Workmate stabbed chef 'out of the blue'

A Newcastle kitchen hand who plunged a knife into a chef's chest after hitting her across the head with a frypan claims he was mentally ill and did not know what he was doing was wrong.

Chef Ebony Dee later stumbled out of the Mayfield cafe with the knife still embedded in her body and collapsed before being rushed to John Hunter Hospital where doctors removed the knife.

New Zealand national Adrian Stratton, 25, pleaded not guilty in the Newcastle District Court on Tuesday to one count of causing grievous bodily harm with intent to murder and one alternative count of causing grievous bodily harm with intent.

Stratton admitted attacking Ms Dee but claimed he had been suffering mental health impairment.

Judge Roy Ellis accepted the opinions from two psychiatrists that Stratton was most likely experiencing schizophrenia and paranoid delusions when he attacked Ms Dee.

The judge said Stratton had been working as a kitchen hand at the Onyx Expresso Bar about 2.30pm on May 12 last year when he grabbed a frying pan hanging on the wall and approached Ms Dee from behind when she was washing her hands in the kitchen sink.

Stratton struck Ms Dee two or three times across the head with the pan, leaving her dazed and disoriented.

Ms Dee turned to face Stratton and saw he had an aggressive look on his face.

Judge Ellis said Stratton and Ms Dee had previously worked well together on at least 10 occasions during the previous month and appeared to have had a reasonably good professional relationship with no signs of any conflict.

He said from Ms Dee's point of view, the attack "came completely out of the blue".

After hitting Ms Dee with the pan, Stratton pulled a 20cm knife from a nearby utensil tray and attempted to stab the terrified chef.

Ms Dee had used the knife frequently when cooking and had sharpened it earlier that day.

"They were facing one another and she (Ms Dee) used her hands and arms to block the stabs," the judge said.

"The accused (Stratton) continued to make stabbing and slashing motions, connecting with the victim's arms and hands causing various lacerations. During all this, she was crying out for help."

Judge Ellis said Stratton then stabbed Ms Dee in the upper right chest area and left the knife embedded in her body.

Ms Dee managed to get to the rear courtyard before Stratton tried to hit her several times with a fire extinguisher.

Stratton left the cafe and Ms Dee staggered outside onto Maitland Road and collapsed. She underwent emergency surgery and doctors found no injury to her heart but she had suffered lung lacerations.

Judge Ellis handed down a special verdict under the Mental Health and Cognitive Impairment Forensics Provisions Act, finding the attack had been proven but Stratton had no criminal responsibility because he was mentally ill at the time.

He ordered Stratton remain in custody until his case was referred to the Mental Health Review Tribunal to determine his future.

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