Exterior of Lismore Base Hospital.
Exterior of Lismore Base Hospital. Cathy Adams

Parents' killer found not guilty due to psychosis

A MAN who shot both his parents to death with a 12 gauge pump-action shotgun has been found not guilty of murder due to a mental illness first diagnosed at Lismore Base Hospital.

Scott Settree entered a not guilty plea but admitted to slaying his parents Donald and Margaret Settree at their home in Cobar in central western New South Wales.

NSW Supreme Court Justice Stephen Campbell said there was no dispute that Settree shot his mother and then his father in the house he shared with them after a minor argument on December 3, 2014.

"This disagreement was about Mr Settree drinking a bottle of his father's wine without permission," Justice Campbell said.

When his father protested over the missing wine, Settree became angry and left the house to withdraw $40 - the value of the bottle.

"He returned home still clearly angry and said to his father, 'there's your $40 stick it up your arse'," Justice Campbell said.

"Mr Settree then started to throttle his father, but promptly released his grip, saying, 'You're not worth it'."

Donald complained to his wife who told Settree to pack up his things and leave.

Settree went to his bedroom, grabbed his pump-action shotgun from his cupboard and walked to the lounge room.

He saw his mother and shot her in the neck.

"He later told police that he experienced a sensation of relief," Justice Campbell said.

He reloaded the gun by its pump action and approached his father, who screamed and put his hands in the air.

Settree shot his father twice, in the chest and head.

He told investigating police that once again he felt a feeling of relief and release.

"After the shootings the accused went back to the local hotel where he had been drinking earlier in accordance with his normal routine," Justice Campbell said.

The publican Ashleigh Bellotti, a retired police officer, served him a beer.

Settree said to him: "Ash, Ash, I have to tell you something ... just done the most stupid thing in my life".

He confessed to shooting his parents and told Mr Bellotti he had left the shotgun on the kitchen table.

He was arrested and taken to Cobar Police Station.

"Both expert psychiatrists Dr (Anthony) Samuels and Dr (Olav) Nielssen are of the opinion that the accused at the time could not think rationally about his conduct due to a disease of the mind such that he could not determine right from wrong," Justice Campbell said.

Settree was 31 years old when he had his first interaction with mental health services in August 1999.

Lismore Base Hospital notes record a provisional diagnosis of underlying psychosis or drug-induced psychosis.

He had been using marijuana and methamphetamine over a four-month period before going to hospital with symptoms of paranoia, delusional thinking and visual and auditory hallucinations.

He initially refused to take the drug prescribed to him, believing it to be heroin and an attempt to poison him.

"His presentation at Lismore was brought about by a bad trip of speed 10 weeks earlier," Justice Campbell said.

"It is very significant that the symptoms not only persisted, but worsened after he ceased using the drug.

"His symptoms included frank paranoia involving a conviction that people 'were interfering with him'.

"That people had intruded his house at night, and had 'bugged' the home, the phone and the family car.

"He was so paranoid that he was wandering the property, armed, at night to ward off these non-existent intruders."

His poor mental health continued to varying degrees, including delusions he was in a romantic relationship with actress Penelope Cruz and other performers including Olivia Newton-John and Jennifer Lopez.

"While his mental illness in 1999 appeared to be instigated by the accused's use of methamphetamine, his delusions, paranoia and intense resentment did not abate with his desistance from illicit substance use and alcohol consumption," the court heard.

Justice Campbell said he was convinced Settree was locked in a schizophrenic delusion at the time he shot his parents.

He ordered him to be detained in a correctional centre or mental health unit until the Mental Health Review Tribunal deemed him fit to return to society, if that time ever arrived.

Settree also pleaded guilty to unlawfully possessing a firearm and was sentenced to 18 months in prison, backdated to end on June 2.

"Mr Settree may not walk free from this court. It is apparent to me from the evidence I have received that his particular disease is a serious illness which is likely to remain resistant to treatment," Justice Campbell said. -ARM NEWSDESK

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