The failures of the WA mental health system were to blame for the deaths of two respected WA academics killed by their son while he was in the grip of a psychotic episode, the man's family said yesterday.
Speaking after a Hobart jury found Nicolau Francisco Soares not guilty of the double murder of Del Weston and Gavin Mooney on the grounds of insanity, his siblings reiterated their enduring love for their brother and said their parents' desperate pleas for help had been ignored.
The jury deliberated for a little more than an hour in the Tasmanian Supreme Court before finding Mr Soares was not criminally responsible for the deaths of Dr Weston and Professor Mooney on December 18, 2012.
Mr Soares was experiencing paranoid delusions and grandiose beliefs, symptoms of an acute psychotic episode caused by his long-standing schizophrenia, when he took a claw hammer and block splitter from the garage of the couple's isolated Mountain River property in Tasmania, and bludgeoned them to death.
His half-sister Katherine Weston quietly cried in the public gallery after the verdicts were delivered and his younger brother Alexander Soares appeared overwhelmed with relief.
Mental Health Minister Helen Morton extended her condolences to the Soares family, describing the case as a tragedy that sadly reflected the devastating effects that could result from complex, long-term mental illness.
"As noted in court, Mr Soares has a long-term schizophrenic illness, which at times, required involuntary care," Mrs Morton said. "He has received ongoing treatment from the Department of Health, including medication and support in the community.
"During the month of November, unsuccessful attempts were made by the Department of Health to contact Mr Soares. It wasn't until December when contact was re-established by a family member that the department became aware of his whereabouts and sought to link Mr Soares with local supports in Tasmania."
Mr Soares did not deny inflicting the catastrophic and fatal head injuries on the couple as they sat down to their evening meal. But he pleaded not guilty to the two counts of murder on the basis that the symptoms of his schizophrenia deprived him of the capacity to understand what he was doing was wrong.
The court was told of desperate efforts by Dr Weston and Professor Mooney to get Mr Soares help and their futile bids to fill a prescription for his antipsychotic medication, which he had stopped taking months earlier, on the day of their deaths.
In uncontested evidence, Tasmanian forensic mental health services clinical director Michael Jordan told the jury that Mr Soares feared his mother and stepfather were going to force him to resume taking medication and again have him involuntarily committed to psychiatric care.
Dr Jordan said Mr Soares was motivated by the deluded belief that he was going to join the Australian army's special forces unit and feared the actions of Dr Weston and Professor Mooney would jeopardise that goal. "It was his aim to maim and kill his mother and stepfather as quickly as possible," Dr Jordan told the jury.
But Dr Jordan said it was beyond doubt that Mr Soares was incapable of appreciating that his acts were ones that he ought not be doing.
Justice David Porter remanded Mr Soares in custody until next month, ordering psychiatric reports on options for dealing with him under laws for mentally impaired defendants.