A Sydney prisoner charged with common assault had his head stomped on by a fellow inmate and was left for an hour before he was found dead in his cell.
Matthew Terrence John Macguire, 35 at the time, repeatedly bashed Ryan Fennell and stomped on his head while they shared a cell in Silverwater on April 8, 2019.
Too mentally unwell to stand trial, in a special hearing in the NSW Supreme Court he was found not guilty of murder on the grounds of mental illness.
Justice Des Fagan noted his 39-year-old victim died in appalling circumstances while in custody for “relatively minor infractions”.
In January Macguire was on remand over charges including assault with an act of indecency and was transferred into a forensic hospital.
Just two months later was sent back to prison deemed not mentally ill but suffering from a severe personality disorder.
This conclusion “flew in the face of numerous reports” that Macguire had been suffering from schizophrenia, with more than 20 recorded admissions to psychiatric hospitals since the year 2000. One report from 2006 found his disorder was treatment-resistant.
On remand for breaching his bond and common assault, Mr Fennell was placed into a cell with Macguire on the day he was murdered.
The shared cell was under CCTV surveillance and supposedly subjected to heightened monitoring.
Camera footage captured Macguire wrapping his arms around Mr Fennell’s neck and dragging him in a chokehold from his bed to the floor of the cell where he knocked him unconscious from multiple blows to the head.
After repeatedly striking his head against the floor he began stomping on his head and neck before covering him with a blanket. Over the next 45 minutes, he returned multiple times to continue the stomping, sometimes more than 50 times in one go.
The recorded video was not being monitored during the attack and corrective services staff only realised what had happened an hour after the assault began.
His defence agreed Macguire understood the nature and quality of his violent acts but because of his psychotic illness was unable to understand they were wrong.
In a police interview, Macguire said he “intended to kill” his cellmate by breaking his neck after receiving an undercover message that his life was in danger.
By the time of the attack, Macguire’s mind had been deeply and persistently deranged, since first presenting with ADHD at the age of 10.
He later told psychiatrists that at 13 he witnessed his father’s suicide and had been sexually abused by an uncle, while early substance abuse of cannabis and methamphetamine likely fuelled an earlier onset and less favourable course of his schizophrenia.
Having “nearly strangled a fellow patient” during his mental health assessment in hospital in March 2019, and following his long history of presenting with schizophrenia, Justice Fagan found it difficult to understand why he was sent back into custody.
Days before the attack he was deemed unpredictable and a risk to himself and others after using a razor blade to write names on his legs and arms.
While waiting for a psychiatric review a day before the killing a staff member stated that they were “unable to conduct assessment … floridly psychotic”.
Macguire has been placed back into a forensic hospital where he will remain while he is so mentally unwell.
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