Experts differ on axe-murder accused

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Axe-murder accused Joseph Ntshongwana is seen inside the Durban High Court. File picture: Doctor Ngcobo

Durban - The battle of the psychiatrists in the trial of alleged serial killer “Axeman” Joseph Ntshongwana hotted up on Thursday when one labelled another “deluded”.

“With due respect,” said psychiatrist Dr Soobiah Moodley, “and with tongue in cheek, I feel that Professor (Abubaker) Gangat is suffering from a delusion disorder – a false fixed belief – when he says the accused has a delusion disorder.”

Gangat testified before Durban High Court Acting Judge Irfaan Khallil this week that Ntshongwana suffered from a delusional disorder and, while he might have known the difference between right and wrong, he could not choose between them.

“He cannot resist committing the act... it is not voluntary, and he cannot choose to stop,” he said, suggesting that the former Blue Bulls rugby player should not be held criminally responsible for the four murder, two attempted murder, kidnapping and rape charges he was facing.

But Moodley disagreed.

He said Ntshongwana was suffering from “schizo-affective disorder” – a diagnosis backed up by several other psychiatrists who had observed him over time at different institutions since 2009.

“We all agree that he is suffering from a serious mental illness, but Professor Gangat’s own report contradicts his findings.

“A person with a delusional disorder does not have hallucinations, and yet Ntshongwana has had them since 2009. Their functioning is not materially impaired, apart from the impact of the delusion, and yet Gangat reports of how he (Ntshongwana) would lock himself in his room, isolating himself for long periods of time,” Moodley said.

Moodley was part of a panel which assessed Ntshongwana at Fort Napier Hospital after his arrest in April 2011, finding Ntshongwana fit to stand trial.

But he declined to express a view as to whether or not he could appreciate the wrongfulness of his actions – and act in accordance with that appreciation – saying the available information was “inadequate”.

He said on Thursday that he had read the record of the proceedings so far, including evidence given by witnesses, and had sat in court for some of the time, and he could now make a proper finding that Ntshongwana was criminally responsible for his actions.

He referred to the evidence of a victim, who claimed that he had shouted while being attacked and a neighbour had turned on a light.

The victim alleged Ntshongwana immediately let him go.

“He realised someone was watching and ran away. If he was in such a delusional frenzy, he would have carried on.”

Ntshongwana had also allegedly stopped chopping one of his victims when a witness had shouted: “Hey, you – stop it!”

Moodley pointed to another incident, in which, a witness claimed, Ntshongwana had put items in a plastic bag at one of the scenes, which “suggested his behaviour was not only goal-directed, but purposeful”.

Moodley has still to be cross-examined.

The judge ordered that two other psychiatrists who assessed Ntshongwana be given the transcript of the proceedings before they were called to testify.

The trial will continue only later in the year.

The Mercury


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