‘I’ve just been struck in the head with an axe’
THE VICTIM of a violent axe attack at a suburban Sydney 7-Eleven last year has told a court how he had a feeling of foreboding before Evie Amati brought an axe down on his head and he bled so much he thought he was going to die.
Ben Rimmer told Ms Amati's trial that he had been drinking beer with friends at a nearby hotel until 2am on January 7 last year when he decided to get a pie.
He went to the convenience store at Enmore and was waiting in line to pay for his pie when a woman carrying an axe in both her hands, which he thought "was a prop, something left over from a fancy dress party".
Mr Rimmer said the woman came up to him and "stood very close to me".
"I just remember having an ill feeling, something wasn't quite right … I felt threatened," he told the court.
"I turned away and then I was struck, I was hit across the face, over my nose. It was like being king hit. Then I stood up, the blood, I was bleeding profusely.
"I started to panic. I thought I was going to bleed out. I took my shirt off and tied it round my head to stem the flow."
Dramatic audio of what ensued was heard in court when Crown Prosecutor Daniel McMahon played the triple-0 call by the convenience store attendant Haider Butt.
In the call Mr Butt can be heard breathing heavily and a panicked Mr Rimmer yelling in the background.
Mr Rimmer told the court he had a heated exchange with Mr Butt who had thought the woman carrying the axe had come in with him.
"No, no I thought she was with you," Mr Butt can be heard shouting at Mr Rimmer who is yelling in the background, then telling the emergency responder about the woman "she was with an axe … two people".
Asked how bad was the bleeding, Mr Butt responded, "very bad".
The second customer attacked in the 7-Eleven, Sharon Hacker, gave a recreation of her seeing the accused swinging the axe "with a lower lateral flick" at a man in the street after she had attacked Ms Hacker.
Ms Hacker said she was unaware of Mr Rimmer being attacked, but heard a "little bit of giggling" behind her.
She said she had gone to the store to buy milk because she need caffeine to keep her awake to do chores ahead of flying out of Sydney.
After paying for the milk, she was getting her change into her wallet.
"I heard a sound like a 'whoomp'," Ms Hacker told the court.
"I became aware of a sensation, of feeling really, really strongly in my head.
"I saw a woman in her 20s … carrying an axe with a wooden handle.
"That's when I realised, oh, okay, I've just been struck in the head with an axe."
Lying half in and half out of the shop's door, Ms Hacker said she watched the woman swing the axe at the man in the street.
In the aftermath, Mr Rimmer "was at that point hysterical". Ms Hacker said she could think and see but "I had absolutely no sensation in my body".
"Then … my head started throbbing," she said.
To this day, Ms Hacker says she has nerve pain and cannot sleep, sit or stand for longer than a couple of hours.
Ms Amati's barrister Charles Waterstreet described his client's actions as "horrible" but said she did not intend them and was mentally ill at the time.
Mr Waterstreet said Ms Amati's purchase of the axe she used to attack three people was "completely and utterly innocent" and for the purpose of breaking up an old couch.
But on January 7 last year she had "lost her mind" with "demons … possessing her".
Describing Ms Amati as "a woman of very good character … of considerable intelligence not an axe murderer", Mr Waterstreet said Ms Amati had severe depression and had been suicidal.
He said she had "excruciating" physical and psychiatric pain from a gender reassignment operation she'd travelled to Thailand with her family to have, and had "resorted to taking cannabis".
He said before her gender reassignment, Ms Amity had been known as Karl Amati, had worked as a unionist for seven years, and was "brilliant" intellectually.
But after becoming a woman, she had increased her cannabis use and took both antidepressants and female hormones.
However, he said Ms Amati was "dead set against any amphetamines" and had "unwittingly" taken some on the night of the attack which adversely affected her.
On the night, three types of "feminising hormones", cannabis, MDA and alcohol was "a toxic mixture on a fragile mind" which had resulted in "a gory, gory scene".
Mr Waterstreet said he would call psychiatrists who would testify Ms Amati had been in "a toxic delirium" and a "drug-induced psychosis".
He said she had tried to take her life twice since the surgery and had believed on the night a potential girlfriend thought she was "too ugly".
Earlier, the court heard Ms Amati had posted disturbing messages on Facebook less than an hour before she swung the 2kg axe at the heads of two 7-Eleven customers.
It was claimed she changed her Facebook status to read, "humans are only able to destroy or hate so that is what I shall do", and at 1.13am on January 7, also sent a Facebook message to a woman she thought had rejected her saying "one day I am going to kill a lot of people".
She allegedly also wrote a Facebook message saying "some people deserve to die. I hate people" and "I know where you live haha".
