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  • Writer's pictureGeoff Harrison

Murder and Drug Induced Psychosis

Updated: Jun 1


Criminal Barrister, Criminal Lawyer, Criminal Solicitor, Best Criminal Barrister, Best Criminal Solicitor, Best Criminal Lawyer, Drug Induced Psychosis, Murder, Best Murder Barrister, Best Murder Lawyer, Criminal Manslaughter

Published by Geoff Harrison | 31 May 2024


Unfortunately, substance-induced mental disorder or drug induced psychosis has become an increasing problem for the community and courts. The case below was a recent case that the author was involved in, relating to murder and drug induced psychosis from the use of Nitrous Oxide, otherwise colloquially known as 'nangs', ' hippy crack', 'whippits' or 'cannies'.


The law is replete with cases that drug addiction, whilst a relevant factor on sentence, is not, of itself, a mitigating factor given that self-ingestion of a drug is a matter of choice: R v Henry [1999} NSWCCA 111 at [185] - [201]. Where the addiction was not a matter of free choice, then there is authority that addiction may be taken into account as a mitigating factor: Henry at [185] and [194]. Further, s21A(1)(5AA) of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 provides that self-induced intoxication at the time of the offence is not to be taken into account as a mitigating factor.


Whilst self-induced intoxication is not, of itself, a mitigating factor, nor can it be a mental health impairment (as per s4 below), where a person's mental health contributes to the crime in a material way, the offender's moral culpability may be reduced, see: R v Miller, DS v R; DM v R, Moiler v R and De La Rosa. However, as noted by Lonergan J in R v He [2024] NSWSC 417 at [12], none of the principles relating to an offender's mental health are absolute:


The law recognises that distinct from cases where a person is so mentally ill that they cannot be held legally responsible for their crime, there are cases where the state of a person’s mental health contributes to the commission of an offence in a material way. In such circumstances it may be that the offender’s moral culpability is reduced, and so the need to denounce the crime may be less, with a consequent reduction in sentence. It also may be that in the specific circumstances, the need for emphasis on general and specific deterrence may be less, or an offender’s time in custody may be more onerous for him because of poor mental health: Director of Public Prosecutions (Cth) v De La Rosa (2010) 79 NSWLR 1; [2010] NSWCCA 194 (“De La Rosa”) at [177]. None of these principles are absolute. The Court must examine the relevant facts in order to determine whether in the specific case, the mental condition has the consequences contended for: Aslan v R [2014] NSWCCA 114 at [34] per Simpson J (as her Honour then was), Adams and McCallum JJ agreeing.

...

I have concluded on the balance of probabilities that the offender, at the time he killed Liquin, was suffering from a self-inflicted transient drug-induced psychosis, alternatively described by Dr Martin as a transient delirium manifesting while intoxicated, with psychotic phenomena, and that in that state, he directed his rage to Liquin, killing her in a frenzied and merciless attack. The evidence does not permit me to conclude that the offender had in fact probably used (the very short-acting) nitrous oxide in the immediate period before he killed Liquin.


However, because the mental state of the offender at the time he killed Liquin was inextricably bound up with his deliberate and repeated use and abuse of nitrous oxide, I have concluded that this is a circumstance where the objective seriousness of the offending is only marginally reduced. Although there is no evidence that the offender had a detailed understanding that the abuse of nitrous oxide could lead to a transient psychosis or delirium with psychotic phenomena, he knew of, and repeatedly sought, out its intoxicating and disinhibiting effects.


His moral culpability is also mildly reduced, noting however that it is appallingly self-indulgent to deliberately use and abuse an intoxicating inhalant to remove oneself from reality and responsibility for one’s own actions. This is what the offender did. I cannot exclude entirely the indicators that the attack was directed at Liquin as part of the offender’s own unjustified dissatisfaction with her, and that he was taking out on her his rage at his own failures and inadequacies, like so many men who murder their domestic partners, but I cannot make a finding beyond reasonable doubt that this was the, or a precipitant or motivating factor for this particular attack during which he murdered his domestic partner.


However, the antithesis of a drug induced psychosis reducing a person's moral culpability for a crime is where the person knows that they are prone to psychosis as a result of taking drugs and continues to take that risk, hence aggravating the offence, see: R v Homann.


Other Sources:


Other Cases:



________________________________________________________________


Extracted Legislation:


CRIMES ACT 1900

18 MURDER AND MANSLAUGHTER DEFINED


(1)(a) Murder shall be taken to have been committed where the act of the accused, or thing by him or her omitted to be done, causing the death charged, was done or omitted with reckless indifference to human life, or with intent to kill or inflict grievous bodily harm upon some person, or done in an attempt to commit, or during or immediately after the commission, by the accused, or some accomplice with him or her, of a crime punishable by imprisonment for life or for 25 years.

(b) Every other punishable homicide shall be taken to be manslaughter.


(2)(a) No act or omission which was not malicious, or for which the accused had lawful cause or excuse, shall be within this section.

(b) No punishment or forfeiture shall be incurred by any person who kills another by misfortune only.


19A PUNISHMENT FOR MURDER


(1) A person who commits the crime of murder is liable to imprisonment for life.


(2) A person sentenced to imprisonment for life for the crime of murder is to serve that sentence for the term of the person's natural life.


(3) Nothing in this section affects the operation of section 21 (1) of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 (which authorises the passing of a lesser sentence than imprisonment for life).


(4) This section applies to murder committed before or after the commencement of this section.


(5) However, this section does not apply where committal proceedings (or proceedings by way of ex officio indictment) for the murder were instituted against the convicted person before the commencement of this section. In such a case, section 19 as in force before that commencement continues to apply.


(6) Nothing in this section affects the prerogative of mercy.


CRIMES (SENTENCING PROCEDURE) ACT 1999

61 MANDATORY LIFE SENTENCES FOR CERTAIN OFFENCES


(1) A court is to impose a sentence of imprisonment for life on a person who is convicted of murder if the court is satisfied that the level of culpability in the commission of the offence is so extreme that the community interest in retribution, punishment, community protection and deterrence can only be met through the imposition of that sentence.


