The inquiry into whether Joseph Ntshongwana – dubbed the “Axeman” – is mentally fit to stand trial started on Monday, with experts offering their conclusions on his medical condition.
The former Blue Bulls rugby player has been charged with killing three people with an axe, beheading one of them, almost killing a fourth, and assaulting a fifth man with an axe. He has also been charged with rape and kidnapping, allegedly committing the crimes across Durban, including his home suburb of Yellowwood Park.
Dr John Anthony Dunn, senior psychiatrist at Fort Napier Hospital, was the first to testify before Durban High Court Judge Kate Pillay yesterday, saying he had observed Ntshongwana between June 24 and July 21 last year and found him able “to communicate coherently”.
“There was nothing from my observations that indicated that (he) was not aware of his actions,” Dunn said.
His conclusions were based on information provided by the State. From this report, he had also learnt that when Ntshongwana was arrested, police had found bloody clothing and an axe that had been hidden. Blood from his car had also been cleaned.
State advocate Rea Mina asked Dunn whether this had led to him to believe that Ntshongwana had “an appreciation” that his actions were wrong.
“Cleaning up afterwards would be a suggestion (that he was) knowingly concealing certain aspects. Other aspects also indicate that his actions were consistent with purposeful and intentional behaviour,” he said.
Dunn also believed that Ntshongwana’s condition, schizoaffective disorder, could be controlled with prescribed medication.
“Stopping the medication or being erratic in taking it could possibly result in a relapse, or a manifestation of a few disturbed features,” he said.
“Could stopping his medication make him kill people?” Mina asked.
“If (Ntshongwana) was experiencing delusions and paranoia, he might well act aggressively.”
But, said Dunn, Ntshongwana’s actions in concealing the crime made it seem as though he knew what he was doing was wrong.
Dr Soobiah Moodley, a specialist psychiatrist, agreed with Dunn, saying he believed that Ntshongwana was capable of understanding court proceedings and had the capacity to understand the “wrongfulness of his actions”.
“He is definitely suffering from a mental illness, but not to the degree where he could not appreciate how wrong his actions were,” he said.
Dr Bertram Maclear Brayshaw found Ntshongwana to be “intelligent, co-operative and articulate”. He said he had shown signs of paranoia in the past two to three years.
“He even thought his sister was poisoning his food,” he said.
Brigadier Gerard Labuschagne of the SAPS Forensic Science Services testified that during an interview with Nthshongwana last year, the former rugby player chose to not respond to certain questions that might have had incriminating answers, without consulting with his attorney.
Labuschagne said Ntshongwana had a clear state of mind, which pointed away from paranoia.
The inquiry continues on Tuesday.