Shopping centre killer found not guilty of murder due to mental incompetence

South Australian health authorities missed “multiple opportunities” to treat a delusional man suffering from schizophrenia before he killed a mother at an Adelaide shopping centre, a court has heard.

Supreme Court Justice Sam Doyle today found 21-year-old Jayden Tanee Lowah killed mother-of-two Michelle Foster, but found him not guilty of murder due to mental incompetence.

He found Mr Lowah was suffering from schizophrenia at the time of the death — a finding supported by two psychiatrists.

Ms Foster, 36, was found beaten to death outside the Colonnades Shopping Centre at Noarlunga on October 24, 2018.

Prosecutor Carmen Matteo told the court that Mr Lowah was psychotic and had a well-entrenched delusional belief system which impacted his interactions with people.

She said Mr Lowah believed he was being controlled by his “original parents” and lived in a simulation.

Outside court, Michelle Foster’s mother Andrea urged authorities to take mental health seriously.(ABC News: Meagan Dillon)

Ms Matteo said Mr Lowah believed he would be able to exit the simulation and return to the “original planet” if he one day did something to “experience something supernatural”.

“The decision to kill Ms Foster was influenced by that established delusional belief system as a means to end the simulation,” she said.

Steven Millsteed QC, for Mr Lowah, told the court that his client had a history of psychotic behaviour dating back to when he was 15 years old, coming to the attention of authorities when he threatened to kill his own father.

Mental illness was ‘questioned’

Mr Millsteed said a report found Mr Lowah suffered from a “complex delusional system” and over the next three years he was seen by his general practitioner and psychiatrists at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital and Flinders Medical Centre.

“During this time, errors were made in relation to Mr Lowah’s diagnosis and treatment,” he said.

“Tragically, Mr Lowah then went through a period in which his mental illness was questioned, and his behaviour attributed to a combination of personality factors and drug use.

“This led to Mr Lowah going without medication, becoming increasingly aggressive and engaging in odd and self-damaging behaviour, including burning himself and losing his accommodation.”

Scene of an alleged murder at Colonnades shopping centre
Ms Foster was killed at the Colonnades Shopping Centre.(ABC News: Brittany Evins)

He said Mr Lowah then attacked two strangers in September 2017.

The court was told that following his arrest for that attack, Mr Lowah was held at secure mental health facility James Nash House but later transferred to prison.

“At that time, he was diagnosed with drug-induced psychosis rather than schizophrenic-induced psychosis, so he was placed in prison without any anti-psychotic medication,” Mr Millsteed said.

He said Mr Lowah was released from jail in September 2018 and the next day presented to the emergency department at the Noarlunga Hospital where he told staff he was homeless and experiencing homicidal ideation.

Released from jail days before killing

Mr Lowah left before hospital staff could organise crisis accommodation for him, the court was told.

Ms Foster was killed six weeks later.

Colonnades shopping centre murder victim Michelle Foster
Ms Foster was killed weeks after her killer’s release from prison.(Facebook)

Mr Millsteed said the reports stated that Mr Lowah reacted in a “paranoid manner” when Ms Foster touched his back because he had a propensity for sexual victimisation and believed she touched him inappropriately.

“The psychiatrist states that his history may have predisposed him to react with intense anger,” he said.

“He did not know his actions were wrong.”

Ms Matteo told the court there was no evidence to suggest Ms Foster had touched Mr Lowah inappropriately, and it could have been part of his delusional belief system.

Justice Doyle ordered further reports and the case was adjourned until August.

Outside court, Ms Foster’s mother Andrea Foster urged health authorities and the general public to take mental health seriously.

SA Health declined to comment on the case.

Flowers at the scene of a woman's death at Colonnades
After Ms Foster’s death, flowers were left at the scene.(ABC News: Brittany Evins)

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