A man who killed his girlfriend with a claw hammer in their Kennington home because he believed it was his “duty as the Messiah” has been ordered into custody for a period of 25 years.
Justin Kain Ellard was found not guilty of the murder of 32-year-old Jacinta Pompei in November last year by reason of mental impairment after Justice Lex Lasry concluded he was unable to reason with “a moderate degree of sense and composure as to the wrongfulness of his actions”.
In committing Mr Ellard to the custody of the Victorian Institute of Forensic Mental Health for a nominal term of 25 years, Justice Lasry criticised a delay which saw him spend more than two years in pre-sentence detention.
“I've had occasion to comment previously on the pressure that the services existing to treat seriously psychiatrically ill people in the criminal justice system, the pressure they’re under,” he said.
“This case is another example of that pressure and really something has to be done.”
Mr Ellard’s lawyer Scott Johns said his client had been “quite comfortable” and was receiving treatment for schizophrenia while in custody but Justice Lasry said the delay was “regrettable” nonetheless.
The court heard Ms Pompei was resting face down on her bed about 11.20pm on the evening of July 20, 2015, when Mr Ellard entered the room armed with a claw hammer and used it to beat her to death.
At 1.12am on July 21, Mr Ellard made a triple zero call to police, saying “I’ve actually just killed my girlfriend” and that she had not been breathing since about 12.30am.
An autopsy conducted the next day found extensive lacerations to the top and back of Ms Pompei’s head as well as multiple skull fractures and bruising and lacerations to the brain as a result of blunt force.
But consultant forensic psychiatrist Kevin Ong, who assessed Mr Ellard, found while he was fit to stand trial, the defence of not guilty by reason of mental impairment would be available to him.
Dr Ong said Ellard was “actively psychotic” at the time of the killing and the “relatively low-to-medium” dose of the antipsychotic he had been prescribed was “not enough to dampen his belief he was the Messiah”.
In their victim impact statements, Ms Pompei’s family remembered their beloved daughter and sister as kind, sweet-natured and the life of the party.
“Birthdays, anniversaries and milestones are all now bittersweet because Jay is not here to celebrate them with me,” her sister Bernadette Pompei said.
“There’s a huge hole in my life. Her life and her love have all been robbed from the world.
“Some days I feel as though there’s only darkness.”