(2) A court is to impose a sentence of imprisonment for life on a person who is convicted of a serious heroin or cocaine trafficking offence if the court is satisfied that the level of culpability in the commission of the offence is so extreme that the community interest in retribution, punishment, community protection and deterrence can only be met through the imposition of that sentence and the court is also satisfied that--

(a) the offence involved--

(i) a high degree of planning and organisation, and

(ii) the use of other people acting at the direction of the person convicted of the offence in the commission of the offence, and

(b) the person was solely or principally responsible for planning, organising and financing the offence, and

(c) the heroin or cocaine was of a high degree of purity, and

(d) the person committed the offence solely for financial reward.


(3) Nothing in subsection (1) affects section 21 (1).


(4) Division 1 of Part 3 of this Act and section 33A (2) of the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985 do not apply if the court is satisfied that the circumstances referred to in subsection (2) exist.


(5) Nothing in subsection (2) limits or derogates from the discretion of a court to impose a sentence of imprisonment for life on a person who is convicted of a serious heroin or cocaine trafficking offence.


(6) This section does not apply to a person who was less than 18 years of age at the date of commission of the offence.


(7) In this section--

"heroin" has the same meaning as it has in the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985.


"serious heroin or cocaine trafficking offence" means an offence under section 25 (2) or (2A) of the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985 involving heroin or cocaine, and being an offence to which section 33 (subsection (2) excepted) of that Act applies.


MENTAL HEALTH AND COGNITIVE IMPAIRMENT FORENSIC PROVISIONS ACT 2020

4 MENTAL HEALTH IMPAIRMENT


(1) For the purposes of this Act, a

"person has a mental health impairment" if--

(a) the person has a temporary or ongoing disturbance of thought, mood, volition, perception or memory, and

(b) the disturbance would be regarded as significant for clinical diagnostic purposes, and

(c) the disturbance impairs the emotional wellbeing, judgment or behaviour of the person.


(2) A mental health impairment may arise from any of the following disorders but may also arise for other reasons--

(a) an anxiety disorder,

(b) an affective disorder, including clinical depression and bipolar disorder,

(c) a psychotic disorder,

(d) a substance induced mental disorder that is not temporary.


(3) A person does not have a mental health impairment for the purposes of this Act if the person's impairment is caused solely by--

(a) the temporary effect of ingesting a substance, or

(b) a substance use disorder.



CRIMES (SENTENCING PROCEDURE) ACT 1999

21A AGGRAVATING, MITIGATING AND OTHER FACTORS IN SENTENCING


(1) General In determining the appropriate sentence for an offence, the court is to take into account the following matters--

...

(5AA) Special rule for self-induced intoxication In determining the appropriate sentence for an offence, the self-induced intoxication of the offender at the time the offence was committed is not to be taken into account as a mitigating factor.

____________________________________________________________________________


R v He [2024] NSWSC 417


Common Law Division

Supreme Court

New South Wales

Case Name: R v He

Medium Neutral Citation: [2024] NSWSC 417

Hearing Date(s): 2 and 3 April 2024

Date of Orders: 31 May 2024

Date of Decision: 31 May 2024

Jurisdiction: Common Law

Before: Lonergan J


Decision: (1) The offender is convicted of the murder of Liquin

Pan.


(2) The offender is sentenced to imprisonment for a

term of 20 years comprising a non-parole period of 13

years commencing on 20 January 2021 and expiring

on 19 January 2034, with a balance term of 7 years

commencing on 20 January 2034 and expiring on 19

January 2041.


(3) The earliest date upon which the offender will be

eligible for release to parole is 19 January 2034.

Catchwords: CRIMINAL LAW – Sentencing following guilty plea to

murder – gravity of offence – killed young girlfriend

with whom he lived – jumped over balcony and fell four

storeys sustaining very serious traumatic brain injury

and physical injuries – violent, merciless attack using a

hammer and two knives – intention to kill – drug-

induced psychosis – whether such condition present at

the time of the murder – whether offender drug

intoxicated by nitrous oxide use at the time of the

murder – psychiatrists’ opinions – satisfied on the

balance of probabilities that the offender had transient

drug-induced psychosis at the time of the murder –

marginal reduction in objective seriousness – mildly

reduced moral culpability – early guilty plea – entitled

to a 25% reduction in sentence – no remorse – feigned

lack of memory of events – special circumstances

given serious self-inflicted physical injuries and

traumatic brain injury


Legislation Cited: Crimes Act 1900 (NSW)

Crimes (High Risk Offenders) Act 2006 (NSW)

Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 (NSW)


Cases Cited:

Aslan v R [2014] NSWCCA 114

Cheung v R (2001) 209 CLR 1; [2001] HCA 67

Director of Public Prosecutions (Cth) v De La Rosa

(2010) 79 NSWLR 1; [2010] NSWCCA 194

R v He [2022] NSWSC 847

R v Quinn (No. 3) [2016] NSWSC 1699

R v Smith (1987) 44 SASR 587

The Queen v Olbrich (1999) 199 CLR 270; [1999] HCA 54


Category: Principal judgment


Parties: Rex (Crown)

Weijie He (Offender)


Representation: Counsel:

R Kotsis (Crown)

G Harrison (Offender)


Solicitors:

Solicitors for Public Prosecutions (NSW) (Crown)

Access Legal (Offender)


File Number(s): 2021/0017077

Publication Restriction: Nil


JUDGMENT


1 On the afternoon of 27 June 2020, the offender murdered his girlfriend Liquin

Pan, using a hammer and two knives, stabbing her at least 75 times in the face,

head, neck, back, upper limbs and hands. He did this, intending to kill her.


2 Liquin was only 19 years old. She had met the offender in Shanghai and

travelled to Australia in October 2018 to be with him. From the limited evidence

I have seen, she seems to have been an attentive and loyal partner.


3 The murder took place in the apartment they shared in Wolli Creek. Shortly after

he killed Liquin, the offender left their apartment, went to some internal stairs,

and attempted to slice his left wrist open vertically. He then went to the fourth

floor, climbed over the railing and jumped, landing on the footpath below. He

sustained very serious injuries including an extremely severe traumatic brain

injury, spinal cord injury, multiple leg and pelvic fractures and internal injuries.