Within 67 minutes of writing that message, Ms Amati had armed herself with the axe and an 18cm long knife and entered Enmore 7-Eleven and launched the attacks, it was alleged in the NSW District Court on Monday.
The trial of Ms Amati, now aged 26, on six charges including two of causing wounding or grievous bodily harm with intent to murder and one of attempting to do so, has opened in Sydney's Downing Centre Court.
Crown prosecutor Daniel McMahon told the jury that there was no dispute that Ms Amati had wounded or caused grievous bodily harm to two 7-Eleven customers in Sydney's inner west in the early hours of a Saturday morning last year.
Ms Amati glanced at relatives in court on Monday when she appeared dressed in a yellow and white striped top, dark jacket and wearing white button earrings.
Her dark hair was cut short on one side with a long sweep of hair down one side of her face, which was devoid of make-up.
The jury of eight men and four women heard that Ms Amati walked into the convenience store armed with the axe, the knife in her back pocket, at 2.19am after walking 450m on foot from her Enmore home where she had been listening to a song "with dark themes".
Ms Amati had been out drinking and taking drugs with three other women but had left her companions and gone home before entering the 7-Eleven.
"She did all of the store, passing (customer) Ben Rimmer before approaching the vicinity of the checkout," Mr McMahon told the jury in his opening address.
"Ben Rimmer was queued up behind (the second customer) Sharon Hacker.
"Ben Rimmer and the accused exchanged a few words during which he briefly touched the axe she is holding in front of her body, waist height with two hands.
"The accused brings the axe around her right shoulder and swings from left to right at Ben Rimmer's head."
Mr McMahon said the axe blow broke Mr Rimmer's eye socket, cheek bone and caused a 10cm wound from the bridge of his nose to the left eyelid, and "the force knocks him to the ground".
He said Ms Amati then turned her attention to Sharon Hacker who was apparently unaware of the attack on Mr Rimmer and was leaving the shop.
Ms Amati then brings the axe around and "swings with both hands a forceful blow to the back of the head at the base of the skull", Mr McMahon said.
Ms Hacker fell forward heavily to the ground and "the accused attempts to bring the axe down forcefully on Ms Hacker on the ground".
The blow kissed Ms Hacker but cut half way through the shoulder strap if her bag, causing another customer at a petrol browser to hear a sound "like a balloon popping".
Ms Hacker suffered "a fracture to the base of the skull" but her "very thick bundle of dreadlocks down her head and neck cushioned the impact of the blow somewhat".
Mr McMahon said Ms Amati then stepped over Ms Hacker on the ground and walked up Stanmore Road, discarding her earphones and the kitchen knife.
A man called Shane Redwood was walking along the road and had seen something happening in the 7-Eleven and removed his backpack as Ms Amati approached with the axe.
Mr Redwood uses his backpack "to block the accused's first attempt to strike him with the axe … from the right side to the left with both hands".
"She was putting a lot of force into that blow," Mr McMahon said.
Mr McMahon said the second swing knocked the backpack from Mr Redwood's hands and caused pain in his thumbs.
He then "ran across the road as fast as he could … he suffers from a disability".
Mr McMahon told the jury that the accused Ms Amati was a 26-year-old transgender woman who at the time of the axe attack suffered "from gender dysphoria and a depressive disorder with … suicidal or homicidal ideation".
He said that in March 2016 Ms Amati had been "fantasising about ending her life in a blaze of violence" and "wanted to twist people's necks on the bus".
He told the court Ms Amati had bought the axe in early December 2016 and sent a message on Facebook Messenger to woman she had a romantic interest in saying: "OMG I just destroyed an old couch with a new axe. It was incredibly satisfying. It gives me ideas haha."
When that woman updated her Facebook relationship status to say she was now with a man, Ms Amati unfriended her.
On the night of January 6 last year, Ms Amati engaged in a drinking game with female friends and they each took what they thought was an MDMA tablet, but which was in fact MDA.
The axe attack followed and paramedics called to the 7-Eleven found Ms Amati in a front garden of a nearby house.
Mr McMahon said although she appeared comatose to one witness he would call other medical staff who would say her "initial presentation of unconsciousness was not genuine".
He said that Ms Amati's defence of an underlying mental illness would be disputed by Crown witnesses.
He would call forensic psychiatrist Dr Yvonne Skinner who would say that "anger and homicidal" fantasies underlay any drug or alcohol intoxication at the time of the attacks.
Ms Amati is also on trial for one count each of wound with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, cause grievous bodily harm with intent, and attempt to cause wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
The trial continues before Judge Mark Williams in the NSW District Court