IT is time for jurors to decide if murder accused Alex Reuben McEwan is fit to stand trial.
IT is time for jurors to decide if murder accused Alex Reuben McEwan is fit to stand trial.

Eunji Ban murder accused deemed unfit to stand trial

AFTER hearing of demons, schizophrenia, and hallucinations, jurors have decided Alex Reuben McEwan cannot stand trial for murdering Eunji Ban.

For Ms Ban's family, that result will be difficult, a judge said - but Mr McEwan may one day be mentally well enough to face trial again.

The former Ipswich man, now 23, was accused of murdering the Korean student on November 24, 2013.

Ms Ban was brutally bashed, her body dumped in Brisbane's Wickham Park.

She had arrived in Australia from Busan, South Korea, just six weeks before.

On a youth exchange, she was walking to the Transcontinental Hotel, where she worked as a cleaner, just two blocks from Wickham Park.

A memorial to her at the park is still intact.

There was no racial or sexual motivation for the attack, the court heard.

And the Crown said there was no doubt who killed Ms Ban, because Mr McEwan told friends and police he attacked her.

But questions around mental illness dominated the trial.

On Thursday, jurors were told it was time to decide if Mr McEwan was of sound mind.

Defence counsel John Allen said psychologist Dr Donald Grant gave impartial, expert evidence that Mr McEwan was mentally unfit.

Sedation made it difficult for him "to be mentally present" in court, but psychotic hallucinations were the main problem.

"The defendant is just not able to properly hear, understand, and pay attention to the evidence [or] give sensible instructions to his lawyers about that evidence."

Jurors earlier heard from Mr McEwan's parents, who spoke of mental disturbances their son reported before Ms Ban was killed.

"He was probing regularly about the existence of demons," his mother Ruth said.

His father Geoffrey said Alex mentioned a presence in his bedroom, saying: "It's like there's something standing beside me. It feels like something there."

The trial was also told Mr McEwan heard commands telling him to attack prosecutor David Meredith, so the trial was moved to a different courtroom.

There, the 23 year-old sat in a closed glass dock at Brisbane Supreme Court.

Mr Meredith said a person's soundness of mind could vary across time.

"People can respond to treatment. They can get better."

"At some subsequent time, his treatment may be successful and he may be fit for trial."

Mr Meredith asked to present a new murder indictment.

After the jury's verdict, Justice Jean Dalton said Mr McEwan would be taken to an authorised, secure mental health facility.

The judge said she wanted to acknowledge Ms Ban's family.

"I now understand it's ended without a conclusion on the ultimate merits of the trial. I acknowledge that must be difficult for them."

Members of Ms Ban's family declined to comment outside court.

In March 2015, Mr McEwan was deemed unfit to stand trial, though the Mental Health Court said he was of sound mind when Ms Ban died.

But after a hearing at Park Centre for Mental Health later that year, he was found to be capable of standing trial.

-NewsRegional

EARLIER: IT is time for jurors to decide if murder accused Alex Reuben McEwan is fit to stand trial.

The former Ipswich man has pleaded not guilty to murdering 22 year-old Korean student Eunji Ban, who was brutally attacked before her body was dumped in Brisbane's Wickham Park in November 2013.

On Thursday, prosecutor David Meredith said the Crown maintained Mr McEwan was of sound mind "at the time of the offence".

Mr Meredith told Brisbane Supreme Court a lot of evidence from Mr McvcEwan's "family and friends" supported this claim.

But since then, two psychiatrists believed Mr McEwan had experienced an increase in auditory and visual hallucinations.

The trial heard the medical experts say Mr McEwan complain of demons tormenting him and even commanding him to attack the prosecutor.

One of those experts, Dr Donald Grant,  said this week Mr McEwan might be suffering from treatment-resistant schizophrenia.

Mr Meredith said a person's soundness of mind could vary across time.

"People can respond to treatment. They can get better."

"At some subsequent time, his treatment may be successful and he may be fit for trial."

Defence counsel John Allen said Dr Grant gave impartial, expert evidence that Mr McEwan was unfit to stand trial.

This was partly the result of "the difficulty to be mentally present" due to sedation, but mainly because of psychotic hallucinations.

"This isn't a trial by experts…You make the decision."

"The defendant is just not able to properly hear, understand, and pay attention to the evidence and therefore be able to give sensible instructions to his lawyers about that evidence."

Mr Allen said it was "even more problematic" if Mr McEwan was to give evidence.

Justice Jean Dalton told jurors: "You take the whole of his mental processing at the moment into account."

This included schizophrenia, drowsiness, sleepiness and anxiety.

"Can you properly and fairly make your own defence in the trial?" was a key question for jurors, Justice Dalton added.

"I'm telling you that to properly make a defence he would have to give evidence."

The jury started deliberations shortly after 10am.

-NewsRegional

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