4 The offender remained in the intensive care unit at St George Hospital until 5

August 2020. His ventilator was removed on 10 September 2020 and by 6

October 2020 he was able to speak both Mandarin and limited English. Before

that time he had communicated by writing words on paper.


5 On 14 August 2020 he was asked by a mental health nurse if he remembered

why he was in hospital and he wrote the words: “kill girl”.


6 Whilst still in hospital he was cautioned and arrested on 20 January 2021 and

was shortly after charged with Liquin’s murder.


7 The offender was committed for trial in the Supreme Court on 3 February 2022.

During the arraignment process, an issue was raised about his fitness to stand

trial.


8 An inquiry into that issue commenced on 20 June 2022 before Wilson J. On 29

June 2022 the offender was found by her Honour to be fit to be tried: R v He

[2022] NSWSC 847. That meant that her Honour concluded, having considered

all of the relevant evidence, that despite his severe traumatic brain injury, the

offender was able to understand the offence the subject of the proceedings,

plead to the charge, exercise the right to challenge jurors, understand generally

the nature of the proceedings as an inquiry into whether he committed the

offence with which he is charged, follow the course of the proceedings so as to

understand what was going on in a general sense, understand the substantial

effect of any evidence given against the person, make a defence or answer to

the charge, instruct his legal representative so as to mount a defence and

provide his version of the facts to that legal representative and to the court if

necessary, and to decide what defence he will rely on and make that decision

known to his legal representative and the Court.


9 On 7 October 2022, the offender entered a plea of guilty to murder. It is common

ground that this plea of guilty at that stage automatically entitles him to a 25%

discount on his sentence.


10 There were delays in listing the sentencing proceedings while medical records

were obtained and reviewed and experts retained to consider whether there

were additional matters to place before the Court that may have a bearing on

sentence.


11 Most of the facts relevant to sentencing were incorporated into a statement of

agreed facts that were signed by the offender in January 2024, however there

remains for me to determine a separate issue regarding whether the offender

was operating under a mental illness, condition or impairment that had

contributed to his offending in a material way.


12 The law recognises that distinct from cases where a person is so mentally ill

that they cannot be held legally responsible for their crime, there are cases

where the state of a person’s mental health contributes to the commission of

an offence in a material way. In such circumstances it may be that the offender’s

moral culpability is reduced, and so the need to denounce the crime may be

less, with a consequent reduction in sentence. It also may be that in the specific

circumstances, the need for emphasis on general and specific deterrence may

be less, or an offender’s time in custody may be more onerous for him because

of poor mental health: Director of Public Prosecutions (Cth) v De La Rosa

(2010) 79 NSWLR 1; [2010] NSWCCA 194 (“De La Rosa”) at [177]. None of

these principles are absolute. The Court must examine the relevant facts in

order to determine whether in the specific case, the mental condition has the

consequences contended for: Aslan v R [2014] NSWCCA 114 at [34] per

Simpson J (as her Honour then was), Adams and McCallum JJ agreeing.


13 The offender asserts that he was suffering from a drug-induced psychosis

caused by long-term nitrous oxide use and so at the time he murdered Liquin

his mental illness contributed in a material way to the offending. Reports of Dr

Furst, a psychiatrist, and Professor Christie, a pharmacologist, were tendered

by the offender. Each expert gave evidence and was cross-examined.


14 The Crown contended that the offender was intoxicated by his own deliberate

use of nitrous oxide at the time he murdered Liquin, and that it was not possible

on the evidence to conclude on the balance of probabilities that drug-induced

psychosis had a causal role in the offending. Self-induced intoxication is not

permitted to be taken into account as a mitigating factor: s 21A(5AA) of the

Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 (NSW) (“the Sentencing Act”).


15 Nitrous oxide is able to be accessed over the counter in multi-packs of small

silver cylinders known colloquially as “nangs”, “hippy crack”, “whippits” or

“cannies”. It provides a short acting “high”, rapidly producing euphoria, visual

and auditory hallucinations as well as, potentially, confusion and

depersonalisation or derealisation after inhalation. Effects can resemble

psychotic symptoms, similar to those produced by ketamine.


16 Studies indicate that there can be psychosis beyond the period of acute

intoxication in individuals abusing large doses of nitrous oxide, particularly with

regular misuse over prolonged periods.


17 There was evidence of nitrous oxide use and abuse by the offender. Large

boxes of empty canisters were located in the apartment shared by the offender

and Liquin, as shown in the crime scene photographs taken after the offender

killed her.


18 Liquin had sent a photograph of the boxes to a friend the night before she was

killed, saying “he had finished five boxes of gas in the last two days”. This

supports recent heavy use by the offender. He may also have been using

nitrous oxide the night before he killed Liquin whilst with the Suns, and may

have used it in the period between when he arrived home at about 1:51pm and

when he killed Liquin, some time between 2:00pm and 3:23pm when the

offender was found face-down on the street having jumped.


19 The issue is complicated by the evidence of lawfully recorded conversations

with his parents and uncle during which they encouraged the offender to assert

no memory of the events and to say someone else was responsible, which is

what he in effect did do, when interviewed by doctors at a later point in time.


20 There was nothing in the agreed facts or the evidence tendered on sentence,

that comprised or included a sworn or verified account by the offender as to his

nitrous oxide use. A version given to Dr Furst, psychiatrist, in December 2022

by the offender was thought by Dr Furst to be untrue and a deliberate

minimisation of the offender’s nitrous oxide use.


Background facts


21 Turning to the background facts, the offender was born in 1999 in Beijing and

was financially supported by his family. He is an only child. He was undertaking

a pre-university course at Taylors College in Sydney which had to be

successfully completed before he could commence a Bachelor of Commerce

at Sydney University, his desired university course.


22 An affidavit of Ms Thorne, Compliance Manager at Taylors College, stated that

the offender had commenced the “Foundation Course” on 4 February 2019

which required an upfront payment of $33,150.00. He did not achieve the

minimum requirements to progress during 2019. He was permitted to enrol in a

repeat semester in February 2020 at a further cost of $14,544.00. The results

of that repeated course were due on 29 June 2020. There is evidence from the

offender’s friend Steve that the offender was anxious about this, and was

concerned about passing the course.


