A driver accused of mowing down and killing six people in Melbourne’s Bourke Street believes he was possessed by a demon during the event, a court has been told.
James “Dimitrious” Gargasoulas, 27, is before the Supreme Court for a special hearing to determine if he is fit to stand trial.
Psychologist Michael Daffern, who believes Gargasoulas understands the legal process and is fit to stand trial, told the court on Thursday the accused killer thought he saw a “pixelated monster” a number of weeks before the January 20 incident last year.
Dr Daffern said Gargasoulas, who suffers treatment-resistant paranoid schizophrenia, also believed he saw a demon and was possessed during the event because he couldn’t stop his fast driving.
“I fully agree that Mr Gargasoulas is unwell and often speaks about his delusional beliefs,” he said.
“But he demonstrates a capacity for rational decision-making. He can still weigh up what’s in his best interests and communicate in a logical and rational way what his hopes are for the future in relation to a forthcoming trial.”
Dr Daffern added Gargasoulas wanted to be found fit for trial and enter a plea of not guilty by way of mental impairment.
Gargasoulas also indicated he wanted to be incarcerated at the Thomas Embling psychiatric hospital, rather than prison, he said.
Under defence cross-examination, Dr Daffern said Gargasoulas believed his previous legal team were members of the Illuminati.
Gargasoulas is said to believe a comet will hit the Earth and “burn us all” in two years, that he will be made king and will be released from custody “due to public demand”.
His defence Theo Alexander argued Dr Daffern had “confirmation bias” – when a person forms an opinion and then searches for evidence to support that opinion.
“I disagree,” Dr Daffern answered.
“I was certainly open to the possibility that Mr Gargasoulas was fit and that he was also unfit.”
He also disagreed with Associate Professor Andrew Carroll that Gargasoulas wasn’t able to “set aside” his delusions.
But Dr Daffern said Gargasoulas wanted to be found fit for trial so he could have his day in court and deliver his Messianic message – and also because he didn’t want to return to 23-hour-a-day seclusion at hospital.
“He said if he’s found unfit…that might diminish his message.”
Both sides will deliver closing addresses to the jurors on Friday, before they retire on Monday to consider a verdict.