Aussie mum who killed 8 kids unfit to stand trial

Mourners at the house in Cairns in December 2014, where the children were killed. A park has since been installed at the site as a memorial to the children.
Mourners at the house in Cairns in December 2014, where the children were killed. A park has since been installed at the site as a memorial to the children.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

SYDNEY • An Australian mother who killed seven of her children and a niece in a brutal case that shocked the country will not stand trial after being deemed to be of "unsound mind", a court has ruled.

The youngsters, aged between two and 14, were found stabbed to death at a home in the northern city of Cairns in December 2014.

Raina Mersane Ina Thaiday, also known as Mersane Warria, was charged with murdering the four girls and four boys after being found by police at the scene of the crime with 35 self-inflicted stab wounds.

In a ruling reached last month but made public only yesterday, the Queensland Mental Health Court found she could not be held criminally responsible as she had suffered a psychotic episode from an undiagnosed mental condition.

"At the time of the killing, Mrs Thaiday was suffering from a mental illness, paranoid schizophrenia, and that she had no capacity to know what she was doing was wrong," said the court findings of her psychiatrist.

Court records revealed Thaiday's condition had been getting worse in the lead-up to the killings, to the point where she believed there were evil spirits in her home.

"In fact, to her way of thinking at that time, what she was doing was the best thing she could do for her children; she was trying to save them."

Under Queensland state law, if a person is found to be of unsound mind at the time of an offence, criminal proceedings against that individual are discontinued, and he or she is considered unfit to stand trial.

Thaiday, 40, is being held in a high-security mental health institute and it is unclear if she will ever be released. Court records revealed her condition had been getting worse in the lead-up to the killings, to the point where she believed there were evil spirits in her home.

The house where the killings took place was demolished in 2015, with a park installed as a memorial to the slain children.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 05, 2017, with the headline 'Aussie mum who killed 8 kids unfit to stand trial'. Print Edition | Subscribe