23 Ms Thorne also explained in her affidavit that the offender was not meeting the

minimum attendance requirements for his student visa, although she does not

explain the potential repercussions of those failures.


24 The offender’s entry to Sydney University had been deferred to 3 August 2020.

He had not, by 29 June 2020, achieved the required marks for entry to that

course. It is unclear on the evidence tendered on sentence whether he had

become aware of that failure by the time he killed Liquin.


25 The offender had been in a relationship with Liquin for over two years. There

was evidence of coercive control on the part of the offender. In a notebook

found by police was a “contract”, apparently signed by the offender and Liquin,

that set rules around Liquin’s trip to China in early 2019. It included amongst

other things that she should “get rid of acne”, not drink, not go to bars or clubs

or do anything with people of the opposite sex. She must make sure the

background on her phone remained unchanged and always “has the offender

in it”. She must never put her mobile phone on silent mode. The contract

concluded: “The violation of any of the above rules will be regarded as crossing

the line set by (Weijie He) and will indicate the disappearance of love and the

fact that he no longer matters. End of relationship.


26 There were other signs of trouble in the relationship. A conversation (lawfully

recorded by a hidden listening device) in October 2020 between the offender

and his friend Ethan discussed the fact that the offender had required Liquin

delete from her phone all the people she had known in Shanghai, including her

ex-boyfriend. Anxu Liu also observed problems in the relationship including a

two-to-three-hour argument in May 2020 between the offender and Liquin over

Liquin talking to a boy on WeChat.


27 The agreed facts on sentence signed by the offender in January 2024, confirm

the offender told his mother some time after January 2020 that he was angry at

his girlfriend for lying about her family saying that they were wealthy, when they

were not.


28 Recorded conversations between the offender and his mother in September

and October 2020 also revealed a problematic attitude to his relationship with

Liquin. The offender’s mother described Liquin as “not wifey material” to which

the offender replied: “She was very obedient, and she was pretty” and “She

always followed my instructions. She dared not oppose me”. He also said:


“Panpan [Liquin’s nickname] and I split the chores in half. If Panpan didn’t do it,

I’d beat her up”, to which his mother replied: “Don’t say that. Don’t say that to

police at all”.

The offender then said: “Ok. I didn’t beat her up”.

His mother

replied: “Panpan was badly attacked before she died. If you say that, police will

suspect you even more. Don’t say anything negative”.

The offender replied: “I

loved her so much that I wouldn’t touch her”.

His mother replied: “That’s right.

Say that. Police will come either tomorrow or the day after. Be careful. They

won’t be in uniform. Remember, anyone who’s not in hospital uniform is police.

Don’t talk nonsense that’s not in your favour”.


29 Affidavits of friends of the offender, Lina and Lei Sun, were tendered. Neither

were required for cross-examination. Lei Sun stated that the weekend before

the murder whilst on a weekend away together, the offender told him that he

had “invited her” (Liquin) from China to come to Australia, “but now I can’t get

rid of her”.


30 The night before he killed Liquin, whilst out again with Lei and Lina Sun, the

offender complained to Lina that he felt that he was “too good” for his girlfriend

and asked to stay with them that night as he and Liquin were “having problems”

and he did not want to go home. He told her that they had had an argument

and he “needed a break” and that due to her having previously been with an

older male, he did not want to be with her anymore and did not want to return

home. He told Lei Sun that Liquin had dated an older man for money and

because of this he did not want to be with her anymore.


The days leading up to the murder


31 In the days leading up to the murder there was some unusual behaviour by the

offender upon which reliance is placed to suggest that he was entering, or

experiencing, substance-induced psychosis.


32 On 25 June 2020, in a message exchange with his friend Steve, the offender

said that he had not been sleeping and that he was nervous as his marks (for

the repeated university entry course) were to be released on 29 June 2020.


33 On the night before the murder, the offender was picked up for dinner by Lei

and Lina Sun. Despite the booking having been made by the offender for four

people, the offender said that Liquin was not coming because she had

university homework to do. Lina said that when they arrived to collect the

offender, as he walked towards the car he did not look good, he did not smile,

and his face looked “quite grey”. Later the offender said he had a cold. He was

wearing a long black trench coat, black pants and boots.


34 Lina observed during dinner at a restaurant at the casino that the offender took

his jacket on and off and was constantly sweating. He left the table to visit the

bathroom on multiple occasions. He looked at her in a strange and aggressive

way. He made a number of short statements and then changed the subject

saying things like: “I want to destroy everything so I can rebuild it”, “I don’t trust

anyone in this world”, “my girlfriend wants to commit suicide” and beating his

chest saying: “We are connected, you understand me”. He claimed to have

some sort of power in his body which he could not control and “may explode

and be reborn”. He also said: “If I wasn’t with you both I probably would have

been dead”.


35 He asked Lina if she would have someone investigated in China, claiming that

“a man in his 50s” had “sexually attacked” a 14-year-old girl.

36 Both Lei and Lina observed the offender to quickly drink an entire bottle of wine

during dinner. He then vomited into a bag whilst still at the table. After dinner

he asked them to come with him to gamble in the casino, but they declined.


37 The offender went with Lina and Lei to their home unit and a bed was made up

for him. According to Lei, the offender acted in a strange and agitated way

whenever his girlfriend was mentioned.


38 At one point the offender said to Lina (while Lei went to the car to fetch

something): “Have you got any gas?”. She said: “No I don’t. How long have you

been using gas?” he replied: “Since about 2015”. She said: “You need to stop

using this, it is very bad for you, and this is a long time to use it”. He said: “I

need to fully understand before I quit it.” She replied: “you know it already. You

should stop it right now….”.


39 The three of them talked and drank tea for a few hours and then went to bed,

with the offender set up to sleep in the spare room. Lina felt anxious about him

and spoke with Lei about the offender’s behaviour. They put an object against

the door to their room so that they would be alerted if he came in.


40 At 3:04am Lei received a text from Liquin. Liquin was using the offender’s

phone (which he had left at home the evening before), asking whether the

offender was with them stating: “It’s just that I am a little worried because it’s

his first time he hasn’t come back home this late”. Lei replied: “Don’t worry. Go

have a rest early”.


