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

Durban - Alleged serial killer “axeman” Joseph Ntshongwana was a danger to society, and it could not be ruled out that he would commit crime again, defence psychiatrist Professor Abubaker Gangat said on Wednesday.

Ntshongwana, a former Blue Bulls rugby player, is facing four murder and two attempted murder charges relating to allegations that he went on a killing spree with an axe in March 2011, beheading three of his victims.

He is also charged with kidnapping and raping a young woman the previous December.

Gangat, in the ongoing trial before Durban High Court acting Judge Irfaan Khallil, has testified that Ntshongwana suffers from a severe mental illness and was both “delusional” and “psychotic” when he committed the crimes, and should not be held criminally responsible for them.

But the State is attempting to show that he must have known what he was doing because his actions were “goal-directed” and, for example, he ran away when challenged and hid the bloodied axe in a disused dog kennel.

Ntshongwana has pleaded not guilty to the crime, alleging that he cannot remember anything, and the case has now become a contest between experts who differ in their opinion as to his mental condition at the time of the alleged crimes.

Under cross-examination by State advocate Rea Mina, Gangat on Wednesday stuck to his guns that Ntshongwana would have been having a “psychotic breakdown”, but he could not explain why, for example, Ntshongwana had once stopped in his tracks when confronted while allegedly hacking off a head.

“Would you expect a person in such a frenzy to run away or carry on?” Mina asked.

Gangat replied: “It’s difficult to say. He may know the difference between right and wrong, but because of his mental illness, he was incapacitated from choosing between them.”

Mina pointed out that Gangat had not said this in his report.

With regards to Ntshongwana’s claims not to remember anything, Gangat said this was entirely possible, and he believed him.

He said he also believed that Ntshongwana had been in a psychotic state each and every time he had committed a crime, although he conceded he had not seen him before, during or after the incidents.

He also conceded that not many psychotic people committed crimes, although “some do”.

Asked why Ntshongwana had committed crimes, Gangat said it was because of his mental illness.

“I cannot rule out the possibility that he would do these things again,” he said, agreeing that Ntshongwana remained a danger to society.

The trial continues.

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The Mercury