A man who thought he could telepathically communicate with American supermodel Tyra Banks and with Satan has been found not guilty of murder by reason of insanity following an unprovoked attack at an Auckland boarding house last year.
Raymond Edward Shane Gill was found covered in blood in his room at the Northcote property after the June 4, 2020 attack, which left physiotherapist Shivam Sharma — described by friends as a soft-spoken hard worker — dead and another man wounded.
He believed voices were telling him to kill somebody in order to save the world, it was revealed at the Auckland High Court hearing.
“There can be absolutely no doubt Mr Gill presents a heightened risk to the public,” Justice Grant Powell said as he ordered Gill to be admitted as a “special patient” at a secure mental health facility. “Any lesser response would simply not address the ongoing risk Mr Gill poses or the needs he has.”
Under the law, Gill will be held at the facility for at least 10 years unless the Government intervenes. After the 10-year period, he could still remain in a treatment facility but would undergo more frequent assessments.
Gill had been set to stand trial next week for murder and for wounding with intent to kill. Crown prosecutors and defence counsel had to agree about the insanity finding before it could be decided by the judge.
Justice Powell pointed to reports from five psychiatrists in which Gill gave “detailed and disturbing explanations” for his actions that day. His “chronic psychotic illness” emerged in 2010 and included schizophrenia, including “entrenched, bizarre religious delusion”, according to the reports.
He also thought he could communicate telepathically with the “supreme God”.
Gill had received inpatient and outpatient treatment throughout the decade. His condition was complicated, the judge said, by drug and alcohol abuse and anti-social personality disorder. He had been charged with 104 offences over 22 years, including other violent offending, property and drug offences.
Outside the courthouse after the hearing, the surviving victim of the attack — who asked not to be identified by name — expressed shock over the number of Gill’s prior offences and his documented mental health issues.
“It’s just a system failure,” he said, explaining that he and Sharma knew nothing of the sort when they were living with Gill. “We don’t want anyone else to be part of this in the future.”
Mamta Matthew, a resident who wasn’t home on the evening of the attack, agreed as she stood beside the surviving victim.
“They should have done something about it,” she said. “There wasn’t anybody looking after him. Mental health needs to do more for these people.”
Had he survived, the day of the hearing would have marked Sharma’s 27th birthday.
“He was very soft-spoken, the nicest person you’d ever meet,” Matthew said, emphasising that the attack that resulted in her friend’s death was unprovoked. “He wouldn’t go around being rude. He’s a very polite person and just enjoyed life as it is.”
He had received top honours while studying physiotherapy at university in India, and he later graduated from AUT with a degree in health science after moving to New Zealand, his friends recalled. He had a work visa and was set to settle down in Auckland, they said.
“He was getting started with his life here,” Matthew said. “He had so much potential. He had so much to give as well.”
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