Australian mother who killed eight children suffered from schizophrenia and will not face charges

Jonathan Pearlman
Raina Thaiday - Rex Features

A court in Australia ruled that a 40-year-old mother who killed her seven children and a niece in a bid to “save them” from the apocalypse should not face charges because she was suffering from severe schizophrenia, possibly linked to cannabis use.

In one of Australia’s worst mass murders,  Raina Thaiday, a much-liked mother with no criminal record or history of mental health problems, brutally stabbed her four sons, three daughters and a niece after coming to believe she was the “Chosen One”.

The bodies of the children – aged 2 to 14 - were found at her home in Cairns, a tropical city in the state of Queensland, in December 2014. By then, Thaiday, apparently realising what she had done, had stabbed herself 35 times.

Three psychiatrists who saw Thaiday after the crime said her mental state had been deteriorating for months before the killings and she eventually came to believe that she could communicate with spirits.

Her violent episode was apparently triggered by a dove’s call – possibly imagined - which she thought was a sign that she needed to protect herself and her family from demons.

Police attend the house in Manoora, Cairns where eight children were stabbed to death Credit:  Rex Features

"She heard the sound of a bird … and believed from hearing that sound it was a message she must kill the children to save them," Dr Jane Phillips, a psychiatrist, told Queensland’s Mental Health Court.

Dr Pamela van de Hoef, a psychiatrist, said Thaiday’s crime was "shockingly out of character".

"She believed at the time, and for some days and weeks before that, that the end of the world was coming," she said.

The court ruled that Thaiday was of unsound mind and incapable of controlling or understaning her actions – a finding that means she will not face criminal prosecution.

“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,” ruled Justice Jean Dalton.

Thaiday is undergoing treatment at a high-security mental health ward. She may never return to the community.

Dr Frank Varghese, a psychiatrist, said Thaiday’s "apocalyptic delusional state" and severe schizophrenia may have been triggered by her long-term cannabis usage. She apparently stopped using cannabis months before the killings.

"This is schizophrenia at its very depth and its worst in terms of the terror for the patient, as well as the consequences for the individuals killed," he said.

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