Mentally ill woman not guilty of “lethal act”
SHOCKED motorists watched as a Ford Falcon station wagon overtook them at tremendous speed on the Pacific Highway, their cars shuddering as it flew past.
The Ford's driver, Vanessa Fraser, was haunted by demons.
For the last two days her recurrent bouts of severe delusions had become overwhelming. Now, on the morning of Friday, January 6 2017, she believed she had to drive as fast as possible to the Tweed River bridge to "save people's souls".
A total stranger, motorcyclist Trevor William Moran, was the tragic victim of Ms Fraser's deathly delusions
Driving at estimated speed of 180-200kmh, Ms Fraser covered a distance of 30km - from Ewingsdale to Cudgera Creek - in just 10 minutes.
A few metres beyond the Cudgera Creek overpass she drove into the back of Mr Moran's motorcycle at high speed, killing him.
Today, the 49-year-old was found not guilty of the murder of Mr Moran due to mental illness.
Supreme Court Justice Des Fagan ruled that Ms Fraser intentionally crashed her Ford Falcon station wagon into Mr Moran's Harley Davidson.
But Justice Fagan said Ms Fraser "laboured under such a defect of reason that she did not know the quality of her actions" at the time.
The court heard that Ms Fraser had suffered with worsening mental illness since 2003 and since 2012 had suffered from "recurrent episodes of delusional and manic behaviour".
Throughout 2015 and 2016 she was admitted to mental health units in Tweed and Lismore suffering paranoid delusions, psychosis, mania and sleeplessness.
Justice Fagan said after each new episode, Ms Fraser had demonstrated a "recurrent failure" to stick to her medication.
The court heard that Ms Fraser had not slept for several days before the crash and was experiencing paranoid delusions. On January 5, Ms Fraser told her landlord she was being "psychically attacked" after leaving the Girards Hill home in disarray.
At 1.15am in the next morning she turned up to the Sofitel Broadbeach hotel on the Gold Coast. The night manager was concerned for her welfare and called an ambulance, but Ms Fraser was aggressive and uncooperative when paramedics arrived and sped away in her car.
At about 8.20am, a motorist driving north on the Pacific Highway near Ewingsdale watched as Ms Fraser's Falcon station wagon sped past them at 180-200 km/h.
The court heard that she was "compelled by her delusions and voices to drive to the Tweed bridge as soon as possible to save people's souls".
After the crash, she told police she had been "possessed".
"It was like something took control of the car," she said.
"I'm sure I've had people possessing me for years."
"I remember the car didn't have any control, and the car was going so fast… and then swerved and hit the motorbike, but I had no control, it was driving itself.
The court heard Ms Fraser had been a chronic cannabis user, telling a psychiatrist in 2012 she had smoked 1-2g of cannabis a day for 15-20 years.
Justice Fagan said the "potential for tragedy" from mental illness was ever present.
"This case shows that a patient displaying episodic psychosis may not present a high risk to public safety yet may commit a lethal act behind the wheel of a car."
Ms Fraser will be detained in custody until a separate Mental Health Review Tribunal is satisfied she poses no danger to herself or the community.
A LISMORE woman who intentionally rammed a motorcyclist at high speed on the Pacific Highway while suffering paranoid delusions will be found not guilty of murder by way of mental illness, a court has heard.
Supreme Court Justice Des Fagan will formally hand down his decision this afternoon over the January 2016 death of 61-year-old father of three Trevor Moran on the Pacific Highway at Cudgera Creek.
Justice Fagan told the court this morning it was "fairly obvious" that murder-accused Vanessa Fraser was suffering from mental illness on the morning of January 6 when Mr Moran's life was cruelly taken in an instant.
"Where the evidence really leads to is a finding of not guilty by way reasons of mental illness," he said.
However, under the laws relating to mental health Ms Fraser is likely to be detained in custody until the Mental Health Review Tribunal is satisfied she does not pose a danger to herself or others.
Justice Fagan said she would likely not be officially detained as an offender, but "processes must be followed to protect the community".
The court has heard that Ms Fraser had a history of non-compliance of mental health treatment orders.
Justice Fagan said while a person with Ms Fraser's illness might not manifest regular symptoms of dangerous tendencies, "such a person behind a one tonne piece of steel travelling at 100kmh is lethal".
"That's the very sad reality of such a case," he said.
Justice Fagan said his ruling must ensure that "as far as humanely possible she does not continue to be a risk to the community".
Justice Fagan earlier accepted statements from the family of Mr Moran and said it was clear his untimely death had a "devastating impact" on his loved ones.
Mr Moran's three adult children now in their late 20s and early 30s, were present during yesterday's proceedings. His daughter was in court today.
Justice Fagan said he would give full and detailed reasons for his decision after 2pm.