41 Overnight Liquin had written several messages to friends expressing her

worries about the offender’s whereabouts. She said that she had been unable

to contact him as he had left his phone at home. She wrote to Steve that the

offender had “finished 5 boxes of gas in the past 2 days”. Steve replied: “How

come he started doing hippy crack” to which she replied: “He was feeling blue

days ago. I believe he won’t leave us behind”.


42 To another person Liquin wrote: “He’s under a lot of pressure from his family!

Look at these canisters of gas he finished the past two days!” attaching a photo

which shows the large boxes full of nitrous oxide canisters (the boxes appear

to contain hundreds of canisters).


43 Back at the Sun’s unit the following morning there was further bizarre behaviour

by the offender. He requested Lei give him $30,000.00. He damaged a toy

model car by smashing it onto a table, threatening to “destroy” them (the Suns).

He then insulted them, asking them to help him put on his shoes claiming he

was “so weak” and that he could not stand. The Suns made up a story to get

the offender to leave, and arrangements were made to drive him home.


44 Lina and Lei confirmed that there was not much talking during the drive home,

but Lina stated that the offender said some odd things. When Lei attempted to

tell the offender that he was lucky to have the opportunities he had, the offender

shouted at him to “shut up”.


45 The offender was dropped outside his building at about 1:35pm. He made

multiple attempts to enter the building, seeming not to remember the password.

He was seen on level 11 knocking on a door and wandering up and down the

hallway. CCTV shows that he exited the building at 1:48pm and re-entered at

1:49pm.


46 At 1:51pm Liquin messaged Steve saying: “He’s home.” Steve replied: “Where

did he go” and Liquin replied: “Don’t know. He’s been like another person since

he got back”. She then withdrew that message at 1:55pm and sent another

message: “Don’t know. He wants to be left alone”.


47 At 2:00pm Liquin wrote to her friend Eric: “Eric do you have any friend who can

book a flight ticket back home?”. Then at 2:02pm she wrote: “I’ve been waiting

for him since last night” then withdrew that message and five seconds later

wrote: “He’s just got home”, then withdrew that message and wrote: “Jack’s

home now”. At 2:04pm she also messaged another person: “Wake up yet”.


48 At 2:04pm Liquin’s phone was used to google search: “people are

brainwashed”. This was the last time her phone was used.


The attack


49 At some time between 2:04pm and 3:23pm, the offender attacked Liquin with

at least two knives and a hammer, stabbing and slashing her at least 75 times

to her face, head, neck, upper limbs and hands with the intention of killing her.


50 Her blood was later found smeared on the sofa, on the floor near the TV, and

across the four panels of the folding door to the second bedroom. There were

two overturned chairs in the dining area. Liquin was found by police dead,

curled up in foetal position near the overturned chairs in a large pool of her own

blood and surrounded by hundreds of empty nitrous oxide canisters.


51 Judging by the injuries noted on post-mortem it was clearly an extremely

ferocious attack. Liquin had 39 stab wounds to her head and face. She had

bruising and abrasions around her lips, mouth, chin and below both eyes. She

had fractures to her skull and had suffered a subarachnoid haemorrhage. There

were nine stab wounds to the back of her neck, one of which entered the spinal

canal and penetrated through the spinal cord dura. There were signs of

fractures to her hyoid cartilage which indicated a strangulation-type injury.

There were 10 wounds to her back, and 17 to her arms, most of which were

defensive wounds to her hands. The offender’s DNA was under her fingernails.


52 The forensic pathologist’s opinion was that the cause of death was the stab

wounds to her head and neck.


53 The abject terror, confusion and agony she must have experienced during this

attack is unimaginable.


The aftermath


54 After the attack the offender left the unit leaving his jacket, shoes and personal

effects behind. He closed the door, causing it to lock. He tried to open a window

at the end of the corridor next to unit 901, perhaps to try and jump out, but it did

not open far enough. He went into the fire stairs at level 9, and walked up and

down the stairs from level 10 to level 1 for a period of time, evidenced by his

footmarks in Liquin’s blood on the stairs. He ripped metal tags from some fire

extinguishers in the stairwell and made what was possibly a suicide attempt by

slicing his left wrist open vertically.


55 Some time prior to 3:23pm he exited the stairwell at level 4, went to the

courtyard, climbed over a glass balustrade and jumped, falling four storeys onto

the footpath next to Chisolm Street. Passers-by contacted 000 at 3:23pm.

Police attended to find the offender face down, unconscious and breathing with

a large deep wound to his left wrist and dried blood on his hands.


56 He was conveyed to hospital with serious life-threatening injuries. He remained

in ICU until 5 August 2020. From 12 August 2020 he was able to communicate

by mouthing, using hand gestures and writing on a white board. He was

removed from his ventilator in September. By October 2020, he was able to

speak, and spoke in both Mandarin and limited English.


57 There is evidence that by September 2020 the offender’s mother was regularly

visiting her son in hospital and actively coaching him about what to say to the

authorities about how Liquin had died:

“If they tell you to tell the truth, just tell them that you don’t know. Tell them that

you can’t remember”.


and


“This old bitch comes quite often. They say she’s a psychiatrist. Whatever they

ask you, just tell them you know nothing, just don’t say anything. When the old

bitch comes to speak with you, don’t say anything. Ok? Tell them you know

nothing. You hear me? When that old bitch asks you questions say nothing.

Just say you don’t remember. Ok? No matter who asks you questions about

that, don’t say anything. Remember".


58 The offender is observed by the hidden surveillance device to show his thumb

by way of reply.


59 On 20 September 2020, the offender’s father was recorded saying the following

to the offender:


“Hopefully the case will be over soon it would be best if you not be involved in

it… currently you can’t talk and you are still not completely alert. That’s why

police haven’t come to you yet. They will come and talk to you once you are

sober. Just like what I said to you previously, if you really did it, then, there’s

always something that you forgot in your life that you can never remember. Just

let it be forgot. You have to come up with a script by yourself. We can’t help

you on that. The key issue is how to let people believe your story. If you didn’t

do it, that a different topic. If you did it, you must come up with a perfect script.

You will have to write and play the script so that everyone would believe you.

Otherwise, you are done. If you did it, you can forget it because you sustained

injury in your head. That makes sense. If some bad guy did it, you need to

remember what happened. Do you understand me? Now squeeze my hand if

you did it..”.


