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Indian meat cleaver rapist is cleared of criminal responsibility because he ‘thought he was in a video game’

An Indian man who violently raped a woman while armed with a meat cleaver and a choke chain has been cleared of criminal responsibility on mental health grounds after convincing psychiatrists that he thought he was inside a video game at the time.

Khateebulla Mirza, 37, sexual assaulted the woman, 26, after breaking into a random apartment in Auburn, western Sydney, in November 2022, placing the chain around her neck, striking her elbow with the cleaver and slapping her in the face.

He carried out the horrendous attack just hours after groping another woman’s breast in Marrickville, and a month after indecently touching a woman’s backside in Zetland, his home suburb.

District Court Judge Ian Bourke found on Tuesday that the acts were proven, but that Mirza was mentally impaired and therefore not criminally responsible. He referred Mirza to the Mental Health Review Tribunal, and ordered that he be detained in a secure forensic hospital or mental health facility until facing the tribunal.

Judge Bourke referred to evidence by psychiatrist Professor David Greenberg, who appeared as a witness for the prosecution, and told the court that Mirza had told him he thought the rape was part of a game and that his victim was another player who let him do anything he wanted.

Professor Greenberg compiled two reports, stating in the first that he was of the opinion that Mirza “had a mental health impairment, in the form of Schizophrenia Disorder, with co-morbid diagnoses of Substance Use Disorder and PTSD, in partial remission”.

This was partially based on a letter from a psychiatrist Mirza saw in India, Dr Meena Gnanasekharan, stated he had been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder with psychosis and paranoid delusions, and that he needed “immediate and constant medical care”.

He concluded that Mirza did not know the acts were wrong, but after a request from the Crown to review additional issues compiled a second report.

“In that report, Professor Greenberg confirmed that the Accused likely knew the nature and quality of his acts and likely knew the legal wrongfulness of those acts. However, he remained firmly of the view that at the time of the alleged offences, the Accused had a mental health impairment which had the effect that he did not know that the acts were wrong (that is, he could not reason with a moderate degree of sense and composure about the acts, as perceived by reasonable people at that time),” Judge Bourke wrote in his judgement.

“Professor Greenberg went on to state that in his opinion, the Accused did not know that his acts were morally wrong, because of his underlying reasoning which was likely delusionally based.”

Professor Greenberg testified that inconsistencies in Mirza’s accounts of the attacks were “not inconsistent with a man acting on a delusional belief system”.

Dr Adam Martin, a forensic psychiatrist who appeared for the defence, told the court that Mirza told him “the voices kept telling me that if you do this, you unlock the next stage of the game” and “the person you are doing it to, they’re part of the game, that they were digital versions, that they were consenting to it”.

Mirza also told Dr Martin he was followed and molested by spiritual entities that became part of his “game”, that he believed he was being controlled by an app installed on his phone, and that women had been sexually touching him even after his arrest.

Dr Martin concluded: “The accused would not have understood the wrongfulness of his acts, because his capacity to reason with moderate composure was significantly affected by a persecutory delusional system which severely deprived him of the capacity to think rationally, and where his ability to think about right and wrong was severely compromised.”

Judge Bourke wrote in his decision: “Having reviewed the evidence of the two psychiatrists, I am satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that the defence is made out.

“Both psychiatrists were clearly of the opinion that the accused’s mental health impairment had the effect that, at the time of the acts alleged in the indictment, he did not know that his acts were wrong – in the sense that he could not reason with a moderate degree of sense and composure about whether his acts, as perceived by reasonable people, were wrong.

“There is in this case no rational reason why I would not accept the evidence of these two experienced psychiatrists, whose evidence, and reasoning I have set out earlier in this judgment.”

Judge Bourke ordered that Mirza not be released until the Mental Health Review Tribunal was satisfied it would not endanger any member of the public.

“The fact that I have made findings that the Accused is not criminally responsible does not in any way diminish the fact that three completely innocent women have been assaulted and violated by the Accused’s actions,” he concluded.

“I have no doubt that for each of them the experience would have been shocking and frightening. This however is obviously an understatement in the case of Ms MM, who suffered an uninvited invasion of her home, followed by a terrifying ordeal in which she was assaulted and raped at knife point.

“I have no doubt that the incident has, and will continue for some time to have, a very serious impact on her life and psychological well being.”

The Auburn apartment building where the rape took place (7News)

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