Phindile Ntshongwana appearing in court. File picture: Doctor Ngcobo

Durban - Former Blue Bulls rugby player Joseph Phindile Ntshongwana was unaware of his actions when he allegedly committed murders, kidnapping and a rape, the Durban High Court heard on Friday.

This was because he acted on his delusions, psychiatrist Prof Abubuker Gangat testified.

“When he committed these alleged acts, I believe he was clearly suffering from a mental illness, rendering him incapable of appreciating their wrongfulness.”

Ntshongwana has pleaded not guilty to murdering Thembelenkosini Cebekhulu on March 20, 2011, Paulos Hlongwa two days later, Simon Ngidi the next day, and an unidentified man some time that week.

He has also denied guilt on two counts of attempted murder, one of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, and of kidnapping and raping a woman.

“He was unable to control his impulses... there was a breakdown in his thinking and this led to a disintegration of his personality and he was unable to exercise his willpower.”

Gangat described Ntshongwana's delusional system as persistent and chronic. People with this disorder behaved in a bizarre manner, thought they were taking protective action, had impaired judgement and were overwhelmed by their impulses, he said.

The court previously heard that Ntshongwana, of Yellowwood Park, outside Durban, believed he was being spied on, that people were out to kill him, and that his sister was trying to poison his food.

Gangat, who was called by the defence earlier this year, was recalled on Friday after three state psychiatrists challenged part of his testimony.

Gangat previously told the court Ntshongwana was suffering from a delusional disorder. Defence lawyer Themba Mjoli told him that State psychiatrists had rejected that finding.

Gangat had said in his report that Ntshongwana’s delusions had come “thick and fast”, but one State psychiatrist said last week he failed to see how this could be.

Gangat said on Friday he had meant the delusions were overwhelming.

He said he had not disregarded other features of Ntshongwana's condition, but found the delusions were the most prominent feature.

All the psychiatrists who had seen Ntshongwana at various hospitals had found the same, he said.

The actual diagnoses were almost irrelevant, as the central theme was his delusional system.

He referred to psychiatry text “Synopsis of Psychiatry” by Kaplan and Sadock on delusions, where the patient becomes hostile, aggressive, homicidal, and extremely violent.

In a highly-charged emotional state, the world of delusions became one with the real world. Patients lost touch with reality and were unaware of what they were doing.

Ntshongwana told Gangat he did not know anything about the alleged offences, the psychiatrist testified. Gangat told Acting Judge Irfaan Khalil that there were people in a psychotic state of mind who could not remember things.

The State maintains that while Ntshongwana had a mental illness, it was not so severe that he did not know right from wrong, nor appreciate the wrongfulness of his alleged crimes.

Prosecutor Ria Mena asked Gangat why all Ntshongwana's alleged offences were committed at night. Gangat said the timing was totally unpredictable.

The case was adjourned to September 22.