60 The offender was observed on surveillance devices to move his hand slightly,

but it is unclear whether he squeezed his father’s hand or not.


61 A number of other similar “coaching sessions” were recorded during September

and October 2020 involving the offender’s mother, father and an uncle who

spoke to the offender via WeChat about what the offender should say when

interviewed by police, including the propagation of the idea of another person

being responsible for killing Liquin and “pushing” the offender over the balcony.


62 On 14 October 2020, the offender was to be interviewed by a hospital

neuropsychologist. His mother was recorded on a listening device as

whispering the following to him before she was required to leave the room to

allow the interview to proceed:


“Don’t say anything to them. Just tell them you were both harmed by someone

else. If the interpreter asks you, say so as well. Don’t talk nonsense or you’ll be

taken away. Just say “Please help me and catch the bad guy. The bad guy

harmed us both”. Remember this. Don’t say the bad guy is in China. Just say

it was someone harmed you. Don’t tell them I told you anything. If they ask you,

just say I don’t know. Mum didn’t tell me anything”.


63 Of course what his parents and uncle said to the offender does nothing more

than provide background. The offender never did provide an interview to police.

However, when assessed by the neuropsychologist, Susan Pulman, in

December 2021, when she asked him what caused him to fall from the balcony,

he said:


“I know that my girlfriend was harmed by some bad people, they kill her”.


64 The offender denied to Ms Pulman that he was in gaol, stating that he was “in

rehabilitation” as part of his recovery. When she told him that he had been

charged with an offence he replied: “What crime, I haven’t committed a crime”.


65 The offender told Dr Martin, psychiatrist, in December 2021 that his girlfriend

had “been attacked by others”. When asked why he had fallen he said:

“I can’t remember - someone sabotaged me, and they sabotaged my girlfriend

too. They say I killed my girlfriend but me and my girlfriend are victims, we were

harmed by some bad people”.


66 When interviewed by Dr Furst in December 2022 and asked what happened

that led to the death of his girlfriend, the offender said:

“I forgot. My mother tell me my girlfriend is gone”.


67 The offender told Dr Furst that “other people” or a group of people “hurt his

girlfriend” and “pushed him” from the building, stating that he did not know who

would do this. He repeated at different points in his interview with Dr Furst that

“someone else stabbed her”.


68 I do not need to make a formal finding that these assertions are untrue. By his

guilty plea, and by his signing the statement of agreed facts on 31 January

2024, the offender has acknowledged that he is the person who viciously

attacked and murdered Liquin, and that he did that, intending to kill her.


Victim impact statement – Mr Zewu Pan, Liquin’s father


69 Before moving on to state the principles of sentencing and evaluating the

evidence, making my findings and imposing sentence, I need to pause and

reflect on the heartbreaking statement provided to the Court by Mr Pan, Liquin’s

father. He and his wife welcomed Liquin as their first child in 2000. They were

ecstatic and poured all their love and care upon her. They were happy to see

her progress from their small rural village in the Guangdong Province, China to

receive an education and enrich herself and expand her horizons.


70 Mr Pan described how the news of Liquin’s death brought devastation and

crushing and immeasurable pain to the family. Liquin’s mother cannot accept it

is true. Liquin’s younger brothers and sisters have not been told because her

parents fear the effect it will have on them. Festivities and family reunions that

used to be occasions for joy are torture now because of the unspeakable grief

that affects those events.


71 Liquin is remembered by her father as a person who “embraced this world with

kindness and affection”. As her father says: “She should have been

experiencing the best time of her life, but her young life was barbarically cut

short by such a heinous crime”.


72 The Court conveys its sincere condolences to the family of Liquin Pan and to

the people who love her and miss her.


Principles of sentencing


73 The purposes of sentencing as set out in s 3A of the Sentencing Act are:

(a) to ensure that the offender is adequately punished for the offence,

(b) to prevent crime by deterring the offender and other persons from

committing similar offences,

(c) to protect the community from the offender,

(d) to promote the rehabilitation of the offender,

(e) to make the offender accountable for his or her actions,

(f) to denounce the conduct of the offender,

(g) to recognise the harm done to the victim of the crime and the community.


74 The maximum penalty for the offence of murder is life imprisonment: s 19A(1)

Crimes Act 1900 (NSW). If the Court does not impose a life sentence, the Court

may impose a sentence of imprisonment for a specific term: s 21(1) Sentencing

Act. A standard non-parole period of 20 years applies for the crime of murder.

I am required to impose a life sentence only if I am satisfied that the level of

culpability involved in the commission of the offence is so extreme that the

community interest in retribution, punishment, community protection and

deterrence, can only be met if a life sentence is imposed: s 61(1) Sentencing

Act. I am not so satisfied. However, a significant term of imprisonment should

be and will be imposed.


75 My task is to make findings about the objective and subjective facts relevant to

sentencing the offender. Any findings that are adverse to an offender must be

arrived at beyond reasonable doubt: Cheung v R (2001) 209 CLR 1; [2001]

HCA 67 at [14] per Gleeson CJ, Gummow and Hayne JJ. Any findings that

favour the offender must be on the balance of probabilities: The Queen v

Olbrich (1999) 199 CLR 270; [1999] HCA 54.


76 Before proceeding to an assessment of the objective seriousness of the

offending, I need to examine the evidence relevant to the question of whether

the offender was suffering from a mental condition or illness at the time he killed

Liquin and if so, whether that condition contributed to the commission of the

offence in a material way.


Did the state of the offender’s mental health contribute to the commission of the

offence


77 Professor Christie, an expert pharmacologist specialising in the actions of drugs

and alcohol on brain function, stated that there is evidence that with nitrous

oxide use, there can be psychosis beyond the period of acute intoxication in

individuals abusing large doses of nitrous oxide, particularly with regular misuse

over prolonged periods.


78 Professor Christie concluded that nitrous oxide use may have contributed to the

offender’s mental state, because the pattern of use appears to have been very

heavy, given the message from Liquin to her friend that he had used five boxes

of nitrous oxide in the last two days. If each box contained 50 canisters,

Professor Christie reasoned this would be over 250 canisters in two days which

is suggestive of a severe, dependent pattern of use. There was also the photo

of hundreds of canisters at the crime scene. If they had in fact accumulated

over the days before the murder because of use by the offender, then this

suggests a very heavy pattern of use.


