Teen deemed unfit to stand trial for slaying of student

Eunji Ban
Eunji Ban

THE former Ipswich teen accused of the brutal and senseless murder of a South Korean student that sent shockwaves across the state has been deemed unfit to stand trial.

But a court ruled Alex Reuben McEwan, 21, was of sound mind when the alleged murder took place, which means he will stand trial once he is medically fit to do so.

The Queensland Mental Health Court heard during a hearing last month intimate details about the alleged murder of Eunji Ban, 22, in Brisbane's Wickham Park on November 24, 2013.

Ms Ban arrived in Australia from her hometown of Busan, South Korea on a youth exchange program six weeks before her murder.

Experts will continue to assess mental health of man accused of brutal murder
Experts will continue to assess mental health of man accused of brutal murder

The QT was unable to report on the hearing until now because of a court-imposed ban.

Justice David Boddice said the alleged murder was a random and unprovoked attack in which Ms Ban suffered severe and extensive injuries. He said witnesses described seeing a shirtless man fleeing the scene shortly after Ms Ban's body was located.

"The alleged offence of murder involved a sustained and brutal attack on a young woman walking through a park on her way to work as a commercial cleaner," he said.

"The attack included removing the victim from the eyesight of others in a manner which showed scant regard for her life or dignity."

Justice Boddice said police captured McEwan by using CCTV footage and text messages he sent around the time of the alleged murder.

"CCTV footage showed McEwan leaving his unit complex in the early hours of the morning," he said.

"This footage showed him returning shirtless a short time later.

"McEwan admitted to his mother the next day he had committed the offence and later confessed to police during a lengthy interview."

Justice Boddice said the police interview revealed some disturbing details about McEwan's persona and his state of mind at the time of the alleged murder.

"That interview contained detailed information as to what occurred during the course of the attack including not only his physical actions, but also his verbal statements," he said.

The QT has chosen not to reveal the graphic details and nature of the alleged murder.

"He told police in that interview he had a longstanding feeling he would kill someone one day.

"He described dreaming about it and said he had drawn pictures of killing people."

"He said he felt as though he had a demon inside him and told police he had gone out that morning with the express intent of killing someone.

"He said the victim was the first person he encountered that morning."

Forensic police investigate at at the southern boundary of Wickham Park, off Albert St, in Brisbane, where Alex Reuben McEwan (pictured inset) is accused of murdering South Korean student Eunji Ban.
Forensic police investigate at at the southern boundary of Wickham Park, off Albert St, in Brisbane, where Alex Reuben McEwan (pictured inset) is accused of murdering South Korean student Eunji Ban. Miranda Forster

But Justice Boddice said McEwan's mental state deteriorated rapidly following his arrest.

He said the deterioration resulted in him being placed in a secure mental health facility for a period.

"He became distressed, tearful and expressed suicidal thoughts," he said.

"He described an ability to communicate with God and the Devil.

"He also described the television mirroring what he thought and also described visual and auditory hallucinations.

"His physical symptoms remain severe, persistent and treatment-resistant."

The hearing last month heard the three psychiatrists who had been treating McEwan since his arrest had all come to similar conclusions about his mental state.

Justice Boddice said the psychiatrists concluded McEwan suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, mixed personality disorder and poly-substance dependence.

"He has required courses of electroconvulsive therapy late last year and again earlier this year," he said.

"He continues to report command hallucinations and suicidal thoughts."

The court heard the three psychiatrists believed McEwan was of sound mind when the murder happened, but all three told the court they did not believe McEwan was feigning his current medical condition in order to escape facing trial.

Justice Boddice said there was significant evidence McEwan was abusing alcohol and marijuana at the time and in the lead-up to the alleged murder.

"One psychiatrist considered the possibility of dissociation after having regard to McEwan's recounting of his state of mind at the time of the alleged offence," he said.

"But he found it was entirely inconsistent with such a condition.

"Furthermore, McEwan's recall of remarkable details of the incident, including what he said and did, where he did it and what he did before and after was inconsistent with dissociation."

Justice Boddice said all three psychiatrists believed McEwan was unfit to stand trial but they believe his unfitness would be of a temporary nature.

"While he understands the charges against him, may be able to enter a plea and understands in a basic way the nature and function of the court, he could not currently withstand the rigours of a trial without a further deterioration to his mental health," he said.

"The psychiatrists believe his mental state will improve with time."

Justice Boddice said after considering the evidence he was satisfied McEwan was not entitled to a defence of diminished responsibility over the alleged murder.

He placed McEwan on a mandatory forensic order because he represented a very real danger to himself and others in his current state.

McEwan remains locked up at The Park Centre for Mental Health, a high-security facility located near the Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre at Wacol, where he is receiving ongoing treatment.


Forensic orders: How the legal process works

A FORENSIC order is made when a person is deemed unfit to stand trial but found to be of sound or unsound mind when allegedly committing an offence.

Alex Reuben McEwan, 21, was found to be of sound mind when he committed the alleged murder of Eunji Ban, but not currently fit to stand trial because of mental health concerns.

His case has been removed from the criminal justice system and it is now in the hands of the Queensland Mental Health Review Tribunal.

Queensland Mental Health Review Tribunal legal officer Michelle Radke said it would continue to assess McEwan's fitness to stand trial up to four times over the next year.

"At any stage if a person is found fit to stand trial the case will be returned to the criminal justice system," she said.

"If a person is found not fit for trial after the fourth review, those reviews then occur every six months."

She said it depended on the nature of the charge as to how long a person's case is reviewed.

"If the charge can lead to life imprisonment the tribunal must continue to assess a person's fitness for trial for a period of seven years," she said.

"If a person is continually found to be unfit for trial after the seven years, the charges may be withdrawn, but that does not mean the forensic order is discontinued.

"There is no end to a forensic order unless it is revoked."

Criminal proceedings against McEwan will recommence once he becomes fit for trial.

Topics:  editors picks eunji ban murder

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