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Afghan asylum seeker who stabbed a backpacker 10 times at a Perth hostel is found not guilty due to ‘mental illness’

An Afghan refugee convicted criminal who stabbed a backpacker in a savage unprovoked attack in a Perth hostel kitchen has been found not guilty of attempted murder on mental health grounds.

Western Australian Supreme Justice Natalie Whitby this week decided Afghanistan-born Liaqat Ali Zahidi, 30, was “more likely than not” mentally impaired at the time of the stabbing, which left his 27-year-old victim with horrific injuries to his neck, torso, chest and buttocks.

Two psychiatrists told the court it was their opinion that Zahidi was deprived of the capacity to control his actions by undiagnosed and untreated mental illnesses, including depression, schizophrenia and PTSD.

“Therefore, I find that the accused cannot be considered criminally responsible for his actions and must be found not guilty on account of unsoundness of mind,” Justice Whitby ruled.

Zahidi’s frenzied attack at Koala Backpackers in East Perth on September 8, 2021, was caught on CCTV which showed the victim trying to flee as Zahidi chased him around the kitchen and stabbed him 10 times with a butcher’s knife.

Liaqat Ali Zahidi moments before his savage attack on a fellow backpacker (WA Supreme Court)

The victim, who did not know Zahidi, could be heard shouting “what did I do?” as he tried desperately to get away, before eventually managing to escape. He miraculously survived after undergoing emergency surgery.

The CCTV footage then shows Zahidi, who did not speak during the attack, walk calmly to the kitchen sink where he washed his hands and the knife.

Zahidi, who had lived in the hostel on and off for 18 months, had been the subject of complaints from other residents and was given notice to leave two days before the attack.

Justice Whitby ordered he be subject to a custody order, meaning he will remain behind bars while the Mentally Impaired Review Board determines when and if he can be released.

The court heard Zahidi came to Australia by boat as an asylum seeker from Afghanistan when he was 16 and had witnessed Taliban murders.

He was later granted permanent residency and worked as a truck driver, but ended up behind bars after being charged with trespassing and stealing, and breaching his bail.

The psychiatrists told the court his mental illnesses were triggered by his first stint in jail.

While in Hakea Prison Zahidi was assaulted and hospitalised days after discovering his cellmate Alf Eades’ body in a pool of blood.

Eades died in hospital after being bashed by four inmates who were charged with murder but found guilty of manslaughter.

The court heard the attackers may have been acting on rumours Eades was a rapist, or on the orders of a bikie gang.

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