79 Professor Christie concluded that it was possible that the offender was suffering

from a drug-induced psychosis caused by heavy use of nitrous oxide in the

days to weeks or months prior. He cites support for this as Liquin’s account of

the empty canisters, what Lina and Lei Sun described of the offender’s

behaviour on the night before he killed Liquin, and the analyses carried out in

the relevant literature.


80 Professor Christie said that the opinions of the psychiatrists that the offender

did not display signs of psychosis or have a long-term history of schizophrenia

on later assessment does not discount the possibility of a drug-induced

psychosis at the time of the murder, as it would be expected to resolve fully in

the days to weeks following the incident whilst he was hospitalised.


81 Professor Christie also placed reliance on the theoretical correlation between

nitrous oxide abuse and vitamin B12 deficiency and adverse neurological

effects. St George Hospital records for the offender indicated a low vitamin B12

level on blood chemistry performed on 8 July 2020, 11 days after the murder.

Professor Christie described this as “close to the lower extreme of the stated

normal range”. The offender was administered vitamin B12 over the following

two weeks. Professor Christie concluded that the very low vitamin B12 levels

shown in the hospital records strengthened his previously expressed opinion

that the offender’s behaviour at the time could have been influenced by the

immediate effects of overuse of nitrous oxide and/or immediate effects

combined with a drug-induced psychosis produced by longer term metabolic

disturbances caused by nitrous oxide overuse over days to weeks or months.


82 Dr Robertson, pharmacologist, was not convinced that the B12 level had the

significance imported to it by Professor Christie. Dr Robertson noted that the

B12 level was in the low end of normal range, and as such does not indicate it

caused any physical symptoms, or was of any clinical significance. Dr

Robertson observed that it was unclear if the treatment provided in hospital may

have caused any effect on the B12 levels, nor what the offender’s usual B12

level was. If he was in fact experiencing symptoms of low or deficient vitamin

B12, it is likely that he would have been showing symptoms for weeks or months

prior to the incident such as headaches, fatigue, impaired balance, neuropathy,

impaired memory, depression and confusion. Dr Robertson concluded that it

was mere speculation that the offender was experiencing the effects of a low

vitamin B12 level at the time of the offence.


83 Dr Furst, psychiatrist, concluded based on the Crown Case Statement, the

statements of Lina and Lei Sun, and the interviews he conducted with the

offender in October and December 2022, that the offender was “mentally

disturbed in relation to his thinking and behaviour in the days preceding the

offending”. Dr Furst said that the message Liquin sent just prior to being killed

was also suggestive of a major change in the mental state or behaviour of the

offender. Dr Furst concluded that there was little in the way of realistic, (non-

psychotic), motivation for the offender to stab Liquin in the manner set out in

the agreed facts. The evidence of hundreds of empty nitrous oxide canisters

and the report to Lina Sun that he had been using nitrous oxide since 2015,

pointed towards a pattern of heavy use for some years, or at least for some

significant period of time.


84 Dr Furst concluded that it was more likely than not that the offender was

suffering from both acute and chronic effects of nitrous oxide at the time of the

offending such that he was delusional, highly disturbed and disorganised in his

behaviour and was suffering a substance-induced mental disorder, often

referred to as a drug-induced psychosis.


85 Dr Furst also concluded that the offender was not truly amnesic for the

offending in question, even given the very serious head injury. In the context of

the offender killing his girlfriend while psychotic, and then attempting to kill

himself, Dr Furst concluded that the offender was having difficulty coming to

terms with his extreme actions.


86 Dr Martin, psychiatrist, concluded that the offender’s behaviour was consistent

with a transient psychotic mental state, with thought disorder. The things he

said to the Suns are consistent with disinhibition, anger and hyperarousal. Dr

Martin concluded that it was likely that the offender was heavily intoxicated and

experiencing a transient delirium and an acute confusional state, manifesting

with psychotic phenomena, in the time leading up to the offending and directly

related to the offending.


87 Dr Martin also concluded that issues of jealousy, control and anger directed

towards Liquin were potentially relevant to underlying motivation for what

seemed to be a rageful attack in a delirious and disinhibited mental state while

under the influence of nitrous oxide.


88 Dr Furst and Dr Martin gave evidence at the sentence hearing and were cross-

examined. Their opinions taken at face value appear similar, although there is

different emphasis. The causal emphasis of Dr Furst is on drug-induced

psychosis causing delusions, whereas Dr Martin’s focus is on a transient

delirium while heavily intoxicated but manifesting with psychotic phenomena.


89 I have concluded on the balance of probabilities that the offender, at the time

he killed Liquin, was suffering from a self-inflicted transient drug-induced

psychosis, alternatively described by Dr Martin as a transient delirium

manifesting while intoxicated, with psychotic phenomena, and that in that state,

he directed his rage to Liquin, killing her in a frenzied and merciless attack. The

evidence does not permit me to conclude that the offender had in fact probably

used (the very short-acting) nitrous oxide in the immediate period before he

killed Liquin.


90 However, because the mental state of the offender at the time he killed Liquin

was inextricably bound up with his deliberate and repeated use and abuse of

nitrous oxide, I have concluded that this is a circumstance where the objective

seriousness of the offending is only marginally reduced. Although there is no

evidence that the offender had a detailed understanding that the abuse of

nitrous oxide could lead to a transient psychosis or delirium with psychotic

phenomena, he knew of, and repeatedly sought, out its intoxicating and

disinhibiting effects.


91 His moral culpability is also mildly reduced, noting however that it is appallingly

self-indulgent to deliberately use and abuse an intoxicating inhalant to remove

oneself from reality and responsibility for one’s own actions. This is what the

offender did. I cannot exclude entirely the indicators that the attack was directed

at Liquin as part of the offender’s own unjustified dissatisfaction with her, and

that he was taking out on her his rage at his own failures and inadequacies, like

so many men who murder their domestic partners, but I cannot make a finding

beyond reasonable doubt that this was the, or a precipitant or motivating factor

for this particular attack during which he murdered his domestic partner.


