Jul 19, 2023

Man who killed older parents pleads not guilty due to psychosis

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Robert George Dent, 48, cut his 74-year-old mother Bernice's throat with a knife and took a mallet to his 75-year-old father Colin. [Source: Supreme Court of Western Australia]

WARNING: This story contains graphic content that some readers may find upsetting.

A man who admitted to hearing voices, killing his older parents and keeping their bodies in their home for three days before turning himself in has been acquitted of the murder charges.

Robert George Dent, 48, cut his 74-year-old mother Bernice’s throat with a knife and took a mallet to his 75-year-old father Colin in September 2021 in Capel, Western Australia. 

Mr Dent called triple zero after attempting to take his own life and spending three days with the bodies inside the home. 

Police arrived at the property to find a mallet, a stained knife, blood and religious crosses drawn on Mr Dent’s body and the house walls alongside occult messages. He had attempted to clean up the blood and mask the smell of the decomposing bodies with air freshener. 

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Police attending Mr Dent’s family home after he had called triple zero three days after he had killed his older parents. [Source: ABC News/ Anthony Pancia]

Psychiatrists told the Supreme Court trial last month that Mr Dent lives with a schizoaffective disorder and was psychotic at the time of the murders. Mr Dent pleaded not guilty due to unsoundness of mind.

With a long history of mental illnesses, Mr Dent was hearing voices and had not left the family home for about 10 years. His symptoms started when he was a teenager but was diagnosed with physical illnesses such as chronic fatigue syndrome and sensitivity to chemicals and electromagnetic waves at the time. 

Allegedly, his mother turned to alternative remedies instead of pharmacological medicine and did not get him the treatment he needed  — enabling his symptoms. After that, Mr Dent slowly became reclusive and spent much of his time in his room.

In her judgement handed down on Monday, Justice Amanda Forrester found Mr Dent could not control his actions, had experienced an alternative reality and could not decipher what was right or wrong at the time of the murders.

“As a result of his mental impairment, at the time of the killings, the accused was experiencing paranoid delusions and command auditory hallucinations,” she wrote.

“I am satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the accused was, by reason of his mental impairment, deprived of the capacity to control his actions.” 

Mr Dent was acquitted and placed on an indefinite custody order.

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