen Shaw said in the lead-up to the assault Kemball's family and neighbours had noticed his mental health had deteriorated.

He had expressed delusional sentiments such as believing his parents were politicians who were ruining his life, was speaking "jibberish" and changed his locks for fear of being spied on.

Despite his use of alcohol and cannabis at the time of the attack, his pre-existing mental illness was not transient, and caused such a defect of reasoning he did not know the nature of what he was doing, she said.

Justice Peter Johnson is due to hand down his verdict in the judge-alone trial on November 4.