92 The need for the sentence to reflect general deterrence remains an important

factor given that deliberate substance abuse played a role. There is no

diagnosed ongoing mental illness of any kind, but there are extensive physical

disabilities which I will address in the subjective case and in my special

circumstances finding. These disabilities will clearly make the offender’s time in

custody more onerous.


Objective gravity of the offence


93 The attack was extremely violent, and given the number of stab wounds and

injuries, prolonged. There were defensive wounds to Liquin’s arms and hands.

The attack involved the use of three weapons. It was merciless. The offender

stabbed and slashed her at least 75 times. The attack would have taken some

time to complete. The tip of one of the knives remained embedded in Liquin’s

scalp. He clearly intended to kill her.


94 This is very serious offending, and even taking into account my findings about

the offender’s mental state, the offending is still above the mid-range of

seriousness for offences of this type. The forensic evidence suggests that there

was a chase and a struggle in the unit. The defensive wounds to her hands and

arms demonstrate that Liquin fought for her life, sadly to no avail.


Subjective case


95 The offender is now 24 years old. He was born in China, the only child of

wealthy parents who are retired journalists. His mother came to Sydney after

these events and remains living here, visiting her son weekly. His father

remains in China.


96 The offender speaks Mandarin. He attended primary and high school in China,

with an interest in English and languages. He had a mild depressive disorder in

his early to mid-teenage years and was treated with an anti-depressant whilst

in high school for a period of about twelve months in total.


97 He came to Australia in September 2018 to undertake a pre-university course

at Taylors College and planned to study economics at Sydney University. He

was a young man of at least average intelligence but was failing the pre-

university course.


98 It is relevant and necessary to the sentencing exercise that I take into account

the offender’s physical injuries and disabilities that resulted from his actions on

27 June 2020. It was not submitted that this situation should be considered

“extra-curial punishment”, but it is still relevant to the wider question of the

hardship occasioned to the offender from being in custody while experiencing

these significant disabilities. Where matters of that kind will have the result that

imprisonment will be a greater burden on the offender, then they warrant

leniency: R v Quinn (No. 3) [2016] NSWSC 1699 at [52] per Beech-Jones J

referring to R v Smith (1987) 44 SASR 587 at 589.


99 The offender sustained spinal fractures, pelvic fractures, limb fractures and

significant internal injuries. He required a number of surgeries, and a long

period of rehabilitation in hospital. He requires further left foot surgery,

scheduled for 2025. He has an extremely severe traumatic brain injury with a

69-day period of post-traumatic amnesia. He has ongoing short-term memory

and planning issues, and limits to his executive functioning.


100 He requires assistance with showering and bladder and bowel function. He has

an indwelling catheter for life. He has a need for a (self-propelled) wheelchair

for movement although he can walk assisted and is encouraged to do so. He

requires long-term care. He is on multiple medications to manage infection risk,

and his orthopaedic and spinal cord and brain injuries. These matters will no

doubt cause his time in custody to be significantly more onerous than if he was

uninjured. These matters warrant leniency and I have adjusted the sentence

and in particular, the non-parole period, accordingly.


Special circumstances


101 Counsel for the offender contended that given the offender’s youth and the

serious, albeit self-inflicted, injuries, I should find special circumstances and

reduce the non-parole period from the usual statutory ratio of 75%. Countering

that submission is the need to ensure that the non-parole period reflects the

seriousness of the offending. I have decided, given the offender’s young age

and the extensive physical difficulties and incapacities he now has, a

substantial adjustment to the non-parole period ratio to head sentence is

warranted.


The guilty plea, absence of remorse, prospects of rehabilitation and risk of

reoffending


102 The guilty plea entitles the offender to a 25% reduction in sentence.


103 The guilty plea does not, in the circumstances of this case, indicate remorse.

There is no sign of remorse. In the face of a Crown case that is overwhelming,

I give no weight to the guilty plea as an indication of remorse in circumstances

where the offender could have, but has not, expressed any remorse at all. He

has made no acknowledgement of what he has done. He has shown no sign of

being sorry for killing this innocent young woman, and has maintained the fiction

to those he spoke to that it was not him who killed Liquin.


104 Given this maintained attitude, I cannot conclude that the offender has good

prospects of rehabilitation.


105 The offender’s extensive physical disabilities will greatly limit his physical ability

to reoffend. He is unlikely to reoffend. This is a mitigating factor I have taken

into account: s 21A(3)(g).


Aggravating and mitigating factors


106 The use of knives and a hammer were submitted by the Crown Prosecutor to

amount to an aggravating factor under s 21A(2)(c) of the Sentencing Act. I am

mindful that I have already taken into account the use of those weapons in my

assessment of objective seriousness, and so make no separate allowance for

their use as a separate aggravating factor.


107 The offending occurred in Liquin’s home where she was entitled to feel safe.

This is an aggravating factor: s 21A(2)(eb).

108 I have concluded that the offence was not planned. This is a mitigating factor:

s 21A(3)(b).


109 The offender has an otherwise clean record and to that extent, he can be

considered to be a person of good character: s 21A(3)(f). This and the obvious

lack of planning, are mitigating factors that I have taken into account.


Conclusion and sentence


110 Weijie He, you are convicted of the murder of Liquin Pan.


111 I sentence you to a total period of imprisonment for a term of 20 years

comprising a non-parole period of 13 years commencing on 20 January 2021

and expiring on 19 January 2034, with a balance term of 7 years commencing

on 20 January 2034 and expiring on 19 January 2041.


112 The earliest date upon which you will be eligible for release to parole is 19

January 2034.


113 I am obliged to tell you of the existence of the Crimes (High Risk Offenders) Act

2006 (NSW), which applies to serious offences, including the offence of murder

for which you have just been convicted and sentenced. This means that the

State can apply to the Supreme Court for an order that you continue to receive

supervision or to be held in detention at the end of your sentence if the Court

considers you to be a high-risk offender who poses an unacceptable risk of

committing a serious offence.

**********

I certify that this and the 24 preceding pages are a

true copy of the reasons for judgment herein of

the Honourable Justice Lonergan.

Dianne Aleksic

Associate

Date: 31 May 2024

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