A jury has found a Somali refugee not guilty by reason of insanity of the murder of an elderly cleaner at Auckland’s Mt Roskill mosque in July. Mohamed Hussein, 22, from Mt Albert, yesterday pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to murdering 72-year-old Alan Priestley. The jury took just over an hour to return their verdicts in the High Court at Auckland this morning, after a short trial. Justice Harrison spent an hour summing up the case this morning before the jury retired.
The defence had argued that Hussein was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia when he killed Mr Priestley. Crown lawyer Mike Heron described the killing as a tragic combination of culture, coincidence and mental illness. There was no dispute that Hussein had killed Mr Priestley, who was found dying inside the entrance to the mosque. Hussein’s behaviour had started to deteriorate last June and he asked some Muslim men from Australia who were sleeping at the mosque for help. In the week before the incident they conducted a number of religious procedures to make evil spirits leave Hussein. The last was done the night before the killing. Hussein had woken about 2am screaming and shaking, saying he wanted to return to the mosque. Police were called and wanted to take him to hospital but Hussein was insistent on going to the mosque. Mr Heron said police did not detect how unwell Hussein was and dropped him off at the mosque.
Mr Priestley was attacked just before 3am and died two days later in hospital. Hussein told police he had to do it because he felt Mr Priestley was controlling him and was evil.
Psychiatrist Grant Galpin told the court Hussein “did not have the capacity to appreciate the moral wrongfulness of his actions” at the time of the attack. Psychiatrist Sandy Simpson agreed and said Hussein was suffering from a “disease of the mind” fitting the legal definition of insanity.