A Melbourne man who was foaming at the mouth in the moments before beating his neighbour to death with a Samoan wooden paddle has been found not guilty of murder because of mental impairment.
WARNING: This story contains details that may be distressing for some readers.
- Xochil Quetzel O’Neill broke into Maud Steenbeek’s Heidelberg West home on January 28, 2020
- She was on a video call to her brother in the Netherlands when she was attacked
- O’Neill has been found not guilty of murdering Ms Steenbeek due to mental impairment
Xochil Quetzel O’Neill, 30, today faced a mental fitness hearing in the Supreme Court of Victoria which heard he was psychotic when he killed cancer patient Maud Steenbeek while she was on a video call to her brother last year.
O’Neill, who has no memory of the incident, was today remanded in custody while a bed is found for him in a secure psychiatric facility.
“I am satisfied that the evidence establishes the defence of mental impairment,” Justice Elizabeth Hollingworth said.
In January 2020, Ms Steenbeek was speaking to her brother in the Netherlands via Skype when she heard a noise and told him to “hold on”.
Her brother, Sjoerd Steenbeek, then heard her say, “Get the f**k out”, before the call dropped out.
The Supreme Court was today told that the noise was O’Neill, who had broken into the 61-year-old’s home at Heidelberg West and armed himself with a Samoan wooden paddle that he found inside.
Crown prosecutor Ray Gibson QC told the court that O’Neill used the paddle to brutally beat Ms Steenbeek as she tried to protect herself.
“Numerous residents in the street heard a female screaming, yelling,” Mr Gibson said.
O’Neill, who lived across the road from his victim, did not react as details of the vicious attack were read out to the court. Ms Steenbeek ultimately died from her head injuries.
The court today heard that Ms Steenbeek’s brother frantically tried to call her during the attack before reaching one of her sons.
When Adam Zecevic arrived to check on his mother, he saw O’Neill through the bedroom window.
“The accused was ranting about God. Adam asked if his mother was alright and the accused stated that she was, but the deceased would not respond,” Mr Gibson said.
But when Mr Zecevic went inside with his dog, O’Neill rushed at him and tried to attack him with the same wooden paddle used to kill his mother.
Mr Gibson, the crown prosecutor, said Mr Zecevic then punched O’Neill before telling his dog to attack the killer.
“The dog latched onto the accused’s head and dragged him into the rear yard,” Mr Gibson said.
Mr Zecevic then turned the paddle onto O’Neill and hit him before checking on his mother.
The court heard that witnesses made multiple calls for police about O’Neill, with the first at 7:34pm, as he lay in a driveway swearing about religion.
Another call was made about 10 minutes later, but it took officers 39 minutes to get to the scene where they found Mr Zecevic covered in blood and his mother dead.
Defence argues behaviour result of psychosis
Today the Supreme Court heard that in the lead up to the deadly attack, O’Neill was talking about magic, appeared scared, and alternated between crying and laughing.
Less than an hour before breaking into Ms Steenbeek’s home, O’Neill was “talking to himself constantly” and was seen by witnesses rolling on the ground.
“The accused was foaming from the mouth and was saying, ‘I’ve been poisoned,'” Mr Gibson said.
Dr Lester Walton, a psychiatrist called by the defence, today said O’Neill’s “frenetic” behaviour was caused by his psychosis.
He said the 30-year-old had no history of violent behaviour.
“It was certainly strikingly out of character,” Dr Walton said.
Dr Rajan Darjee, who was called by the prosecution, said O’Neill was “severely unwell” on the day of the attack and may have entered his victim’s house on a whim.
“Or he might have gone in impulsively, for no reason at all,” Dr Darjee said.
“I think this is one of the few cases where it was his acute mental disturbance that led him going into the house,” he said.
“He wasn’t suffering from a drug-induced psychosis at the time.”
The court heard that both psychiatrists agreed that O’Neill was mentally impaired.
O’Neill was today remanded in custody and will return to court in